The Committee on Education Talent Recruitment on October 31st held a regional convening at the School District of Philadelphia to discuss strategies to bolster and diversify Pennsylvania’s educator workforce. During the meeting, the school district provided an overview of its Grow Your Own program to train future teachers, a model which could be replicated across the commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania’s educator and paraprofessional shortages are in line with a national downturn in new teachers entering the workforce, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) considers this trend a serious threat to the future of education in the commonwealth,” said PDE Acting Secretary Eric Hagarty. “While we have developed an extensive plan to bolster and diversify our educator workforce, it’s models like the one here in Philadelphia that can be replicated elsewhere and create new opportunities to strengthen the field.”
Established under Act 55 of 2022, which amends the Pennsylvania Public School Code, the Committee on Education Talent Recruitment brings together experts in education, workforce, and related fields from across the commonwealth to develop a new course sequence for high school students interested in pursuing education as a profession.
The School District of Philadelphia’s paraprofessional program uses a Grow Your Own strategy for students interested in entering the education field. Grow Your Own apprenticeships empower schools to develop their own talent, enable on the job training for aspiring teachers, and pay for aspiring teachers to earn credentials for required degrees and certifications.
“Research shows that the single most important factor in a student’s academic attainment is having access to an effective, highly-qualified and stable teacher over time,” said School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. Tony B. Watlington, Sr. “As the nation struggles with a declining educator workforce, we know we need to come up with new strategies and approaches to build our teacher pipeline. In collaboration with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, we designed and launched the Paraprofessional Grow Your Own program, which covers the full cost of tuition so individuals can graduate without debt and have all the necessary supports to earn a degree and transition to a teaching role in the district.”
In July, Acting Secretary Hagarty announced the release of the strategic plan to recruit and retain more educators across the commonwealth, The Foundation of Our Economy: Pennsylvania Educator Workforce Strategy, 2022-2025. The strategy was developed after conducting extensive feedback sessions with vested partners across Pennsylvania and contains dozens of steps that PDE and its partners will use to address the commonwealth’s educator shortage.
The last few years have been among the most challenging for those working in schools, and the number of new educators entering the profession has declined as a result: a decade ago, roughly 20,000 new teachers entered the workforce each year, while last year only 6,000 did so. To make matters worse, the rate of educators leaving the profession continues to accelerate. This means that schools are having a harder time than ever before in filling critical staff positions.
Additionally, by 2025, the commonwealth’s K-12 population will have higher proportions of students of color, yet less than 7% of teachers in Pennsylvania are people of color. Research has proven that students learn best when they have the opportunity to do so from teachers whose life experience reflects their own. Meeting the needs of the diverse student population will require a significant increase in the diversity of Pennsylvania’s educator workforce.
The Foundation of Our Economy builds on the Wolf Administration’s efforts over the past eight years to ensure a high-quality education to learners of all ages across the commonwealth. The administration has increased education funding by more than $3.7 billion since 2015, with an historic increase of $1.8 billion in this year’s final budget.