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Funding will allow school districts to recruit and 'grow their own' educators of color

PMG FILE PHOTO - Teaching staffs do not reflect the diversity in East County Schools.

East Multnomah County school districts will share in a $250,000 grant from Meyer Memorial Trust aimed at increasing the racial and language diversity among teachers in the county.

Teaching staffs remain overwhelmingly white as student bodies are becoming increasingly diverse.

It's often said in education that BIPOC students can go through 13 years of school and never be taught by a teacher that looks or speaks like them.

The grant, administered by the Multnomah Education Service District, has two main components.

First, it will fund a full-time position to help districts "grow their own" diverse teachers. This "Equitable Career Pathways Navigator" will assist the districts in the county to help potential teachers get their credentials and get into the classroom, explained Nathan Waas Shull, a coordinator at the MESD.

The navigator will provide mentoring and guidance for school district employees who are not licensed teachers such as education assistants or other classified staff, or for their own high school students who may be interested in exploring a future career in teaching.

The navigator will help recruit potential teachers and advise them on how to apply for college teaching programs, get financial aid and build a sense of community and resilience as they confront any barriers on their path to becoming a teacher.

"The second aspect of the grant is that it allocates funds directly to our participating districts to support a range of district-initiated strategies and supports for diversifying their own teaching force," said Shull.

Reynolds, Gresham-Barlow and David Douglas school districts are getting $15,000 each. The smaller Centennial and Parkrose school districts are getting $10,000 each and Portland Public Schools, the state's largest district is getting $30,000.

The districts will use the funds for recruitment, outreach and coordination activities.

Funds also can be used to provide laptops, childcare, transportation or other needs for participants who require this support in order to go to college for their teaching degree. It can also be used for stipends to help support district staff during the required leave of absence they typically need in order to complete required full-time student teaching.

Local school districts have used various tactics to increase diversity in the teaching staff. Some have used the "grow your own" strategy. District human resources staff attend job fairs in states where there might be more minority education graduates and advertise on web sites that reach diverse educators.

There are many benefits for students of color or linguistic diversity to be taught by teachers who reflect them. For example, students see role models of career and academic success and studies show teachers of color improve test scores of minority students.

The Reynolds School District is the fourth most diverse district in the state. It also has the whitest teaching force of the three largest districts in East Multnomah County. Of the 10,440 Reynolds students, 31% are white, while the teaching staff is 92% white. About 42% of Reynolds students are Latinix, while only 4% of the teachers are.

In the 11,700-student Gresham-Barlow School District, about 90% of the teachers are white, compared with 56% of students. About 29% of the students are Latinx and only 3% of the teachers are Hispanic.

In the Centennial School District, the 15th most diverse in the state, 88% of the teachers are white compared with 41% of students. The biggest gap is for Latinx students, which make up 29% of the 5,700 students and only 5% of the teaching staff is Hispanic.

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