As their numbers drop in Philly, a look at why black teachers matter

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Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Shoemaker Elementary in Philadelphia, founded a group that seeks to boost the number of black male educators. Here he stands at the entrance to the school with students Essi Gasonu (left) and Bryce Thompson.

Sharif El-Mekki, principal of Mastery Shoemaker Elementary in Philadelphia, founded a group that seeks to boost the number of black male educators. Here he stands at the entrance to the school with students Essi Gasonu (left) and Bryce Thompson. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Studies show that when black students are taught by black teachers, it can have a profound effect on their lives. Yet in Pennsylvania, you could drive from north to south through an entire swath of the middle of the state, and not find a single public school with a teacher of color. Just 5.6 percent of the state’s teachers are persons of color, compared to 33.1 percent of its students. Most of Pennsylvania’s black teachers work in Philadelphia, but their numbers have dropped to below 25 percent. On this episode of The Why, Philadelphia Public School Notebook reporter Dale Mezzacappa tells us what’s driving this downward trend among black educators and what’s being done to turn it around.

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