Philadelphia School District, Center for Black Educator Development aim to increase number of Black male teachers

By Natasha Brown, CBS Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Students are getting ready to go back to school in Philadelphia next week. One thing many students won't see is a Black male teacher in their classroom.

The percentage of Black male teachers within the Philadelphia school district remains in the single digits, a dismal trend CBED hopes to change. 

"We piloted a program in 2018 but I was still a sitting principal," Sharif El-Mekki said. "Then, in 2019, we formally launched."

"A pipeline that's sustainable, highly effective, and predictable. Part of that is our pathways program which engages high school students, college students and exposes them to teaching. We use a freedom school model. They teach first, second and third graders, and they receive coaching and mentoring and support from us," El-Mekki said.

The goal is to steer more Black men into the teaching industry, something Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington is welcoming with this program.

"It is critically important that our teaching force look like our student body and so we've got to expand our recruiting footprint," Dr. Watlington said.

CBS3 spoke with Dr. Watlington about the importance of representation in teaching staff.

"The research says, it says kids of color who have at least a certain number of teachers who look like them, they do better academically," the superintendent said.

"It's given me a lot of support and growth. I just learned so much," El-Mekki said.

Folly Kouevi is an aspiring teacher and junior at Howard University. He is being guided by the Center for Black Educator Development and has already begun teaching part-time.

"I realized I was really an outlier I had about eight Black male teachers and I can remember all their names, how each of them have shaped me to be the person I am today," Kouevi said.

El-Mekki has seen CBED grow tremendously over the past couple of years, providing paid teacher apprenticeships and a pipeline leading to more Black and Brown teachers in the classroom.

"This past summer, we had 142 Black and Brown teacher apprentices who are high school students in Philadelphia as well as around the country," El-Mekki said. "It's just been amazing to see that when we piloted in 2018 we had 10 and now we have 142."

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