Texas Nonprofit Gets $790K Grant for Efforts to Boost Diversity in the Teaching Workforce
Teaching Excellence, a teacher training program based in Texas, has been awarded a grant of $790,000 by the Walton Family Foundation. The grant aims to support the program in its mission to diversify the teaching workforce and broaden the impact of its mentoring initiatives, as announced by the philanthropic organization.
The funds will be utilized to train 620 teachers over the course of the next two years, with a target of ensuring that at least 70 percent of these educators are people of color. To assist in the recruitment of these teachers, the grant will enable the creation of 220 scholarships that will cover the costs associated with the year-long certification program. The grant will also contribute towards the development of strategies to enhance teacher diversity and retention, as well as establishing more school partnerships to facilitate placements for the Teaching Excellence cohort of educators.
Teaching Excellence, which has been operational for 14 years, is managed by YES Prep Public Schools, a charter organization based in Houston. YES Prep Public Schools collaborates with various charter schools and districts to provide support to new educators during their first year. The program encompasses intensive summer training followed by continuous support from coaches, who meet with the educators around 15 times per year.
Carlos Villagrana, the managing director of Teaching Excellence, emphasized the importance of providing all teachers with a supportive system to enhance their effectiveness.
State data collected by Teaching Excellence indicates that the program has successfully trained over 2,450 teachers. The data also suggests that teachers who have undergone the program exhibit longer tenures in the classroom and achieve better test results from their students compared to their peers in nearby schools who have not participated in the program.
Marc Sternberg, the K-12 education director at the Walton Family Foundation, highlighted the significance of exceptional teachers in creating outstanding schools. He stated in a press release that through the expansion of the successful Teaching Excellence program, more Houston students across all types of schools will have the opportunity to learn from dedicated and high-quality educators.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, less than 20 percent of teachers nationwide are individuals of color, despite the projected increase in the percentage of students of color to 56 percent by 2024.
With its graduates forming a support network for educators of color within a predominantly white, female workforce, Teaching Excellence plays a vital role in fostering peer support and inclusivity. Phillip Jones, a former trainee of Teaching Excellence who now serves as a high school teacher, has personally experienced the benefits of this network both for himself as a black male educator and for his diverse student body.
Jones expressed the empowerment he feels through being part of a cohort that shares his background. He recounted an incident in his previous elementary classroom, when one student made a derogatory comment about another student’s race, suggesting that "her people" read too loudly. Jones turned to a member of his cohort to practice how he should respond to the situation. As a result, he was able to convey to the student that her voice and individuality held power, and assured her that he would be her advocate in the classroom. Jones noticed a significant growth in the student’s confidence and reading ability after their conversation.
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