Pilot program aims to put more Black teachers in the classroom

Cyril Josh Barker | 5/16/2019, 4:53 p.m.
A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy establishes a pilot program within the Department of Education to ...
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A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy establishes a pilot program within the Department of Education to recruit disadvantaged or minority men to teach in certain underperforming schools under an alternate route program.

S703 allows the commissioner of education to recruit eligible participants and match them to teaching opportunities for which they may apply in underperforming schools under New Jersey’s alternate route teacher preparation program. Under the bill, the commissioner will select six underperforming schools from throughout the state for participation in the pilot program.

“Research tells us that students of color taught by at least one teacher of color in grades K-5 are more likely to see improved test scores and higher graduation rates,” said New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “Moreover, all students across the spectrum benefit from a diverse teacher workforce. Teachers of color foster positive perceptions among all children, and that helps prepare students to succeed in a diverse society.”

Racial incidents involving white teachers and Black students have also plagued public schools in New Jersey. In February, a seventh-grade science teacher at Penns Grove Middle School reportedly called Black students the “n-word.” The tenured teacher was suspended with pay; however, district officials are trying to fire him.

Numbers from the DOE indicate that more than 160,000 students in the state do not encounter a single teacher of color. Bill co-sponsor Troy Singleton said the law will create more diversity within teaching ranks while meeting the needs of chronically challenged schools.

“This is a great way to help an underrepresented portion of our population find a solid, stable career path while serving as positive role models for students in our challenged school districts,” he said.