Teach Plus Pennsylvania Launches Philadelphia Affinity Group Network to Boost Retention of Diverse Teacher Workforce

Teach Plus Pennsylvania Launches Philadelphia Affinity Group Network to Boost Retention of Diverse Teacher Workforce
With Support from Elevate 215 and The Pew Charitable Trusts, Teach Plus Will Engage Philadelphia’s Educators of Color in 30 Affinity Groups over Two Years

Philadelphia, PA, August 31, 2023 — Teach Plus Pennsylvania today launched the Philadelphia Affinity Group Network, a two-year program that will create culturally affirming, supportive spaces for educators of color to help retain them in the profession and in Philadelphia’s schools. Research shows that teachers of color matter for all students, and especially for students of color. Philadelphia, where 34% of the educator workforce are teachers of color and 86% of students are people of color, has the highest teacher attrition rates in the state, with turnover the highest among teachers of color. Each affinity group in the Philadelphia Affinity Group Network will be shaped for and by educators of color. During the program, Teach Plus will work with Philadelphia district and charter school partners to select and train experienced teacher leaders of color as affinity group facilitators. Funded by Elevate 215 and The Pew Charitable Trusts, Teach Plus’s Philadelphia Affinity Group Network will serve at least 300 educators of color by summer 2024.

“By fostering safe, healing, and identity-affirming spaces for BIPOC educators, the Philadelphia Affinity Group Network will support educators of color in navigating and improving their school environments and addressing systemic issues in their school building and the profession,” said Laura Boyce, Teach Plus Pennsylvania Executive Director. “We hope that this work will lead to retaining these excellent educators of color in Philadelphia’s schools, to benefit our students and communities.”

Research by Teach Plus and The Education Trust has found that that teachers of color face unique challenges in the workplace that contribute to their higher attrition rates, such as experiencing an antagonistic school culture; feeling undervalued and isolated; being deprived of agency and autonomy; navigating unfavorable working condition; and bearing the high cost of being a teacher of color. The Philadelphia Affinity Group Network design includes a two-pronged retention strategy for teachers of color: authentic, inclusive, intersectional environments for all participants to connect, support, and inspire each other; and growth and leadership opportunities for affinity group facilitators.

As part of the program, Teach Plus will provide ongoing coaching and leadership development for the affinity group facilitators to develop them as leaders and support successful formation and facilitation of impactful affinity group spaces. Teach Plus will work with the facilitators and district and charter partners to determine the configuration and composition of each affinity group.

Recruitment and selection of affinity group facilitators is ongoing, with applications due by September 22. Selected facilitators will gather for an in-person kick-off training on October 27-28. Teachers can sign up to participate in affinity groups through December, and all affinity groups will kick off in January, followed by regional convenings in February.

“Through our leadership training and one-on-one coaching of educators of color, we are ensuring that affinity group spaces are shaped by the teachers who know what it means to be an educator in Philadelphia. This approach centers the affinity groups’ structure and programming in the needs and lived experiences of educators of color, leading to their increased awareness of how to make systems-level change to better support and retain them and their colleagues,” said Dr. Andrea Terrero Gabbadon, Teach Plus Pennsylvania Education Leadership Coach.

The Philadelphia Affinity Group Network is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and Elevate 215, which have each awarded Teach Plus Pennsylvania a two-year, $250,000 grant, for a total of $500,000. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ grant is a Venture grant, awarded through the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services. Venture grants are intended to help organizations implement an innovative or promising approach to address an unmet or emerging need in the Greater Philadelphia region.

“In recent years, educators have left their jobs at higher rates than before while fewer new teachers have entered the profession. This challenge has acutely affected teachers of color—and created a critical area of need in Philadelphia, where most students in publicly funded schools identify as people of color. To help address the educator shortage, The Pew Charitable Trusts is pleased to fund Teach Plus Pennsylvania’s innovative affinity group model, which will cultivate culturally affirming spaces where educators of color receive the tools and support they need to navigate the unique challenges they face. Teach Plus has a deep understanding of the factors driving the city’s teacher shortage and a proven track record for developing and implementing teacher leadership programs,” said Kristin Romens, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pew Fund for Health and Human Services.

“In Philadelphia, the teacher workforce is not reflective of the student population, with students of color representing 86% compared to only 34% of teachers. Research has shown that students of color are more likely to achieve success in school and in life if they have learning experiences with teachers who look like them,” said Elevate 215 Executive Director Dr. Stacy E. Holland. “The Philadelphia Affinity Group Network is aligned with Elevate 215’s goals to uplift the teacher profession, and to increase and retain teachers of color. Teach Plus has demonstrated a track record of engaging with and positively impacting teachers in Philadelphia, and we are proud to partner with them on this program.”

About Teach Plus
Teach Plus is dedicated to the mission of empowering excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that advance equity, opportunity, and student success. In pursuing our mission, Teach Plus is guided by our Student Opportunity Mandate: All students should have the opportunity to achieve their potential in an education system defined by its commitment to equity, its responsiveness to individual needs, and its ability to prepare students for postsecondary success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning for students. teachplus.org

About The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Pew Charitable Trusts is committed to helping Philadelphia by informing discussion on important policy issues facing the city, supporting the health and well-being of residents facing complex challenges rooted in poverty, encouraging a thriving arts and cultural community, and pursuing civic initiatives to strengthen the area’s appeal to residents and visitors alike. Learn more by clicking here.

About Elevate 215
Elevate 215 is a nonprofit that serves as a catalyst for advancing educational outcomes in Philadelphia. Their vision is for Philadelphia schools to be designed as vivid and inspiring learning environments where students discover and reach their fullest potential. Over the next five years, Elevate 215 will invest in 50 schools, develop 500 educators, and reach over 25,000 students.