s the Tennessee State Board of Education continues to look at boosting the recruitment of a diverse teacher workforce, it also seeks to bolster efforts by statewide groups working to better target diverse teaching candidates.
The state board is working toward an October presentation of how to ensure teacher preparation programs are graduating prepared educators and also requiring those colleges and universities recognize the need for diversity, according to Sara Heyburn, state board executive director.
But, as highlighted during a half-day forum Monday led by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, the hope is the work being done around the state can be replicated at a faster pace due to the lack of a diverse Tennessee teacher workforce.
The SCORE Institute forum sought to highlight some of the work going on around the nation and state in teacher recruitment and retention.
“In quantitative and qualitative data, it shows there is an added value (to having a diverse teacher workforce),” said Travis Bristol, a Boston University professor of educational leadership and policy studies.
“Diversity shouldn’t be an elixir, but a comprehensive approach that raises expectations for students and adults,” he added.
In Metro Nashville Public Schools, 73 percent of the teachers are white in a district that has about 30 percent white students. Yet Metro Schools’ new Superintendent Shawn Joseph has frequently said he wants a more diverse teacher base.
“It is such a sensitive issue, but the reality is we are trying to open up the landscape,” said Sito Narcisse, Nashville’s chief of schools. “Nashville is a diverse place, with diverse students, and we want to have more diverse strategies in solving the issues and problems here.”
Bristol also talked about better supporting and creating networks for teaching candidates of color. To retain black and Latino teachers there need to be services to address the unique needs of diverse teachers, he said.
During the SCORE event, Project Renaissance’s Nashville Teacher Residency program was given a mention for its efforts in working to recruit candidates of color, with many being from Nashville. The program also puts its teacher residents through a training program that teaches about diversity in Nashville.
And Lipscomb University was used as an example of working to attract students of color.
Deborah Boyd, dean of Lipscomb’s college of education, said the school’s Pionero Scholars Program and Cultural Diversity Teacher Training Scholarship have worked toward supporting students of color. The university also works with Metro Schools to identify aspiring teachers.
The Pionero program, especially, has sought to support first-generation students in Nashville.
“We are helping the students with ACT prep, helping the parents navigate the transition. That support is really crucial to students navigating toward a career as a teacher,” said Laura Delgado, program director for increasing teacher diversity.
And for students such as Jackie Escobar, an Overton High School rising senior who aspires to be a teacher, diverse teachers have helped her in learning.
“I feel like if there were more teachers like us — that are Hispanic — it would help,” Escobar said.