Grant for Five College Partnership Programs supports regional K–12 diversity efforts

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A coalition of organizations led by the Five College Partnership Programs will work to improve the diversity among teachers in the area’s public school classrooms, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Students of color represent the majority in many schools in this area, particularly in Springfield and Holyoke, and yet teachers of color make up only a small percentage of K–12 teachers. At the same time, a far greater percentage of classroom paraprofessionals are people of color. Citing evidence that students who have teachers who look like them can improve their educational achievement, Five Colleges and the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition identified paraprofessionals of diverse backgrounds as an ideal source of future teachers, as they already work in the schools and are committed to serving students in the region.

With $133,000 from the Community Foundation’s Innovation Grant Program, the coalition will provide resources, structure, tutoring and advocacy with the goal of helping 20 paraprofessionals attain licensure and move into teaching positions in Hampshire and Hampden County public schools by the year 2020.

“We are thrilled to receive this funding,” said Marla Solomon, Partnership Programs director and coordinator of the coalition. “This initiative will make a powerful difference in our schools and in the lives of Black and Latino paraprofessionals who are residents of our communities.”

In addition to the Five College Partnership Programs, key partners in the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition are the teacher education programs at Springfield College and Mount Holyoke College. Other coalition partners include school districts and teacher unions in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield; the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College. In addition, the Regional Employment Boards of Hampden and Franklin- Hampshire are also involved, along with community organizations such as the New North Citizens’ Council in Springfield.