Through a grant from the Barr Foundation Excel Academy Charter School in Chelsea and East Boston will become one of eight academic communities that were recently selected to take part in the new “Driving Toward Diversity in the Educator Workforce”.
In order to attract more teachers of color while retaining those who are already in the workforce, the Barr Foundation offered support through The New Teacher Project, or TNTP, and offered grants of up to $25,000 to Excel and other schools in districts across the region.
Through the new program Excel will examine how they can better attract and retain more diverse teachers to match a growing diverse student body. Excel will use the grant money to analyze current talent systems, practices, and system needs while also taking input from students, teachers, school leaders, families, and the broader community on how to better diversify its teaching staff.
According to Excel’s Director of Talent Alejandra Gil, 88 percent of Excel’s student body in Chelsea and Eastie identify as people of color, while only 46 percent of staff do. With the new funding and dedicated support to increase educator diversity within their ranks, school administrators hope to shift those numbers significantly.
“Over the last five years, and particularly over the last three, Excel Academy Charter Schools has been committed to ensuring the composition of our staff better reflects the diversity of our students,” said Gil. “We believe representation matters. We want our students to see themselves reflected in the community of adults supporting them to grow and discover their best selves so that when they leave our halls, they can successfully navigate all of the post-secondary options available to them.”
Education research finds that students of color who learn from teachers of color are more likely to complete high school, go onto college, face fewer suspensions and disciplinary action, and be referred to gifted and talented programs, according to education research that points to the importance of having a diverse workforce that identifies with its students.
The same research found that in too many states and school districts educators don’t reflect the racial makeup of the students they serve. About 53 percent of students in the U.S. identify as people of color while 80 percent of teachers are white and 40 percent of public school districts do not have a single teacher of color, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The region wrestles with the same imbalances in its schools.
“Diversifying the workforce has been a goal and priority for educators and families for decades,” said Director of Education for the Barr Foundation Leah Hamilton. “Why aren’t we making more progress? We are eager to learn from TNTP and local school systems to understand the unique local challenges and what can make a difference. We will work with school districts across New England to analyze the problem and find more solutions that they can put into place. We hope this will help move the needle toward more action, more change, and better results for both students and teachers.”
Excel is a network of four schools serving students in grades 5 to 12 in Eastie and Chelsea with plans to expand to Rhode Island in the near future.