$8M ED grant program to help strengthen, diversify teacher workforce


The U.S. Education Department (ED) has announced a new $8 million grant competition geared to help minority-serving institutions in their efforts to diversify the teacher workforce and prepare teachers to meet underserved students’ needs.

The Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program supports comprehensive, high-quality teacher preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs), such as Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs). Although the program — named for civil rights advocate Augustus “Gus” Hawkins, the first Black politician elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from west of the Mississippi River — was created in 2008, this fiscal year is the first time it has received funding.

“At a time when we need to do more to support our teachers and the educator profession, Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help increase the number of well-prepared and qualified teachers, including teachers of color, in our workforce,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a release. “We know that teachers of color benefit not only students of color, but all students. When students of color can see their backgrounds and experiences reflected in their teachers, we see higher levels of student achievement and engagement in school, and more students aspiring to be teachers themselves one day.”

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The department says the Hawkins Program will focus on key aspects of a high-quality teacher preparation pipeline, including evidence-based, comprehensive teacher preparation programs that provide extensive clinical experience.

“HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs prepare a disproportionate share of teachers of color,” ED says. “These colleges are uniquely positioned to recruit, prepare, and place teachers who will provide culturally and linguistically relevant teaching in underserved and hard-to-staff schools.”

The department says the teacher workforce does not reflect the demographics of public school students. More than half of public school students are students of color, yet in 2017-18, the most recent year for which data were available, only 21% of teachers were teachers of color, according to ED. And while English learners are the fastest-growing public school student demographic, comprising more than 10% of America’s enrollment, most states face a shortage of bilingual and multilingual teachers prepared and qualified to teach this population and foreign languages.

As a result, the department will give priority to proposed projects designed to increase the number of well-prepared teachers from diverse backgrounds, as well as bilingual and multilingual teachers with full certification.

An official notice inviting applications will be published in the coming days in the Federal Register.

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