Project Inspire Joins National Initiative To Improve Teacher Diversity

Monday, May 24, 2021

Project Inspire has won funding from the National Center for Teacher Residencies to expand upon its track record of recruiting and preparing "diverse and talented" teachers for Hamilton County Schools.

Project Inspire is a 14-month program for college graduates that includes a full-year classroom apprenticeship and the coursework needed for teacher licensure. Since the program’s launch in 2010, nearly 100 teachers have graduated from the program, with nearly all of them working in high-poverty schools and many recognized as leaders in the profession.

The award comes through NCTR’s Black Educators Initiative, a five-year, $20-million effort to increase the recruitment and retention of new Black teachers through NCTR’s nationwide network of teacher residency programs. The initiative was launched in 2019 and is funded by the Ballmer Group.

Officials said, "The grant will help Project Inspire to strengthen its efforts to prepare teachers who are able to drive improvements in student achievement with the overarching goal of ensuring that all students can succeed in learning and life. Research shows that students of color do better in
school and go to college at higher rates when they are taught by teachers with similar racial and
demographic backgrounds."

Mark Neal, Project Inspire director, remarked: “Our bright and ambitious students of color need to be able to see themselves reflected in the great teachers they encounter in the classroom, and through such exposure, more students will be able to envision themselves as future leaders in the teaching profession.”

Project Inspire is one of many initiatives supported by the Public Education Foundation
of Chattanooga.

"PEF launched Project Inspire more than a decade ago, in partnership with Hamilton County Schools, as a program designed to increase student achievement by recruiting and training highly talented college graduates who want to teach in schools with a large number of economically disadvantaged students. We are honored to be included in this national initiative and excited to learn from the transformative work taking shape across the nation," said Dr. Dan Challener, president of Public Education Foundation.

Officials said, "This grant will provide an opportunity to build upon the capacity of talented Project
Inspire graduates like Jonathan Brown, a first-grade teacher at Orchard Knob Elementary. With
support from this funding, Mr. Brown and other program alumni will partner with Project Inspire
to develop a 1:1 mentorship program for Project Inspire residents, to expand the programming
offered through a Black educator affinity group, and to design an internship program for
top-notch Project Inspire candidates."

“Great teachers can equip students with the tools to achieve academic success and to drive positive changes that will impact our community across generations,” said Mr. Brown. “This grant gives us the resources and the opportunity to reach out to Black educators to ask how we can come alongside them and support them. It's about bringing a community together and listening."

The grant will also support broader efforts to improve teacher diversity across Hamilton
County Schools.

“Central to Hamilton County Schools’ strategic talent initiatives is our work to increase the number of teachers of color in our school district,” said Dr. Marsha Drake, HCS chief equity officer. “This goal is in alignment with the state of Tennessee’s educator Diversity Policy and Hamilton County’s adoption of our own policies on Equity and Educator Diversity.

"Research shows that a teaching workforce that reflects the diversity of our student population
impacts student achievement and outcomes. We are excited about the opportunity to support
Project Inspire’s participation in this national initiative and to implement lessons learned together
to improve the diversity of all our talent pipelines.”

Project Inspire was one of eight residencies chosen to join other programs for the third
year of NCTR’s Black Educators Initiative. With this grant, Project Inspire aims to more than
double the number of enrolled Black residents. Project Inspire will also be seeking to strengthen
community partnerships across Chattanooga in order to magnify the call for talented people of
color to enter the teaching profession.

"The majority of school children in the United States are students of color, yet less than 20 percent of teachers are people of color, and only seven percent of them are Black, officials said.

“Now more than ever, we need to focus on recruiting and retaining Black teachers,” said Anissa Listak, NCTR’s founder and CEO. “We are so proud to be able to work with Project Inspire through NCTR’s Black Educators Initiative.”

Officials said, "Teacher residency programs have proven effective at recruiting and developing teachers of color. In 2019-2020, NCTR’s network of partner residencies reported that 62 percent of their teachers-in-training identified as persons of color – more than twice the diversity rate of
teachers nationally. This year, 32 percent of teachers training in Project Inspire are people of color."


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