VCU School of Education joins national effort to recruit, prepare and retain black teachers

Young black male teacher helping his students with their classwork.
A nearly $500,000 grant to VCU from the National Center for Teacher Residencies will support an estimated 205 black educators at the university. (Getty Images)

The School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University and its teacher residency program RTR have received a nearly $500,000 grant to recruit, prepare, support and retain black educators and to establish a Teachers of Color Excellence Center at VCU.

The grant from the National Center for Teacher Residencies comes through the organization’s Black Educators Initiative, a five-year, $20-million effort to recruit and train 750 new black teachers in its nationwide network of teacher residency programs.

It will support an estimated 205 black educators — 18 current and 30 future RTR residents, 41 RTR graduates and 116 black students in VCU’s undergraduate and graduate programs — with tuition support for RTR residents, emergency funding, mentoring and induction, professional development, and other resources for all black educators across the School of Education.

“There is a need to increase the number of black teachers,” said LaRon Scott, Ed.D., an associate professor in VCU’s School of Education who is leading the project. “Black teachers benefit students from different racial backgrounds in various ways. For example, black teachers are found to be more motivating, supportive of students, and contribute to positive school outcomes, including higher student achievement and reducing suspension.”

RTR, formerly called Richmond Teacher Residency, is a highly selective graduate residency program that recruits, trains, and supports teachers for high-needs and hard-to-staff schools. It serves four Virginia school divisions: Chesterfield County Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools, Petersburg Public Schools and Richmond City Public Schools.

“We are thrilled that this award will advance the important work that we are already doing in the School of Education to increase the diversity of our teaching force and to prepare all teachers to be more effective with students of color,” said Therese Dozier, Ed.D., director of RTR and the Center for Teacher Leadership at VCU.

The Teachers of Color Excellence Center will be a hub for understanding needs and providing support services. It will pilot an equity and culturally focused mentoring and induction support program; provide co-curricular experiences; develop and implement a longitudinal data collection system that gathers background information on environmental factors that might support recruitment and retention (such as family background, experience in schools and trauma); and provide financial support for black teachers, including black RTR residents and graduates.

“The main goal for this project is to provide a safe space through our Teachers of Color Excellence Center, particularly [for] our black educators, to receive the support, mentoring, advising and resources they need to be successful,” Scott said. “I also hope that the center will serve as a place to understand these educators’ experiences, and track the patterns and mobility through their preparation programs and careers so that we can improve the racial diversity of the teacher workforce.”

Nationally, less than 20% of teachers are people of color, and only 7% of them are black. Research has found that students of color do better in school and consider going to college at higher rates when taught by teachers with similar racial and demographic backgrounds, according to the National Center for Teacher Residencies. The organization’s Black Educators Initiative aims to improve student achievement by increasing access to black teachers.

RTR was one of eight residency programs nationwide to receive awards through the Black Educators Initiative’s first round of funding.

The project at VCU and RTR will benefit local school districts and students by strengthening the recruitment and retention pipeline of black teachers who can serve the needs of the community, Scott said.

“RTR has a strong history of training and preparing diverse teachers and this project will ensure that they are also retained for years to come,” he said. “This grant will also help to support black teacher educators in the VCU [School of Education] as a whole, in the same way.”

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