Aiming to Bring Diversity to Teachers

By David Saleh Rauf

A multimillion dollar effort will fund preK-12 projects aimed at bringing more diversity to the teacher workforce at a time when schools across the country are struggling to retain and recruit educators. NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy that largely supports early-stage education companies, is distributing $2.5 million to 15 organizations that will use the money to enhance teacher diversity. 

The effort is being funded by Alice L. Walton and the Walton Family Foundation. It marks the second year that the Oakland, Calif.-based fund has invested in organizations working toward teacher diversity with financial help from the Walton Family Foundation. 

“There is an emergency. We all know what the pandemic has done, not just to our schools and communities, but to teachers and the ensuing shortage,” said Katiusca Moreno, a senior partner at the fund. 

“The emergency was there before the pandemic,” she said, “But there’s more of a dire need now.” 

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Only about 20 percent of the teacher workforce is of color, according to the fund, while more than half the students in the nation’s public schools are of color. That inequity has been further exacerbated by teachers leaving their jobs in droves over the last two years since the pandemic started.

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Announced late last month, the $2.5 million initiative will provide each of the 15 organizations with a one-year grant ranging from $150,000 to $200,000. 

The organizations are adopting different strategies to “diversify teaching, including providing support to schools to identify and rectify practices that create barriers to growing a diverse workforce, building culturally responsive teacher preparation and residency programs, and providing targeted training and wellness support for teachers of color,” according to the fund.

(The Walton Family Foundation has provided financial support for EdWeek Market Brief’s coverage of strategies for advancing the opportunities for students most at need.)

Moreno said each of the organizations are rolling out ideas and approaches to tackle teacher diversity that are new in their respective communities.

Among the proposals received by the fund, many were focused on social-emotional learning of educators of color, said Moreno.

A Focus on ‘Teacher Wellness’ and Diversity

The fund ended up awarding money to several groups with SEL-focused projects, she said, including the Healing Schools Project, a New Jersey-based group that provides space and tools for educators to focus on mental health.          

That organization, Moreno said, will use the grant money to take the approach of ensuring teacher support and retention “by building the capacity of educators to take care of their own wellness.” 

The 15 organizations receiving money as part of the teacher diversity effort are: 

  • Another Lens Staffing and HR Consulting Firm, LLC (Foxboro, Mass.)
  • Black Men Teach (Hopkins, Minn.) 
  • Charlotte Bilingual School (Charlotte, N.C.)
  • Community Build Ventures (Atlanta, Ga.)
  • Fletcher Education Solutions, LLC (Pine Bluff, Ark.)
  • Healing Schools Project (Newark, N.J.)
  • Jacksonville Public Education Fund (Jacksonville, Fla.)
  • Passion Drive Leadership (Shreveport, La.)
  • Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium (Philadelphia)
  • Portland Public Schools (Portland, Maine)
  • Renton School District (Renton, Wash.)
  • The Center for Black Educator Development (Philadelphia)
  • The Language Preservation Project (Houston)
  • The Teachers’ Lounge (Boston)
  • Watts of Power Foundation (Los Angeles)
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