Education Commissioner Candice McQueen awarded funds to three school districts today for Diversity Innovation Implementation Grants, including Hamilton County Department of Education. These grants underscore the department’s commitment to supporting a high-quality, diverse, and effective educator workforce that meets the needs of all students across the state, said officials.
In recent years, Tennessee has focused on improving the current educator pipeline, with specific attention on increasing the diversity of the educator workforce, as illustrated in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. To encourage innovative practices in districts around recruiting and retaining diverse, highly effective teachers and to better reflect the student population of Tennessee’s public schools, the department launched the Diversity Innovation Grant program.
“It is our goal that all students have access to highly effective educators, and pursuing innovative approaches to recruit teachers from diverse backgrounds will help us on the path there,” Commissioner McQueen said. “These new grants will allow three distinct districts the freedom to try something new that will ultimately benefit our students by building a stronger educator workforce that reflects the diverse backgrounds of our students."
The department is investing nearly $100,000 in Title II, part A funds for a one-year grant period to support these districts as they implement comprehensive strategies with the primary goal of increasing the representation of minority teachers in their local schools. The chosen proposals reflected the districts use of teacher and school demographic data to address the greatest areas of need. The department is investing Title II, part A funds for districts for the first year of this grant with the potential to extend funding for a maximum of three years pending continued federal funding.
The Department of Education reviewed the submitted proposals and selected three districts to receive the Diversity Innovation Implementation Grants. All three districts proposed a “Grow-Your-Own” plan to increase the number of high school students of color interested in teaching, primarily by adding the Teaching As a Profession program of study in a select number of schools and jumpstarting Educators Rising student organizations.
Selections were based on the proposal’s strength in the areas of planning for partnerships, activities, sustainability, and budget:
Lauderdale County Schools
Hamilton County Department of Education
Robertson County Schools
In recent years, more studies have shown that students benefit from having teachers from diverse backgrounds. Emotionally and socially, teachers of color serve as role models for students who share their racial and ethnic identity and often demonstrate cultural understanding and increased awareness of students’ abilities and needs. Research has also shown that academically, teachers of color produce more favorable outcomes for students of similar backgrounds, providing further support to the department’s initiatives to increase the number of diverse educators in the workforce, said officials.
In April 2017, the department released Preparation Through Partnership, a report, which identifies the need to continually improve the state's teacher pipeline to increase the number of effective educators in Tennessee schools. The report identifies pathways to accomplish this goal, including a series of specific recommendations for districts and Educator Preparation Providers to collaboratively support this work going forward. These next steps build on a growing momentum across the state to continue to improve the new teacher pipeline, from the design and structure of educator preparation programs through the ongoing development of new teachers, with the Diversity Innovation Grants being one piece of this work among additional grants from the state.
For more information on the Diversity Innovation Grants, please contact Sylvia Flowers, executive director of educator talent, at Sylvia.Flowers@tn.gov.