Report: Philadelphia has fewer Black teachers now than 20 years ago

Black educators reportedly only make up 12% of teaching staff nationally

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The enrollment of students of color in Pennsylvania’s public school system is rising faster than the diversity of the state’s teachers.

The Philadelphia-based education research group has been tracking teacher diversity in the state, per The Philadelphia Inquirer. According to the findings from Research for Action, only 6.2% of the teachers in the district are of color, while nearly 37% of the students are predominately Black. By 2025, the state anticipates the percentage of diverse students to increase significantly. 

Black student doing school work in classroom,
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

The report also found that the number of Black teachers in Philadelphia is shrinking, where most in the state are concentrated. There are 1,200 fewer Black teachers compared to 20 years ago. The district has historically employed more Black teachers than charter schools, per The Inquirer. Asian and Hispanic teachers are also underrepresented in the city. 

Meanwhile, Black educators reportedly only make up 12% of teaching staff nationally, per Pew Research

“It’s really important for Black and brown children to see themselves [reflected] in teaching staff,” said Aliya Cantanch-Bradley, the principal of the Mary McLeod Bethune School in Philadelphia. “In many schools when you start asking the question, ‘When did you have your first Black teacher?’ Many have never had one.”

The state’s educator workforce is the least diverse in the country, as 96% of teachers in are white, FOX 43 reports. The Pennsylvania Department of Education says hiring teachers of color has become a priority.

“When I came to Bethune, the principal started a very clear and transparent recruitment of Black male educators,” said Cantanch-Bradley. “So when she went to recruitment fairs and talked to people, she was looking for Black male educators…I look at administrators like, we run our leg of the race, we pass the baton, and then it’s for the next person to take the vision further.”

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Crystal Edwards, 47, principal at North Philadelphia’s William D. Kelley Elementary, is leading by example by making time to personally recruit more teachers of color.

“I had to go out and search for teachers and not go through the mass-herding of who was online,” she said. Edwards mentioned going “to some of our historical Black colleges and universities and [getting] those teachers in.”

“We need to act now to get the teacher workforce and be ready for the population,” Tanya Garcia, PDE’s deputy secretary and commissioner for postsecondary and higher education told FOX 43.

To aid in this effort, PDE will expand its Aspire to Educate initiative, which aims to “cultivate and diversify the city’s educator pool,” per the program’s website. The organization was launched in 2019 to recruit teachers of color at Pennsylvania colleges. 

Edwards said, “It’s important for me as an educational leader to go out and handpick those people who are going to stand in front of marginalized children and say, ‘I see you, because you’re important, because you’re destined.’”

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