As states and districts continue to explore solutions to address a widespread teacher shortage, the U.S. Department of Education is working on ways to incentivize programs to increase the diversity of the teacher workforce.
On Friday, the department announced applications will soon open for a new $8 million grant competition to improve the diversity of the teacher pipeline and workforce. The funding is available through the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program, which supports high-quality teacher preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities, minority-Serving institutions and tribal colleges and universities.
The Hawkins grants will fund applicants from higher education institutions who plan to incorporate evidence-driven practices into their teacher preparation programs, the department said.
This is the first time the Hawkins program has received federal funding since its creation in 2008, as Congress appropriated $8 million for the grants in the 2022 omnibus legislation.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement the Hawkins program will help drive up the number of prepared and qualified teachers, including educators of color.
“We know that teachers of color benefit not only students of color, but all students,” Cardona said. “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.”
A decade’s worth of data from New York City shows matching students and teachers of the same race can reduce suspensions, too.
But student demographics in public schools do not tend to match up with the makeup of the teacher workforce. More than 50% of public school students are students of color, yet in 2017-18, the most recent year of available data, only 21% of teachers were teachers of color, according to the Education Department.