GLASSBORO — A state partnership with Rowan University is hoping to diversify New Jersey's pool of qualified teachers by training men of color and paying the bill.

It's called MOCHA, or Men of Color Hope Achievers. It takes aspiring Black male teachers who have already completed college and obtained their bachelor's degree and pays for them to join underperforming school districts and train to become teachers in actual classrooms.

The program is led by Gaëtane Jean-Marie, the dean of the Rowan University College of Education.

"Its purpose is two-fold: address the teacher shortage and increase male participation in the teaching profession," Jean-Marie said.

James Hall at the College of Education for Rowan University. (Rowan University via Facebook)
James Hall at the College of Education for Rowan University. (Rowan University via Facebook)

Why was this program created?

MOCHA was created in response to a law signed by Gov. Murphy in May 2019 to create teaching opportunities for minority men. It also aims to make the diversity of teachers match the diversity of the teachers in their classrooms; children of color are 59% of New Jersey students, but just 17% of teachers in the state are men or women of color, according to the state DOE.

“When we have an educator workforce that is more reflective of the students they teach, it builds positive perceptions among all children," Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan said. "Moreover, research has found that students of color who are taught by at least one teacher of color tend to have higher test scores and graduation rates."

But it's not free.

How much does MOCHA program cost?

The state put $500,000 in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget for MOCHA and then another $500,000 for 2023, state DOE spokeswoman Laura Fredrick said. The same amount is budgeted for 2024.

"The program will be evaluated at the end of its pilot period and information on its effectiveness should be available in Fall 2024," Fredrick said.

How many teachers is MOCHA producing?

MOCHA began as a pilot program in 2022 and hoped to have 25 enrollees each year.

There were 36 applicants in its first year, Rowan University spokesperson Barbara Baals said. Of that pool, only 16 enrolled, and nine of them earned a certificate of eligibility (CE) or limited CE.

Referred to as Cohort 1 Fellows, they're expected to complete the program in June 2024.

The numbers show MOCHA is expanding. It grew the following year with 45 applicants and 21 enrollees. The class had four fellows who earned a CE or limited CE, though three more were pending DoE approval. These Cohort 2 Fellows are set to complete the program in June 2025.

(Rowan University/Canva)
(Rowan University/Canva)

"There is great interest in the MOCHA program, both by individuals who want to become a teacher and also school districts across the state who want to diversify their teaching staff while also addressing the teacher shortage," Jean-Marie said. "It's gaining momentum."

These aspiring teachers have been placed in seven counties in South Jersey.

That's 37 enrollees, of whom 16 earned a CE or limited CE, in two years for $1 million in state funding.

One challenge for MOCHA is that some enrollees have struggled to meet the GPA requirement for certification, Jean-Marie said. They must score higher than other enrollees on two exams before they can begin teaching in a classroom.

Where does the money for MOCHA go?

A large part of the funding for MOCHA goes toward a full academic scholarship to participate in the ASPIRE to Teach program, which handles pairing the enrollees with school districts. Between the cost of entering the program and tuition, that's around $9,000 per MOCHA fellow, according to Jean-Marie.

The state also pays for ASPIRE instructional materials, laptops, tutoring for teaching exams, summer professional development programs, and other fees.

"It's that wrap-around support for the MOCHA fellows to be successful," Jean-Marie said.

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