Pennsylvania launches effort to recruit, retain more black teachers

Mike DeNardo
November 20, 2019 - 3:53 pm
A news conference at Community College of Philadelphia discusses a shortage of teachers of color in the state.

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The state is launching a new effort to recruit and keep teachers of color. 

Pennsylvania has a teacher shortage, and an acute shortage of teachers of color. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, told a news conference at Community College of Philadelphia that the state has the least diverse teaching population in the nation.

"Ninety-six percent of educators are white, and fewer underrepresented students are studying education," Rivera said.

Related: Philly school district launches plan to react more quickly to environmental concerns in schools

Under a new pilot, 20 Philadelphia high school students interested in becoming teachers will get tuition help at seven colleges including Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, West Chester University and Temple University. 

Sharif El-Mekki, a former Philadelphia principal who founded the Center for Black Educator Development, said when students see someone who looks like them in front of the classroom, they do better. White students, he added, generally see a mirror while black students see a window, and he pointed to research that shows just how much that matters.

"A single teacher for some of these black boys reduces their dropout rate by 39%. Decreasing the dropout rate by almost 40 percent? Very few other interventions can claim that," El-Mekki said.

Rivera said if the pilot proves successful, there are plans to take the program statewide.