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PPSD receives $3 million grant to advance teacher diversity

Rhode Island Foundation funding will be used to hire 125 teachers of color

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The $3.1 million grant seeks to increase teacher diversity through a three-year college loan repayment program.

The Rhode Island Foundation will grant $3.1 million to the Providence Public School District to hire more teachers of color through a three-year college loan repayment program, according to an April 26 press release. PPSD and the Rhode Island Department of Education plan to use the funding to hire 125 teachers of color over the next five years in Providence. 

President and CEO of the Foundation Neil Steinberg ’75 emphasized the importance of cultivating a diverse workforce in Providence, where students of color represent roughly 90 percent of the student body but where teachers of color constitute only 20 percent of educators. 

“When students have role models who look like them and are familiar with their experiences, they relate better,” Steinberg said. “Making sure that we have a pipeline and that Providence has a cohort of teachers of color that can work with these students is very important.” 

PPSD Superintendent Harrison Peters underscored the benefits of closing the “diversity gap” between faculty and students in the school district. “Research is clear that being taught by a teacher of color improves reading and math scores, graduation rates, attendance and overall academic performance for students of color,” he wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Participating teachers will be eligible to receive up to $25,000 to pay off student loans over three years, with a graduated repayment scale increasing each year in the program. Participants will be able to receive up to $6,000 after the first year, $8,500 after the second year and $10,500 after the third year. 

According to Steinberg, this repayment structure encourages teacher retention. He explained that three years is aligned with the tenure track and considered “enough time to become part of the community.” 

Additionally, the Foundation has given a multi-year $220,000 grant to the district to hire a diversity and pipeline specialist who will oversee the implementation of the new program, Steinberg said. The specialist will help recruit teachers, collaborate with existing teacher certification procedures and develop additional supports for retention, he added. 

Sacha Sloan ’23.5, a member of Students for Educational Equity, expressed excitement about the new program. Expanding “teacher diversity is one of many critical steps that the district needs to take to improve its experience for students,” he said. Sloan emphasized the importance of focusing on diversity recruitment, as it provides “the most direct impact” on students by shaping “the teachers they see every day in classrooms.”

In addition to this latest grant, the Foundation has previously helped fund programs promoting equity within Providence schools such as Teach For America, City Year, Parents Leading for Educational Equity and the Providence After School Alliance, Steinberg said. 

The announcement of the grant comes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the state takeover of the district. “COVID and the (takeover) validated the need and the reason for doing this,” Steinberg said, referring to the lack of teachers of color in PPSD, which he described as a long-acknowledged but unaddressed issue in the district.

Peters wrote that assistance for PPSD during the takeover from community partners has been crucial. “The funding and support we’ve received from institutions like the Rhode Island Foundation and Brown University are absolutely critical to our mission,” he wrote. 

In April, Brown granted $474,000 to PPSD to support academic excellence and equity through their Public Education Committee, The Herald previously reported.

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  1. Hiring teachers “of color” won’t help the failing schools. Hiring effective teachers will.

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