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Lasell Works to Increase Diversity Among Public School Teachers

August 31, 2016

More than 90 percent of teachers in Massachusetts are white, but the demographics of the students they teach are overwhelmingly diverse. Yet, students of color benefit from having teachers of color in the classroom, serving as role models and reflecting the make-up of our diverse society. This fall, Lasell will work to close the diversity gap with grant funding from a new Massachusetts Dept. of Higher Education grant.

The brainchild of Lasell's Education Department Chair Professor Claudia Rinaldi, the $50,000 grant funded project, which involves public schools in Boston, Maynard, Marlborough and Martha's Vineyard, will build upon partnerships with these districts to improve pathways for diverse students into the teaching field.

"It is critical to diversify our teaching force as public schools continue to diversify," said Rinaldi. "Our goal is to develop cultural relevant experiences by working with current students to serve as mentors for diverse students in public schools, and diversify the future teaching field."

In urban areas in Massachusetts, student bodies are more than 70% racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse. In rural areas that percentage is lower.

The project involves a teacher education curriculum-driven mentoring program that will match undergraduate students with middle and high school students, dual enrollment programming at Lasell for high schoolers in their junior and senior years, and workshops for students and families on how to navigate the transition between high school and college.

The grant, funded over two-years, is designed to help the state improve its diversity teacher pipeline and was awarded through a collaborative project between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Department of Higher Education.

Partners from the four public school districts also wrote to the state in support of the grant stating that the program would address "a critical need, as populations continue to diversify." Another district wrote that the program "will not only help our students consider a career in teaching but also increase the prospect of minority students to attend college at higher rates."