Philadelphia is a city with many thriving, diverse, and uncommon companies and organizations. This mix of small businesses and large corporations is part of the reason why Philly is such a lively and intriguing urban center. Many of these organizations have the goal of improving different facets of the city, including programs such as One Step Away and Philabundance.
One extraordinary organization that is doing good in the city is The Philadelphia Education Fund. Their mission is to improve Philadelphia’s public education system so that students are prepared for their future college and career opportunities.
“We are committed to three basic elements that create one path,” says Darren Spielman, CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund. These elements include providing excellent teachers in the classroom, keeping students in school until graduation, and ensuring that all students have access to further education and career opportunities.
The Philadelphia Education Fund has nine different programs within the organization that advance their mission. One of these is their Teacher Residency program, which is specifically for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professionals. “People who have a STEM major in college are usually led by their professors to pursue careers that aren’t teaching,” says Carolyn Rulli, Director of the Philadelphia Teacher Residency. “That’s why there is such a large need for STEM teachers in Philadelphia public schools.”
The program implements a model that is different from most pre-teaching methods. The average student graduating with an education degree will spend around fourteen weeks student-teaching; the Philadelphia Teacher Residency (PTR) program, however, has a different approach. Students that attend UPenn’s Graduate School of Education or Drexel’s School of Education go through the PTR program and spend a full year shadowing experienced Philadelphia school teachers. After the year is up, they commit to spending at least three years teaching in a public or charter school in Philadelphia.
Is this model successful? Absolutely. Nationally, 50% of teachers will leave their first classroom within a year, and the number is even higher in urban areas. The PTR program produces statistics that blow the national average away, despite the urban location, with a teacher retention rate of 85% over a three year period. During this time, new teachers have the full support of the PTR staff.
There is also evidence that classrooms with teacher residents have students who feel more supported. “We work closely with an evaluator in order to track student improvement,” says Rulli. “Past surveys indicate that students generally feel that resident teachers help meet their individual needs.” PTR will soon perform a new study that will collect data such as grades and PSSA scores in order to gather concrete statistics that show the improved conditions of schools that use the PTR model.
The Philadelphia Education Fund as a whole is improving the education system in an area that produces less-than-ideal statistics. This success derives not only from the successful model that they use, but also from the dedicated and hard-working individuals involved in the organization. “Teaching is such a [powerful] profession,” says Paul Lazro, PTR’s recruitment manager. “It provides an opportunity for an exciting career that will make a difference. It’s not your average nine-to-five job.”
For more information, you can contact Danielle Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org.