Philadelphia Schools Gains New Institute for Teacher Diversity

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The Philadelphia schools need to improve the effectiveness and diversity of their teacher workforce. Currently, 85 percent of their students are African American, Latino and Asian, but they have only 38 percent teachers of color.

After discussions initiated by Congressman Chaka Fattah with School Reform Commissioner Sandra Dungee Glenn, Philadelphia schools’ secretary of education, President and CEO Dr. Sharon Robinson of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and the AACTE’s Vice President M. Christopher Brown II, a resolution to the Philadelphia schools’ diversity problem was conceived.

Fattah, Philadelphia schools officials, and other partners in a joint news conference officially launched the Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Urban Teaching Institute in April 2006.  The institute is supported by the AACTE and Temple University’s College of Education, and operated by the Philadelphia schools. Its purpose is to train student teachers as urban classroom specialists, who will then be recruited into full-time teaching positions with the Philadelphia schools.

The ground-breaking institute will recruit college students from 700 of the best teacher training colleges across the nation. They are looking for the best and the brightest future teachers, who already are committed to making a difference in urban education. Though they will begin with 20 to 30 teachers this fall, the goal is to prepare up to 100 student teacher “fellows” each year for urban teaching positions within the Philadelphia schools. At least 50 percent of these teachers will be of color.

In addition to the urban classroom training, the institute will provide:

  • Improved pass rates among teachers of color on the Praxis exam through a test preparation initiative. The exam is required for teacher certification.
  • A cultural proficiency program to assist teachers to connect their classroom instruction with the students’ diverse cultural experiences.
  • Cultural proficiency standards have been proposed for use in evaluating Philadelphia schools educators.
  • A teacher diversity advisory council will advise the Philadelphia schools on its teacher diversity initiatives, and will consist of community-based partners.

The Philadelphia schools and Fattah’s office will provide funding, with the Congressman pledging to secure grant money for the institute.  Marketing efforts have been focused on teacher recruitment from universities with large African American and Latino enrollments in nearby states and Puerto Rico.

The institute is named for the outstanding Philadelphia schools educator, Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre (1910-1998).  Hayre was the first African American to teach full time in the Philadelphia schools, the first African American senior high school principal in the Philadelphia schools, and the first African American and female president of the Philadelphia schools board of education. She won numerous awards locally and nationally, and co-wrote “Tell Them We Are Rising: A Memoir of Faith in Education” with Alexis Moore and Ed Bradley. Hayre exemplifies what the institute stands for — diversity and quality teachers. The institute fulfills Fattah’s belief that “you don’t have to sacrifice diversity to have quality” in the Philadelphia schools.