RIF awards $1.2M to education groups to help increase teachers of color in state

PROVIDENCE – Two local colleges, a local school district and an education nonprofit are receiving $1.2 million in combined grants from the Rhode Island Foundation to help support their respective efforts to increase the number of teachers of color within urban districts, the foundation announced Tuesday.

Providence-based Equity Institute, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Central Falls School District are each receiving $300,000 as part of the initiative. The foundation says research has shown that students of color benefit from having been matched with a teacher of the same race. According to a recent report by Johns Hopkins University, low-income Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are 29% less likely to drop out of school, the foundation said.

“Achievement gaps are real,” foundation CEO and President David N. Cicilline said in a statement. “Students of color can represent 80% 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.”

The Equity Institute, the foundation says, will use its funding to establish a teacher apprenticeship program to recruit and train teacher assistants of color to be state certified teachers in Newport public schools. The institute’s goal is to develop a federally approved apprenticeship program that can bring additional federal funding into the state.

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RIC’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development will establish a “Grow Your Own Equity Fellows Program” with the funding, the foundation said. The Feinstein School’s initiative will focus on diversifying the workforce in career and technical education, with a focus on Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls schools, and train students to become teachers.

URI, the foundation says, will enhance its own programs targeting students of color who plan to become teachers, as well as develop a teacher-preparation program at Highlander Charter School.

In Central Falls, the district will use its funding to integrate its Learning Pods Program, which pairs small groups of students with mentors from the community, into the school district’s strategic plan, the foundation said. The program prepares students to take part in city-offered teaching certification programs.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.