Story at a glance
- The Education Department is receiving $8 million to put toward the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers for Excellence.
- It’s a program aimed to fund teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities that primarily serve minorities, like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
- Those institutions prepare a disproportionate share of the country’s teachers of color, and U.S. classrooms urgently need more of them.
The Department of Education wants to award colleges and universities that train teachers of color more money to grow the nation’s teaching staff and more accurately reflect the demographics of public school classrooms.
The department announced Friday a new $8 million grant, appropriated within President Biden’s 2022 budget proposal, toward the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers for Excellence. Established in 2008, the program aims to fund teacher preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), minority serving institutions (MSIs) and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).
Those schools prepare a disproportionate share of teachers of color, and the department says the country needs more of them.
More than 50 percent of public school students are students of color, yet in the 2017-18 school year only 21 percent of teachers were teachers of color.
At the same time, most states also face a shortage of bilingual and multilingual teachers who are prepared and qualified to teach English-learners and other foreign languages.
The department says that HBCUs and other minority serving institutions are “uniquely positioned to recruit, prepare and place teachers of color who can provide culturally and linguistically relevant teaching in underserved and hard-to-staff schools.”
Although HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs confer more than 12 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in education, they account for more than 40 percent of all education degrees earned by teachers of color — proving they are a critical part of the country’s teacher pipeline.
Grants will be awarded to schools for a period of up to four years, and to be eligible they must show that they recognize there has been historical inequity and inadequacy in resources and opportunities for teachers when it comes to race, ethnicity, culture, language and disability status.
That’s along with proving they have strong teacher preparation programs that use innovative technology and prepare teacher candidates to engage and provide opportunities for students to think critically and solve complex problems.
Lack of diversity in the classroom can be critical, with one analysis by the Brookings Institution finding minority students often perform better on standardized tests, have improved attendance and are suspended less frequently when they have at least one same-race teacher.
The Hawkins program aims to address that issue head on, as the department also found that teacher candidates who follow a comprehensive preparation program that gives extensive clinical experience are two to three times more likely to remain in the teacher workforce — because they have “comprehensive pathways” to a teaching profession compared to those who enter through less comprehensive pathways.
Teacher retention is critical as the country currently faces a shortage of nearly 300,000 educators and support staff.
However, the new funding doesn’t address one of the root causes of teachers leaving classrooms: low pay.
A new report by the Economic Policy Institute found that teachers in the U.S. have seen their wages grow only $29 from 1996 to 2021 and have consistently earned less than their nonteacher, college-educated counterparts.