At an October recruitment event hosted by The Fellowship - Black Male Educators for Social Justice (BMEC), a group dedicated to attracting more black men to the teaching profession, Relay Graduate School of Education restated its commitment to help grow and diversify Philadelphia’s teaching force. Philadelphia currently faces a significant problem of educator underrepresentation: only 28% of teachers in the city identify as black or Latino, compared with 71% of students. Research underscores the importance of teacher diversity, demonstrating that having a same-race teacher has a significant, positive effect on students. Relay is working alongside local leaders to address this inequity by expanding its teacher preparation programs in the region and attracting more teachers of color, especially black men, to represent the city’s vibrant and diverse community.
“Black male educators can bring in new perspectives and have deep impact on children, yet they account for less than 5% of teachers in the School District of Philadelphia,” said Vincent Cobb, co-founder, The Fellowship. “We’re thrilled to partner with Relay in Philadelphia to cultivate the next generation of black male educators.”
First invited to Philadelphia & Camden to provide high quality preparation for teachers working in urban schools, Relay is preparing over 100 current and aspiring teachers at its Philadelphia & Camden campus in the 2016-2017 school year, up from 70 teachers in its inaugural cohort in 2015-2016.
“At the School District of Philadelphia, we are deeply committed to attracting strong, diverse teachers to serve our city’s school system year after year, which enrolls more than 130,000 students. The more high-quality teacher preparation programs that encourage diversity in Philadelphia like Relay, the better,” said School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite.
Nearly 70% of Relay Philadelphia & Camden participants identify as black or Latino, more than double the citywide rate of teachers of color. Relay is committed to continuing to recruit and prepare more teachers of color, including black men, who currently represent 12% of participants. This includes partnering with organizations such as The Fellowship, while also building more robust teacher recruitment initiatives, with an explicit focus on diversity.
“Young people are really looking for ways to have impact,” says Relay Philadelphia & Camden Dean Shemanne Davis. “As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand that educators change lives. At Relay, we’re working to do more to inspire more young people who share the racial identities of our students to step into the classroom and not only become great role models and leaders for our kids, but also positively and significantly impact their educational opportunities, as the research shows.”
Relay’s flagship program in Philadelphia & Camden is the Relay Teaching Residency, a two-year program providing a gradual, structured on-ramp into teaching. Known for its rigorous approach to developing teachers and leaders through deliberate practice and feedback, Relay was recently cited by the U.S. Department of Education for its focus on graduate student and PK-12 student outcomes. In addition to its work with teachers, Relay has trained nearly 80 Philadelphia district and charter principals through its National Principals Academy Fellowship program (NPAF).
Now in its second year in Philadelphia & Camden, Relay is approved by the state of Pennsylvania to offer teaching and principal certification in 14 areas and as an institute of higher education (IHE) in eight states, including New Jersey. Relay is nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). In Pennsylvania, the process to obtain IHE approval has been further extended. This month, Relay withdrew its initial application, first submitted in 2014, and feedback provided by reviewers and evolutions in its program since that time will be taken into consideration as Relay works with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to meet the growing need for highly effective, diverse educators. Relay plans to resume the IHE approval process in the future and has every confidence that its MAT program will meet the standards articulated by the Commonwealth. In the interim, teachers in Philadelphia will have the opportunity to earn a master’s in Camden. Relay is committed to serving educators in the Philadelphia area for years to come, and will continue to certify teachers in Pennsylvania.