By Frances Messano, Senior Managing Partner
It’s Throwback Thursday! Please enjoy this blast from the past of me and my classmates from PS 188 in Brooklyn. I’m in the front row, wearing a very fashionable pink ensemble.
Picture Day was always my favorite. I tried to play it cool, but every year I spent a lot of time picking out the perfect outfit. I was so excited I could barely stand it. I’m almost as excited today, and although it’s for a different reason, it has a lot to do with Picture Day. In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, my colleagues and I are announcing a total of $3.5 million to support efforts to recruit, retain and develop teachers of color.
As the demographics of our country continue to change, we can see it in even more starkly in classrooms. Public school classrooms across the country are increasingly filled with students of color, especially Latino students. Yet, the racial demographics of the American teaching workforce remain pretty much unchanged. In fact, one in five educators identify as people of color, while students of color compose more than 50 percent of the K-12 student population.
My 5th grade class photo is more than an interesting visual or a prop for Throwback Thursday. There is actually a purpose behind this image. The photo tells a much bigger story. My school was one that exemplified what it means to be diverse. I attended school with students from varying backgrounds, both racial and economic. But, if you look closely at the photo, you will notice one thing: my teacher’s race doesn’t match that of her students. Although this photo was taken almost 30 years ago, it’s reflective of what we still see in classrooms today.
Numerous studies show evidence that when students are taught by an educator who looks like them they are more likely to feel seen, heard and understood, which leads to deeper relationships and greater student success. Today’s students are the most racially diverse in the history of this country and it’s time to have teachers who match that diversity, which is why I’m so proud of this collaboration with the Walton Family Foundation to diversify the teaching force.
We are looking to fund up to 14 early-stage organizations with bold ideas to enhance the recruitment, development and retention of Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaskan Native teachers in PreK-12 classrooms. Through the Teacher Diversity funding opportunity, NewSchools will provide funding and management assistance to support innovative strategies and programs that advance educator diversity, including recruiting new diverse teachers to the field, supporting their development and working to retain them. This work will affect teacher pipelines, hiring practices, educator preparation, policy development, and ultimately student outcomes.
So, I’m excited…almost as excited as on Picture Day. I look forward to seeing the great ideas we will be able to fund. Look to hear more from me, as I report back on what we are learning and the outcomes of the initiatives we funded. We will be sharing these insights broadly with educators, policymakers and leaders across the country. We hope it will help others who are committed to this important work to learn from successful approaches that support diverse teachers.
Most importantly, I hope it will change the picture for millions of students in America.
To learn more about our new opportunity, the application process and the requirements, please visit our website.