ACPS has been awarded state funding to help increase diversity among its teachers.
The grant will help six provisionally licensed minority teachers gain the qualifications needed to attain full state licensure — a prohibitively expensive process that can hold back new teachers. The funding will cover tutoring costs and fees for the assessments required by the state Board of Education for full licensure.
The funding is part of an effort by the Virginia Department of Education to recruit and retain educators who reflect the growing and increasingly diverse student population of Virginia by focusing on the unique set of challenges faced by minority educators and teacher candidates in the commonwealth. While 76 percent of the white teachers with provisional licenses in 2013 were fully licensed by 2016, only 63 percent of provisionally licensed Black/African-American teachers attained full certification after three years.
“The grant has alleviated the stress of figuring out how to pay for the exam preparation and fees, which enables me to focus more on teaching my students and on learning strategies to better support their learning,” one of the grant recipients said.
The award is aligned with the ACPS goal to increase the diversity of its staff to better align with its student body. ACPS teaching staff is made up of 62 percent white, 30 percent Black/African-American and 8 percent Hispanic teachers, which fails to reflect the student body at 36 percent Hispanic, 28 percent white and 27 percent Black/African-American.
ACPS students hail from 114 different countries and speak 119 different languages. Students do better when they see themselves reflected in their teachers, who act as role models as well as mentors and educators. They also respond well to seeing themselves represented in textbooks and materials that reflect their own experiences.
Alexandria is among seven school divisions in Virginia to receive grants totaling $50,000 in response to the August 2017 report of the Taskforce to Diversify Virginia’s Educator Pipeline. The Taskforce identified provisional licensure, a non-renewable teaching credential that allows an individual to teach for up to three years while completing the requirements for full licensure, as a potential means for drawing new and nontraditional teacher candidates into the teaching profession.
“Our goals are a more diverse teaching force and a fully licensed teacher in every classroom. These grants represent a first step toward achieving these important objectives and demonstrate our commitment to equitable representation in our schools,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.
During the 2017-18 school year, seven percent of Virginia’s public school teachers held provisional licenses. The percentage was two points higher in high-poverty schools, where nine percent of teachers lack full state licensure.
“We embrace our diversity and are committed to attracting and retaining staff who reflect our student body. This funding will help begin to address the existing imbalance and grow teachers and potential future leaders who are more reflective of the diverse population in our city and our schools,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.