The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded nearly $1.2 million in grants to improve student performance in Newport and three other school districts. The funding will support work to increase the number of teachers of color in urban school districts.
“Diversifying the teacher workforce in pursuit of the educational success of students is a strategy that works. These important investments will help address achievement gaps in urban districts by advancing programs designed to attract and support teachers of color,” said David N. Cicilline, president and CEO of the Foundation.
Research has shown benefits, particularly for students of color, when students are matched with a teacher of their same race. Low-income Black students, for example, who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are 29% less likely to drop out of high school, according to a Johns Hopkins report.
In the most recent RICAS results for Newport, only 7.3% of Hispanic students and 8% of Black students scored proficient on the ELA assessment compared to 29.3% of White students. In math the gap is even greater, fewer than 5% of Hispanic and Black students scoring proficient compared to 29.5% of White students.
“Achievement gaps are real. Students of color can represent 80 percent of enrollment in many urban schools, while just a small percentage of teachers are members of minority groups. The benefits of a diverse faculty are well documented. When taught by a teacher of color, students of color experience higher reading and math test scores, higher graduation rates, decreased dropout and discipline rates and increased enrollment in advanced courses,” said Cicilline.
The Equity Institute will receive $300,000 to establish a teacher apprenticeship program to recruit and train teacher assistants of color to be state certified teachers in Newport public schools. The partners include Apprenticeship Rhode Island, BloomBoard, the Teachers Association of Newport and Newport Public School District.
“I am thrilled that our district will be partnering with Equity Institute for the Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Grant. This grant represents a tremendous opportunity for our district to increase diversity within our teacher workforce and better serve the needs of our students. At Newport Public Schools, we believe that every student deserves access to high-quality education, and that begins with having a diverse and inclusive teaching staff,” said Newport School Superintendent Colleen Jermain.
The goal of the Newport partnership is to develop a federally approved apprenticeship program that can bring additional federal funding into the state.
“We will strategically tackle shortage of teachers of color by effectively addressing the financial, recruitment and preparation challenges that can be overwhelming barriers,” said Carlon Howard, chief impact officer and co-founder of Equity Institute. “Newport Public Schools will serve as a critical partner by offering apprenticeship placements for participants in the program. Additionally, the school department will support efforts to integrate school-based work experience and classroom instruction.”
The other recipients are the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College, which received nearly $300,000 to establish a Grow Your Own Equity Fellows Program (GYO) focusing on diversifying the workforce in career and technical education with a focus on Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls schools; the University of Rhode Island, which received $300,000 to enhance its own programs targeting students of color who plan to become teachers and to develop a teacher-preparation program at Highlander Charter School; and the Central Falls School District, which received $300,000 to support its Learning Pods Program, which prepares students to participate in teaching certification programs offered in the city.
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