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Pa. education leaders call on schools to boost teacher diversity with stimulus funds

Aaron Walton, President of Cheyney University, a historically Black university, suggested school communities put more funds towards partnership programs between institutions of higher education 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 matriculate and continue their education at Cheyney.

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

The School District of Philadelphia is also making plans to further address teacher diversity, according to Larisa Shambaugh, Chief Talent Officer for the School District of Philadelphia.

“We know that there is much more that we must do to have our educator demographics better reflect our student demographics,” said Shambaugh.

She said the district plans to use ARP funds to reinvest in its leader residency program. The district is also planning 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 committed to our community with a clear pathway to becoming a teacher.”

The district also plans to develop its teacher retention efforts, including “more supports for new teachers, and providing more time for teachers to work collaboratively together,” said Shambaugh.

For Valerie Kinloch, Dean of University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, recruitment, and training efforts for people of color all come back to retention plans.

“That retention piece is, we value people so much that, before they can even consider leaving, we have provided supports for them to be successful, to both survive and thrive within this environment,” said Kinloch.

El-Mekki agreed. “There are prerequisites for teacher-of-color recruitment … a strong retention plan. If retention isn’t a focus, talent will come through the front door and leave out the back door.”

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