Cabrini University is one of the first colleges and universities to partner with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) in Pennsylvania’s pilot program Aspiring to Educate (A2E), which aims to increase the diversity and number of teachers in the Commonwealth. In addition to Cabrini and the SDP, the initial partnership involves the state Department of Education (PDE), six other colleges and universities, and local education and youth organizations.
“Aspiring to Educate will help Pennsylvania attract, recruit, train, and retain a new generation of teachers and school leaders,” said Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera during the public announcement on November 20, noting that A2E is the first program of its kind. “It will not only help the Commonwealth address the shortage of educators and the lack of diversity in the teacher pipeline but will also provide a career pathway for students into the teaching profession.”
“Diversifying the teacher education workforce and the teacher candidate pool is a priority for all of us as it strengthens our programs, classrooms and communities,” said Beverly R. Bryde, EdD, Dean of the Cabrini School of Education. “The Aspiring to Educate initiative from the PDE is impressive and important. We are proud to be partners in this program’s launch.”
Pennsylvania state educators noted that the number of people seeking teaching certification has decreased by more than 65 percent since 2013. Additionally, of the Commonwealth’s 120,000 educators, 96 percent are white—making it the least diverse in the country. A2E will attempt to overcome these statistics with pathways for three segments of aspiring educators: youth (pilot program), adult, and nontraditional.
The SDP will work with Cabrini and the other colleges and universities to design individual plans for academically successful high school juniors or seniors interested in becoming teachers. Students who enroll will receive free or reduced tuition through the institution as well as mentoring through the Philadelphia Youth Network and the Center for Black Educator Development. They will be encouraged to teach in Philadelphia’s most high-need areas after they graduate.
Cabrini’s Assistant Dean for the School of Education, Assistant Professor of Education, and Director of District and School Relations Ronald W. Whitaker II, EdD is leading Cabrini’s involvement in the A2E initiative. Whitaker is also Faculty Director of the Center for Urban Education, Equity, and Improvement, which provides specialized training for teachers, educational leaders, and community members who want to transform urban education.
“The School of Education at Cabrini University is well-positioned to be a key partner for A2E,” said Whitaker, who noted that several faculty and staff members have not only published articles, book chapters, and op-eds on the urgency to diversify the education workforce, but also presented workshops and talks on the topic at state, national, and international conferences. “This initiative perfectly aligns with Cabrini’s commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice, and is another depiction of how the School of Education at Cabrini University continues to be a Pennsylvania leader in teacher education.”
The school district expects to choose its first cohort of students in January, and in the coming years, officials plan to expand A2E into additional high-need areas throughout the Commonwealth. Other institutions participating in A2E are the Community College of Philadelphia, and Cheyney, West Chester, Temple, Drexel, and Arcadia universities.