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Could having more black teachers increase graduation rates for black students?

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Could having more black teachers increase graduation rates for black students? (WCIV)

A college program is trying to increase the number of African American male teachers in the classroom.

Teachers say it could help bring up graduation rate up for black students

The program is “The Call Me Mister" program.

It was started 18 years ago when African American men made up less than 1 percent of South Carolina's elementary school teachers.

We talked to parents who said race and gender shouldn't matter, it's the quality of the teacher.

But some African American educators and researchers disagree.

Researchers at John Hopkins University say putting at least one black teacher in grades 3 through 5 can decrease high school drop out rates for low-income blacks by 39%.

ReZsaun Lewis is a graduate of the program.

Lewis says, "It’s rare to have more than one African American male in one school."

Lewis says he is one of a few African American male elementary teachers in Dorchester District Two.

He says, his first year teaching he believes his gender and race got in the way

"I remember parents not wanting students in my class because, I was a new teacher, a male and I was black, " says Lewis.

Lewis won rookie teacher of the year that year.

Lewis says, “being in the classroom is one of the best ways to make real time day to day change in a person’s life."

Lewis says the "Call me Mister Program" is making a difference.

Since 2004, program leaders say the program has more than doubled the number of black male teachers in South Carolina elementary schools.

But nationally, the number of black male teacher is still lagging behind.

The Department of Education says only 2 percent of teachers are African American men..

"Young men need to see that representation especially in a climate when we are losing young black men every day to violence on the streets," says Lewis.

The Call Me Mister Program offers financial assistance and tutoring, you can find out more on (link)