Pennsylvania education leaders call on schools to strengthen teacher diversity with stimulus funds

Aaron Walton, president of Cheyney University, a historically black university, has suggested that school communities devote more funds to partnership programs between higher education institutions and school districts.

Cheyney just launched its “Aspire to Educate” program last summer, a five-week summer program for high school students to learn about a career in education.

Twenty-one students participated in the program in 2020, according to Walton, and 19 of them chose to enroll and continue their education at Cheyney.

Programs like this require “additional resources and funding to enable institutions like Cheyney University to welcome and support them,” Walton said. “The American Relief Plan dollars give us another opportunity to collaborate and invest in teacher diversity. “

The Philadelphia School District also plans to further address teacher diversity, according to Larisa Shambaugh, talent manager for the Philadelphia School District.

“We know we need to do a lot more to make the demographics of our educators better reflect the demographics of our students,” Shambaugh said.

She said the district plans to use the ARP funds to reinvest in its leader residency program. The district also plans to work with the teachers’ union to develop initiatives to help paraprofessionals in the district become teachers.

The goal, said Shambaugh, “is to provide those who already work with our students and who are already engaged in our community with a clear path to becoming a teacher.”

The district also plans to expand its teacher retention efforts, including “more support for new teachers and giving teachers more time to work collaboratively,” Shambaugh said.

For Valerie Kinloch, dean of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, recruiting and training efforts for people of color all come down to retention plans.

“That element of retention is that we value people so much that before they could even consider leaving, we provided them with supports to be successful, both to survive and thrive in this environment,” said Kinloch.

El-Mekki agreed. “There are prerequisites for recruiting teachers of color… a solid retention plan. If retention isn’t a goal, talent will come through the front door and skip the back door.

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About Mark A. Tomlin

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