Only 18 percent of Marion County educators are teachers of color, compared to the 66 percent of non-White students. But a federal grant recently awarded to the Beech Grove City Schools district could help increase the number of teachers of color and improve student learning.
The $4.8 million grant through the federal Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program aims to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness to the roughly 200 educators across all five Beech Grove schools. The district will work with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching for the duration of the three-year grant, which has the potential to be extended for two additional years.
Beech Grove Superintendent Laura Hammack said the funding will help teachers support students who have experienced substantial learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We haven't spent enough time really disaggregating our data by student subgroup population — so getting a better understanding of why our students of color are performing more poorly than their Caucasian peers,” Hammack said. “We need to spend some really serious time asking ourselves questions about the why behind those performance gaps. And so this work allows for us to do that in a really targeted and focused way.”
Depending on the grade level, class sizes range from 24 to 26 students. Fifty-eight percent of students are economically disadvantaged and 19 percent are students with a disability.
Increasing student support, teachers from diverse backgrounds
Beech Grove’s leaders, including professional development staff and some classroom teachers, have already participated in weekly professional learning communities where educators analyze student data and discuss which instructional practice is best for an individual student.
Now the district plans to use the federal funding to expand that approach.
“So we have started that work, but there's just not an ongoing intentional effort to be able to realize the same,” Hammack said. “So these dollars provide resources to employ staff for these purposes. And then also provide incentive dollars for the educators who are participating so that they can be paid in addition to a traditional salary increase.”
In addition to expanding this framework and the district’s leadership, coaching and customized training opportunities, Beech Grove plans to use this funding to employ more diverse educators.
“Beech Grove is a beautifully diverse community,” Hammack said. “And we currently do not reflect our community in our teachers and staff who are supporting our students.”
The district is in its second year of its partnership with Marian University’s Klipsch Educators College, which provides a residency program for student teachers working in a Beech Grove school. The goal is to then hire the teachers while they work on their master's program and receive classroom teaching experience, in an effort to increase the number of teachers of color.
Hammack said at least 10 teachers have come from this program.
Now district leaders are hoping to expand the initiative to reach potential teachers at a younger age. The district plans to create a “grow your own” program to inspire high school students to become future teachers. Beech Grove graduates who receive their teaching degrees will then be incentivized to come back and teach in the community.
The district is developing the program this year and students will be able to enroll in it next school year.
“It’s kind of this concept of ensuring that our students know that after they walk across that stage at graduation that it's not goodbye,” Hammack said. “And we are going to support them through their next four years and then ultimately be there on the other side. I’m so excited to be able to have Beech Grove graduates teaching future Hornets.”
According to Hammack, the district has allocated at least $20,000 per year to incentivize returns. The district and its teacher association will determine individual incentive allocations.
Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.