The Black Educators Initiative

Revolutionizing Education

Education is a key tool for a more socially just, equitable and liberated society. While schooling has historically reproduced systems of oppression that marginalize Black and Brown children, educators are key change agents in educational systems. Preparing a strong Black teacher-force positively impacts not just Black and Brown children, but all children. The Black Educators Initiative (BEI) aims to do just that.

Launched in 2020 as an extension of Urban Teachers’ flagship teacher development program, BEI provides financial and programmatic supports for current and aspiring Black educators. Through this fellowship, eligible applicants qualify for a minimum of $4,000 (and up to $5,000) in grant funds and a minimum of $20,000 (up to $25,000) in direct tuition payments to American University.

The goal of BEI is to significantly increase the number of Black educators in Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Washington, DC while ensuring they are supported and embraced in the classroom.

A Note from our Director

The Black Educators Initiative provides the space for Black educators to acknowledge the strength and power of their personal story, build community, and learn from other powerful educators who are reimagining what is possible for our students and educating the next generation of leaders. My vision for the Black Educators Initiative is that we provide the necessary for Black educators across all of our sites to not only survive, but thrive. I believe that our schools can be places of liberation and healing for students; but to drive systemic transformation, we need to ensure that our Black educators feel affirmed in their cultural identity, what they bring to the classroom, and that they are wholly supported throughout their entire time in our program.

Raymond Fields


Jasmine Knowles, Managing Director,
Black Educators Initiative


The Why

Schooling has historically reproduced systems of oppression that marginalize Black and Brown children, contributing to systems of privilege and oppression that perpetuate inequities and social injustice.

Black educators are key change agents in schools and communities, but they are scarce and under-represented. Nationally, only 12 percent of public school teachers are Black and only 2 percent are Black males. By infusing more diverse, well-prepared educators into urban communities, we create positive impacts for all children and contribute to a more just and equitable society.

Historical and contemporary qualitative and quantitative research highlights that teachers of color improve learning as well as social and emotional development for their students of color (Bristol & Martin-Fernandez, 2019).

Black teachers improve academic and life outcomes for Black students. Black educators:
  • Have high expectations for Black students and thus push them to excel.
  • Bring an innate understanding of life experiences and culture of Black students who often don't see themself fully represented in textbooks.
  • Give fewer disciplinary referrals resulting in reduced rates of exclusionary discipline for Black students.
  • Act as role models for under represented Black male students.
  • Reduce Black male students' probability of dropping out of school by 39 percent (Gershenson, Hart, Lindsay, & Papageorge, 2018).

“When it came to my decision to join Urban Teachers, I don’t know that I was entirely sold on the idea until I saw the Black Educators Initiative, and then when I did see it, it seemed too good to be true! I wasn’t prepared to take on a large financial burden right after undergrad because I already had loans I had to pay off, and though I knew I wanted to shoot for my master’s degree and beyond, I had it in my mind that I would need to work for a few years before jumping into a program. I’m glad to say that UT and BEI have made it possible for me to continue my education much earlier than I thought was available for me!”

Marsalis B., Cohort 2022

The How


Building on our history of grooming diverse educators to lead in our schools, with more than 40 percent of our annual teacher cohorts over the last five years being composed of Black or Latinx individuals, Urban Teachers will accelerate innovations across our recruitment, induction, preparation, and retention functions. We will couple new tuition scholarships and loan forgiveness with existing and new program supports.

Most critically, we will situate BEI in the context of Black education and build on the legacy left to us by our ancestors and elders.

Calling to Serve

We draw on the rich history of Black educators who have shown us what teaching as social action can make possible for our children when we understand teaching as a context for the lived practice of social justice work. It is our intention to ensure that Black educators will positively impact our children's academic, social-emotional, and whole child success. This, in turn, positively impacts communities and society.

Building Community

We are engaged in collectively building strong, interconnected systems that celebrate, support and create fertile ground for the success of Black educators. We recognize that this requires strong relationships at national, state, city, and community levels; this is not work that can be done in isolation from the communities we serve. We collectively support Black educators who make a difference in the lives of our children and communities. We are committed to celebrating the assets they bring to the classroom, and are working tirelessly to address barriers to teacher preparation and retention for those who are called to serve. The work is supported by $25 million in funding to prepare Black educators in Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Continued Support

Fellows and residents at Urban Teachers are supported by a Community of Elders--experienced Black educators--who have both the lived experience in the Black diaspora, but also stand in defiance of anti-Blackness to affirm the assets of Black educators. Through a network of mentors who support fellows and residents in navigating systems of education that have largely marginalized Black children and educators, the Black Educators Initiative embraces the legacy of Black educators as change agents and advocates for justice in America. Additionally, we offer distinct professional development opportunities that focus on the needs of Black educators wellness and mental health as well tutoring to successfully navigate PRAXIS, or other certification exams.

Financial Supports

Our goal is to place more Black teachers in classrooms – giving our large populations of Black students in Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Washington, DC the representation they deserve – but we know that the costs and the systemic barriers to equitable funding associated with an advanced degree and teacher certification can be intimidating. All residents and fellows at Urban Teachers are provided access to various student loan supports, grants and scholarships. We actively update this portion of our website as additional financial resources become available.

We encourage interested applicants to check out the UNCF Black Educators Fellowship. Through this fellowship, eligible applicants qualify for a minimum of $4,000 (and up to $5,000) in grant funds and a minimum of $20,000 (up to $25,000) in direct tuition payments to American University.  For more information about this specific opportunity and others at the UNCF, please explore the scholarship opportunities on their website.

Join the movement to revolutionize education. Speak with your recruiter to learn more about Urban Teachers.