Philadelphia Education Fund promotes a discussion panel about educators’ needs

The Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) hosts a monthly speaker series entitled Education compact first, which aims to address relevant issues for education. As the region’s leading voice in K-16 education, PEF aims to discuss strategies, tactics and efforts to improve and maintain a quality education for all Philadelphia students.

On the morning of October 13th, PEF had a conversation about the needs of educators and the big teacher resignation. The event featured teachers and other education workers as guest speakers. They talked about improving working conditions and remuneration for educators, and developing and increasing diversity among qualified educators.

With teachers being the most burned-out workforce in America, more teachers quit this June than at the peak of the pandemic, according to a February Gallup poll. Almost half of America’s school districts started the school year with significant teacher openings.

To address the problem, administrators, retired teachers, government employees and others are called in to help in the classrooms — but they often don’t have the necessary qualifications. As a short-term solution, people are considering expediting or waiving teacher certification requirements. However, a long-term strategy is required to resolve the vacancies.

Farah Jimenez, President and CEO of PEF, mediated the event to discuss some 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, Organizational and Leadership Studies, Temple University
  • Laura Boyce: PA Executive Director, Teach Plus
  • Larisa Shambaugh: Chief Talent Officer, Philadelphia School District

In the past 10 years, the number of areas in Pennsylvania with reported teacher shortages has more than tripled. Boyce cited compensation, recruitment challenges, inconsistent preparation and onboarding, and poor working conditions as the root causes of the problem.

While the cost of living increases, teachers’ financial compensation remains the same, contributing to a decline in interest in the position and its status. In addition to insufficient quality support; The stressful, isolating, and unsustainable workplace conditions, particularly in high-need schools and for teachers of color, are among the systemic factors driving teacher shortages.

Byrd brought up the discussion of the gap between students and teachers of color. In the 2020-2021 school year, the percentage of black students in the United States was 2.5 times the percentage of black teachers. In Pennsylvania, that number was 5.9 over the same period.

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

To solve these problems, many school districts have developed their own career paths for high school students to continue their education. Dual enrollment, hands-on experience, coursework with higher education institutions for credit, mentoring, and future employment opportunities help create the next generation of teachers.

With the goal of eliminating the cost side of the teaching profession, the benefits are getting better, Boyce said. A teaching scholarship program in Pennsylvania, a partial or full scholarship to state colleges in exchange for an obligation to teach at a state or high-need school, loan waivers for teachers in high-need school districts, and certification test fee waivers some of the efforts mentioned by speakers to remove financial barriers for teachers.

Better data was also needed to target specific working conditions that need improvement, as a better work environment will help attract more skilled workers. Boyce added that hiring more teachers is more important than giving them better tools.

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