How often have you seen a Black male leading a pre-kindergarten classroom? I have rarely seen it. I led an elementary school and could barely find any Black males to teach at that level. The lowest grade I could recruit one to teach was 2nd grade, which only lasted one year. I want to see our city take a step toward changing that narrative. I want to see resources and effort put into pushing more Black males to teach early in a child’s educational journey.
In 2016, The Leading Men Fellowship was launched in partnership with the DC Public Schools with support from the DC Public Education Fund as part of The Literacy Lab. The Literacy Lab’s goal is to diversify the teacher pipeline by engaging with recent high school graduates in exploring a career in early childhood education. The Leading Men Fellowship focuses on addressing three pressing issues: increasing kindergarten readiness, creating rigorous opportunities, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. The men participate in a year-long, residency-style program that provides an opportunity to build professional skills while preparing students to become strong, lifelong readers.
As forward-thinking as Indianapolis has been in education with reforms and charter schools, this nationally recognized initiative could be highly successful here in Indianapolis. I could see the Leading Men Fellowship helping build a foundation for how we view early literacy rates. While we have statewide data on ILEARN that begins in 3rd grade, I would be interested to see the data across the city for kindergarten through 2nd-grade students. I can only imagine with the data currently for 3rd grade that data at the early levels cannot be much better.
The Leading Men Fellowship is a city-wide initiative that not only supports recent high school graduates but supports young men currently in high school. Like a grow your model, the fellowship in Indianapolis would support high school students working at an early childhood center during their senior year. For example, a Black male high school senior at Tech High School could earn college credits and a salary working in a preschool classroom at Francis W. Parker school 56. During that year, he is provided training and coaching to hone his skills. During the summer months, these same students could land jobs at preschool centers all year round to continue honing their skills while also earning an income. I believe this could be one aspect of a brand-new initiative for early childhood education.
A city-wide initiative will take a collection of city-wide leaders. I am calling on representatives from The Mind Trust, Teach Indy, 100 Black Men, Educate ME Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Marian University, Martin University, Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation, Indiana Department of Education, Café, Edna Martin Christian Center, and the Christamore House to figure what we need to do to bring this program to Indianapolis.
The Literacy Lab has launched Leading Men Fellowships in Washington DC, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Virginia, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Phoenix-Mesa. Let’s add Indianapolis to that list.