CPE awards grants to increase educator diversity in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education) – The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education awarded grants to three Kentucky public universities to support programs that expand the number of K‐12 teachers in Kentucky from underrepresented groups.

The Council’s Commonwealth Educator Diversity Program, in partnership with the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, will distribute up to $400,000 among Western Kentucky University, the University of Louisville and Northern Kentucky University over a two-year period.

“Creating an inclusive environment in Kentucky classrooms is critical to building a diverse and culturally-competent workforce, and that starts with our educators,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson. “Increasing the number of teachers from underrepresented groups, as part of our work to eliminate disparities in education, will strengthen our communities and economy.”

The Council prioritized programs that will increase the diversity of teaching staff in areas of the state with critical shortages. Kentucky has felt the effects of the nationwide teacher shortage, which has been exacerbated by school quarantines and the strain of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Western Kentucky University, in partnership with Bowling Green Independent School District and Warren County Public Schools, will use the grant funding to help future teachers with their initial educator certification. Their program, which began in summer 2020, has been successful in recruiting teachers from diverse backgrounds and ensuring they graduate on time through scholarship support, mentoring, licensure exam preparation and community engagement.

The Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative Teacher Residency Program, a joint effort between the cooperative and the University of Louisville, will put the funding toward an alternative teacher certification pathway that allows participants to earn both a salary and graduate credits. The program targets candidates from underrepresented groups and military veterans. Graduates of the 12-month program earn a Master of Arts in teaching in the critical focus areas of math, science, and special education for learning and behavior disorders.

Partnering with three of their region’s most diverse districts, Northern Kentucky University will support the emergency certification of middle and high school teachers. NKU found early field experiences for potential educators sparked interest in the profession, while barriers to recruitment and retention of diverse educators included lack of mentoring and community building, admission criteria, and cost. The program will use scholarships, intentional recruitment, support networks for teachers of color, and recurring diversity training to help future educators overcome these challenges.

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