Shortages and Inequities in the Philadelphia Public School Teacher Workforce

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Publication Date
August 2020


Educators are centrally important in the fight for racial justice and access to high-quality education. This has never been more true than in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the public acknowledges the crucial role that our public school teachers play in the well-being of our children and of our society at large.

Yet our teacher workforce is under duress. As has been true across the country, Philadelphia’s public schools faced teacher shortages even before the pandemic. COVID-19 is likely to result in further contraction of the teacher preparation pipeline, and in higher rates of attrition as teachers exit their professions due to physical or mental health stressors. And while we know that all students-particularly students of color-benefit from a diverse teaching force, the number of teachers of color is shrinking as well. When taken together, these are troubling trends.

This latest brief – the fourth in RFA and PERC’s Back to School series – draws on data from the Common Core of Data, Civil Rights Data Collection, and other state and federal sources to provide an overview of the pre-pandemic status of the teaching workforce in Philadelphia’s 320 district and charter public schools, and provides some recommendations for recruiting and retaining a diverse and well-prepared teaching force.

Key findings:

  • Philadelphia would need over 1,500 additional teachers just to reach the state average student/teacher ratio.
  • Black and Hispanic students in district and charter schools are more likely to be taught by teachers who do not hold any certifications, are not certified in their subject areas (particularly math and science), or are inexperienced.
  • Fewer persons of color are entering teacher preparation programs statewide, likely exacerbating the dearth of teachers of color in Philadelphia.
  • Teachers in Philadelphia are paid less, on average, than teachers in most of the city’s bordering school districts, even though Philadelphia’s students have among the highest needs.

The brief concludes with implications and recommendations of strategies to recruit and retain a qualified, more diverse teaching workforce, many of which are already underway in the School District.


  • Jill Pierce
  • Anna Shaw-Amoah
  • David Lapp