New partnership aims at increasing teacher diversity

Metro State and Hopkins collaborate to get more teachers of color into schools

An ongoing effort by Metropolitan State University and other groups to increase teacher diversity in Minnesota will see fruition with the signing of an agreement that will ease barriers of entry for prospective teachers of color and place them at work in Hopkins Public Schools.

Currently, nearly 30 percent of students in Minnesota schools are students of color and American Indian students, yet four percent of their teachers are of color or American Indian. The gap is even wider in many Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota schools with a majority of students of color and American Indian students.

Metropolitan State’s School of Urban Education prepares more teachers of color than any other program in the state. Currently there are 320 teacher candidates in six licensure programs, and 50 percent are candidates of color. Representatives from Hopkins School Board and Metropolitan State University’s School of Urban Education (UED) signed a partnership agreement at a governing board meeting on May 2.

Hopkins Public Schools is taking an innovative approach made possible during the 2016 legislative session with flexibility to the use of K-12 Achievement and Integration funding to increase K-12 student’s “equitable access to effective and diverse teachers.” The district will hire three UED student teachers as paid “interns” to complete their student teaching experience, which is traditionally unpaid.

Increasingly, student teaching is a financial barrier to the profession during the intensive and culminating 12-week, full-time experience during which it is extremely difficult to work any other job to pay for tuition and living expenses. Hopkins will also give priority consideration to UED graduates for licensed teaching positions.

Metropolitan State signed an innovative agreement with ISD 279-Osseo Area Schools in January 2017 that provides district paraprofessionals paid leave to student teach within Osseo.

“This phase of the partnership will enable selected diverse teacher candidates from our Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education programs to apply their knowledge, skills, dispositions, and passion for working with urban learners as full-time interns while receiving a generous stipend to honor their labor,” says René Antrop-González, dean of the School of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University.

Hopkins Public Schools district serves the city of Hopkins, most of Minnetonka, about half of Golden Valley, and portions of Eden Prairie, Edina, Plymouth, and St. Louis Park. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the district enrolled a richly diverse K-12 population of about 6,860 students represented by nearly 43 percent students of color and nine percent English language learners.

Metropolitan State delegates at the signing included President Virginia Arthur, Interim Provost Carol Bormann Young, Dean René Antrop-González of the School of Urban Education, and professors Rosa Fagundes and Paul Spies of the School of Urban Education, among other faculty and staff. Representatives from Hopkins Public Schools included John Schultz, Hopkins Public Schools superintendent; Nik Lightfoot, assistant superintendent and director of administrative services; and Stanley Brown, coordinator of equity and inclusion.

“We are delighted to participate in this program, as we are committed in the Hopkins district, to place teachers in front of our students who are reflective of the growing racial, cultural and ethnic diversity. In fact, there is an urgency for us to add teachers of color and American Indian teachers in our Minnesota classrooms,” Brown says.

The partnership is a result of ongoing legislative advocacy by the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota to increase teacher diversity across the state. Metropolitan State and Hopkins Public Schools are joined with other concerned universities, districts and organizations in this new coalition formed around the common goal to double, by 2020, the current number of teachers of color in the state and ensure that 20 percent of candidates in the teacher preparation pipeline are persons of color or American Indian.

Last August, Metropolitan State University hosted a unique conference organized by the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota designed explicitly for current and aspiring teachers of color. The event was attended by 250 people from more than 100 organizations, school districts, institutions and various racial and ethnic communities throughout the state. The 2017 conference will again be held at Metropolitan State August 9-11.

The coalition advocates at the state and local levels for the following policies and investments for systemic change needed to address major barriers to the profession and diversify the teacher workforce in the state:
Increasing pathways for diverse youth, paraprofessionals and career changers to enter the teaching profession.
Eliminating discriminatory teacher testing requirements.

Providing scholarship incentives, student teaching stipends, and loan forgiveness for teaching service.
Providing induction and retention support.

Making changes to ensure climate and curriculum are inclusive and culturally relevant in K-12 schools and teacher preparation programs.

— Information provided by Metro State.