Philadelphia Education Fund promotes a discussion panel about educators’ needs
Better working conditions and a more diversified team of professionals are some of the changes that need to happen.
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Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) is doing a monthly speaker series entitled Education First Compact, which aims to address pertinent topics to education. As the region’s leading voices on K-16 education, PEF wants to discuss strategies, tactics, and efforts to improve and sustain quality education for all of Philadelphia's students.
On the morning of Oct. 13th, PEF held a conversation about the needs of educators and the great teacher resignation. The event had the presence of teachers and other education workers as guest speakers. They talked about improving working conditions and compensation for educators, as well as developing and expanding diversity among qualified educators.
With teachers being the most burned-out workers in America, according to a February Gallup poll, more teachers quit this June than during the height of the pandemic. Nearly half of America’s school districts started off the school year with significant teacher vacancies.
To address the issue, administrators, retired teachers, government employees and others are being called to help out in the classrooms — but they often don’t have the qualifications needed. As a short-term solution, people explore fast-tracking or waiving teacher certification requirements. However, there is a need for a long-term strategy to solve the vacancies.
Farah Jimenez, PEF’s President and CEO, was the mediator of the event to discuss some alternatives to those issues. The panel also counted with the participation of the following speakers:
- Fatim Byrd: Middle School Teacher and 2023 Teach Plus Pennsylvania Policy Fellow
- Chris McGinley: D.Ed, Professor of Practice, Policy, Organizational and Leadership Studies, Temple University
- Laura Boyce: PA Executive Director, Teach Plus
- Larisa Shambaugh: Chief Talent Officer, School District of Philadelphia
In the past 10 years, the number of areas with designated teacher shortages more than tripled in Pennsylvania. Boyce appointed compensation, recruitment challenges, inconsistent preparation and induction, as well as poor working conditions as the root causes of the issue.
At the same time that living costs rise, financial compensation for teachers stays the same, contributing to a decline of interest in the position and its status. Besides insufficient high-quality support; the stressful, isolating and unsustainable workplace conditions especially in high-need schools and for teachers of color are among the systemic factors that are driving teacher shortages.
Byrd brought the discussion about the discrepancy between students and teachers of color to the table. In the 2020-2021 school year, in the United States, the percentage of students of color was 2.5 times greater than the percentage of teachers of color. In Pennsylvania, for the same period, this number was 5.9.
Besides that, between 2009 and 2020, the number of Latintx teachers in the state decreased 25%. For Black teachers, there was a 55% decline.
To solve those issues, many school districts have developed their own career pathways for high school students to pursue teaching. Dual enrollment, field experience, coursework with higher education institutions for credit, mentorship and future employment opportunities are helping create the next generation of teachers.
Aiming to take away the cost side of becoming a teacher, the benefits become better, Boyce said. A Pennsylvania teaching fellowship program, a partial or full scholarship for state colleges in return for a commitment to teach in the state or a high-need school, loan forgiveness for teachers in high-need school districts, and fee waivers for certification tests are some of the efforts that the speakers mentioned as ways to eliminate the financial barriers for teachers.
Better data to target specific working conditions that need to be improved was also mentioned as needed since a better work environment will help attract more professionals. Boyce added that more than recruiting more teachers, it is important to offer them better work tools.
The next series edition about the loan crisis and its hidden factors will happen Nov. 3rd. To register and learn more, click here.