New Grant Champions Teacher Diversity

Big win for equity in our schools as HCDE receives grant supporting teacher diversity

The Tennessee Department of Education announced last week that Hamilton County Department of Education is one of three school districts to be awarded a grant to help increase the number of minority teachers in its schools. This is thrilling news for our community, especially because more diversity among our educators was one of the top solutions identified by YOU – the community – as a solution to inequities facing our children in Hamilton County’s public schools today.

After collecting more than 2,650 surveys on issues and solutions around equity in our schools in the fall of 2017, our research team analyzed responses to identify the most commonly cited statements. Among the top 25 (currently being prioritized by the community through voting on the APEX Bus Tour) was this statement:

Our teacher population must reflect the diversity of our students.

This grant is an exciting step toward all students having access to educators with similar identities to them.

As reported in The Chattanooga Times Free Press, the grant money will be used to create a teaching academy program at Tyner Academy, partnering with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. They will begin with a group of freshmen and add a new class each year. The goal is to increase the number of minority high school students interested in pursuing teaching as a profession.


Why teacher diversity matters


Simply put, students do better when taught by someone with a shared identity or life experience to them. Research shows that students have better academic performance, higher graduation rates, and lower drop-out rates when their teachers come from a similar background.

When teachers understand their students and where they come from, they can create deeper, more meaningful personal connections. It also helps them develop lessons and approach instruction in a culturally relevant way.

But, in Hamilton County, many minority students don’t have access to teachers similar to them.

Student and Teacher Populations, Hamilton County Public Schools
  Students Teachers
White 55%  87%
Black 31% 11% 
Hispanic 12% <1% 
Asian 2%  <1% 
Native American <1%  <1% 
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander <1%  0%