Tips for Adding Black Teachers to Pennsylvania’s Ranks

Any effort by the state of Pennsylvania Department of Education to increase the number of teachers over the next four years must be rooted in hiring teachers of color, particularly Black teachers.

There are a number of things that can be done to help hire more Black teachers. The first thing is for districts to stop making excuses for why more Black teachers aren’t in the classroom. Such as no one knowing where to find Black teachers, including prospective Black teachers. Clearly, Black teachers are available to be found. The question is, are district leaders looking?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the number one occupation for Black people with at least a college degree is a secondary school teacher, elementary school teacher/middle school teacher is ranked 5th and education administrator ranked 9th.

Whereas elementary and middle school teachers rank 2nd for white and Latino teachers, neither secondary school teacher or education administrator cracks the top 15 occupations of either group.

1.Secondary school teachers676,800602,000 (22nd)4,297,900 (16th)
2.Project management specialists615,000348,8002,731,900
4.Registered nurses425,700220,9001,426,000
5.Elementary and middle school teachers326,000217,300 (2nd)1,243,700 (2nd)
6.Social workers175,700162,8001,056,800
7.Accountants and auditors159,700159,7001,026,000
8.Teaching assistants157,100135,900998,800
9.Education administrators133,800123,100 (16th)953,700 (18th)
10.Food service managers124,600112,100907,100

* Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (2021)

Historically, men are underrepresented within the teaching profession. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, men make up only 24% of teachers. But that number is worse for Black men, who represent only 1.5% of all teachers nationally. However, teaching in the top ten of occupations for Black men nationally: elementary and middle school teacher ranking 7th and secondary teacher ranking 3rd.

What’s more fascinating is that secondary school teacher ranks higher for Black people (Black men particularly) more than white and Latino teachers. Analysis as to why isn’t offered here, however, it is a reality worth quantitative and qualitative study.

RankOccupationBlack MenLatino MenWhite Men
1.Project management specialists351,30035,100353,000
3.Secondary school teachers274,10031,600 (24th)328,900 (20th)
4.Software developers83,80090,000848,600
5.Computer occupations77,00074,400455,600
6.Chief executives69,60087,3001,011,100
7.Elementary and middle school teachers67,80072,600 (6th)568,200 (5th)
8.Food service managers64,200113,800435,900
9.General and operations managers64,20071,100570,700
10.Accountants and auditors60,70060,700472,600
15.Education Administrator46,20032,000 (23rd)263,200 (23rd)

* Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (2021)

Again, excuses are made that Black teachers can’t be found; however, the data shows that teaching is a top profession for Black people. The truth is that either district leaders aren’t searching in the right places or they aren’t searching for Black teachers at all.

With that said, Black teachers are out there to be hired. School districts must do the work to find them, hire them and keep them. The state department of education must use their wherewithal to secure that these things happen. Here are some suggestions as to how…

First, the Pennsylvania Department of Education must establish a partnership with the HBCUs in Pennsylvania to recruit Black prospective teachers. The Department of Education must reach out to Cheyney University of Pennsylvania; a university with a program in early childhood education (Pre-K to 4) and in special education (Pre-K to 8). They must also mostly reach out to Lincoln University; a university with a school of education, dedicated to preparing teachers, counselors, and administrators for the role of educator.

Cheyney and Lincoln both provide strong Black prospective teaching candidates. According to a 2016 Center for Minority Serving Institutions (formerly at UPenn, now at Rutgers) report, non-HBCUs produced an average of 1 Black graduate with an education degree; HBCUs produced an average of 17.

Here’s a place where Black teachers can be found… You’re welcome.

The truth is that these candidates understand that there’s a lack of Black educators throughout the country and ultimately have their pick of where it is that they wish to go. However, Pennsylvania’s DOE must both identify and entice these candidates to teach in PA schools and remain there. What that looks like is providing higher salaries as well as providing better support for them when they arrive in the classroom.

Second, the state department of education must link up with Black institutions designed to equip and prepare Black teachers for entering the classroom. One such organization would be the Center for Black Educator Development under the leadership of Sharif El-Mekki. With their Black Educator Pipeline initiative throughout the country, CBED is poised to add Black educators throughout the entire country.

An institution engaged in the work of building such a pipeline, establish best practices, and providing the data to strength advocacy on behalf of Black educators (and Black people) is an institution the state department of education must lean on to provide insight and advisement on how to increase the number of Black teachers.

But it must be a partnership, not a feeder relationship.

There must be a robust program of action and support for keeping Black teachers in schools. Black teachers more than anyone else experienced the highest rates of turnover due to the invisible tax as well as the lack of support that they receive from their districts. The overt racism displayed in anti-CRT legislation and protests also contributes to that. It’s great to hire Black teachers but it’s not enough if districts aren’t doing what’s necessary to keep them in the classroom.

Lastly, the state department of education must invest in paraprofessionals and teacher assistants as a pool of prospective Black teacher candidates to hire. People of color make up an overwhelming number of paraprofessionals. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Vice President Jerry Jordan shared that the majority of paraprofessionals in the School District of Philadelphia were Black and Brown women, when lauding a similar initiative in Philadelphia.

In Camden, where I teach, a partnership exists between the Camden Education Fund and Camden U, an affiliate of Southern New Hampshire University, is providing paraprofessionals with a pathway to teacher licensure with its teacher pathway program. This is something the department of education could partner with Cheyney and Lincoln to do.

These are just a few ways to increase the number of Black teachers to Pennsylvania classrooms. But it is up to the department of education, as well as school districts, to have the courage to adopt some of these ideas.

Sadly, much of Pennsylvania votes very red; November’s election may matter more than simply having courage. 


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