The Philadelphia Education Fund promotes a discussion panel on the needs of educators

The Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) hosts a monthly speaker series titled Pact for education first, which aims to address topics relevant to education. As the region’s leading voice on K-16 education, PEF wants to discuss strategies, tactics, and efforts to improve and sustain a quality education for all Philadelphia students.

On the morning of October 13, PEF held a conversation about the needs of educators and the great resignation of teachers. 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 burnt-out workers in America, according to a February Gallup poll, more teachers quit in June than at the height of the pandemic. Nearly half of US school districts have started the school year with major teaching vacancies.

To solve the problem, administrators, retired teachers, government workers and others are called upon to help in the classrooms – but they often lack the necessary qualifications. As a short-term solution, people are considering accelerating or waiving teacher certification requirements. However, a long-term strategy is needed to resolve vacancies.

Farah Jimenez, President and CEO of PEF, mediated the event to discuss alternatives to these 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, Organization and Leadership Studies, Temple University
  • Laura Boyce: AP General Manager, Teach Plus
  • Larisa Shambaugh: Director of Talent, School District of Philadelphia

Over the past 10 years, the number of areas with designated teacher shortages has more than tripled in Pennsylvania. Boyce named compensation, recruiting challenges, inconsistent preparation and induction, and poor working conditions as root causes of the problem.

At the same time as the cost of living increases, the financial remuneration of teachers remains the same, contributing to a decline in interest in the position and its status. Besides insufficient high quality support; Stressful, isolating, and unsustainable working conditions, especially in needy schools and for teachers of color, are among the systemic factors driving teacher shortages.

Byrd brought the discussion about the gap 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 higher than the percentage of teachers of color. In Pennsylvania, for the same period, that number was 5.9.

Additionally, between 2009 and 2020, the number of Latintx teachers in the state decreased by 25%. For black teachers, there was a 55% decline.

To address these issues, many school districts have developed their own career paths for high school students to pursue teaching. Dual enrollment, field experience, coursework with colleges for credit, mentorship, and future employment opportunities help create the next generation of teachers.

Aiming to eliminate the cost of becoming a teacher, the benefits become better, Boyce said. A Pennsylvania teaching scholarship program, a partial or full scholarship to state colleges in exchange for a commitment to teach in the state or at a needy school, district teacher loan forgiveness schools in need and fee waivers for certification tests are some of the efforts speakers mentioned as ways to break down financial barriers for teachers.

Better data to target specific working conditions that need to be improved was also mentioned as needed, as a better working environment will help attract more professionals. Boyce added that in addition to recruiting more teachers, it is important to provide them with better working tools.

The next edition of the series on the loan crisis and its hidden factors will take place on November 3. To register and find out more, click here.

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