The Hamilton County Department of Education is one of three districts to receive a state grant to increase the amount of minority teachers in local schools.
The Tennessee Department of Education announced the funding awards Thursday. Along with Hamilton County, Lauderdale and Robertson County Schools also were awarded Diversity Innovation Grants.
The three districts each proposed a "Grow Your Own Plan" to increase the number of minority high school students interested in teaching, such as by adding Teaching As a Profession programs of study in local schools and jump-starting Educators Rising student organizations.
Teaching is one of the themes the Hamilton County district noted as a possibility for the Future Ready Institutes that will be rolled out this year.
This grant will help fund a teaching academy program for high school students, most likely at Tyner Academy. The academy, as a possible Future Ready Institute site will have a business or community partner — the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — and will begin with a class of freshmen students, adding another class each year, according to the district.
In recent years, the state has to improve the current educator pipeline through working with both districts and teacher preparation programs, as well as increasing the diversity of teachers in the classroom to better reflect their students. These initiatives were goals in part encouraged by the state's Every Student Succeeds Act plan.
"It is our goal that all students have access to highly effective educators, and pursuing innovative approaches to recruit teachers from diverse backgrounds will help us on the path there," Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. "These new grants will allow three distinct districts the freedom to try something new that will ultimately benefit our students by building a stronger educator workforce that reflects the diverse backgrounds of our students."
In April 2017, the department released Preparation Through Partnership, a report that identifies the need to continually improve the state's teacher pipeline to increase the number of effective educators in Tennessee schools.
Educators and both state and local officials have expressed concern about the lack of high-quality teachers coming out of local universities' teacher-prep programs.
Hamilton County Schools has focused on recruitment in general since Superintendent Bryan Johnson took over leadership of the district. Two recruitment coordinators were added last summer, one of whom focuses solely on Opportunity Zone schools, and a chief talent officer was announced earlier this month.
The state cites reports that show minority students thrive under teachers who share similar backgrounds.
Minority teachers serve as role models for students who share their racial and ethnic identities and often demonstrate cultural understanding and increased awareness of students' abilities and needs, according to a news release. Research also has shown that, academically, they produce more favorable outcomes for students of similar backgrounds.
The state is investing about $100,000 in Title II, part A funds for a one-year grant period to support these districts proposed plans, with a potential for extending funding for up to three years.
This story was updated Jan. 18, 2018, at 11:25 p.m. with more information.