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Texas Nonprofit Gets $790K Grant for Efforts to Boost Diversity in the Teaching Workforce

By Kate Stringer | March 5, 2018

Photo credit: Teaching Excellence

Teaching Excellence, a teacher training program in Texas, will receive $790,000 from the Walton Family Foundation to help diversify the teaching workforce and expand the reach of its mentoring work, the philanthropic organization announced today.

The money will be used to train 620 teachers over the next two years, with at least 70 percent being teachers of color. To help recruit these educators, 220 scholarships will be created to help with the costs of this year-long certification program. The funding will also go toward creating other strategies for diversifying and retaining teachers, as well as creating more school partnerships to expand placements for the Teaching Excellence cohort of educators.

Teaching Excellence is a 14-year-old program run by YES Prep Public Schools, a Houston-based charter organization that partners with several other charter schools and with districts to support new educators through their first year. There is intensive summer training followed by year-round support from coaches, who meet with the educators about 15 times a year.

“Every teacher deserves the support system to be effective,” said Carlos Villagrana, managing director of Teaching Excellence.

The program has trained more than 2,450 teachers and has found that its teachers stay in the classroom longer and see better test results from their students than colleagues in nearby schools who don’t go through the program, according to state data collected by Teaching Excellence.

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“Great teachers are an essential component of any great school,” Walton Family Foundation K-12 education director Marc Sternberg said in a press release. “Through the expansion of the successful Teaching Excellence program, more Houston students in all types of schools will learn from high-quality, passionate educators.”

Less than 20 percent of the nation’s teachers are people of color, though the percentage of students of color is expected to reach 56 percent by 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The organization’s graduates provide educators of color with a support system of peers amid a predominantly white, female workforce. Former Teaching Excellence trainee and current high school teacher Phillip Jones has relied on this team as a support network for both himself, as a black male educator, and his diverse students.

“It’s really empowering to see other people in a cohort that look like you,” Jones said. “I’ve had a space as a teacher to process my feelings about identity.”

Jones recalled a moment in his former elementary classroom when one student made a derogatory comment about another student’s race by saying “her people” read too loudly. Jones turned to a member of his cohort to practice how he would respond to this incident. He was then able to tell the student that there was power in her voice and individuality, and that he would be her advocate in the classroom. Jones said he watched this student grow in both her confidence and her reading ability after that conversation.

The Walton Family Foundation provides funding to The 74.

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