Philadelphia Organization Launches $3M Black Teacher Development Fund

On Thursday (February 25), the Center for Black Educator Development announced its $3 million initiative to get more Black teachers in classrooms across the nation. 

The Philly-based organization’s program goal is to get at least 21,000 Black high school and college students into a pipeline to become teachers over the next 12 years through its Black Educators of Excellence Fellowship Program. 

Sharif El-Mekki, the Center’s founder, told The Philadelphia Inquirer inspiring Black teachers is a necessary component of the mission, “they are worthy, and they are worthy of our youth,” he said. “That is a message, a key component, that is not always offered to our youth.” 

El-Mekki is a Philadelphia education veteran who created the Center in 2019. He was driven by research that found Black teachers are a huge key to closing educational gaps for Black children and other children of color. On a national scale, 15% of all students are Black, but only 7% of teachers are Black.

According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, Black students who had just one Black teacher by the time they reached the third grade, were 13% more likely to enroll in college. The study also found that Black children who’d been taught by two Black teachers by the third grade were 32% more likely to enroll in college. 

When building his center and the Fellowship Program, El-Mekki and a group of Black male teachers asked their white female coworkers when they started learning about becoming a teacher. The average answer was third grade, El-Mekki told the outlet he wasn’t approached about becoming a teacher until after he’d graduated college. 

Through the Center’s “four-four-four” approach, El-Mekki is hoping to support the development of Black teachers. The initiative includes supporting potential future teachers during their four-year high school career, four years of college, and during their first four years in the classroom. 

The Center for Black Educator Development secured funding from the United Negro College Fund, Walton Family Foundation, the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, and others. 

The first group of future educators to go through the program will include 10 students who will receive scholarships as they train to become educators and do the work of closing gaps, and inspiring young minds. 

Photo: Getty Images 

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