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A group of teachers, education advocates and teachers union representatives gathered in the nation’s capital on May 17 at a summit to promote a teacher diversity recruitment strategy called “Grow Your Own,” NEA Today reports.

In a nutshell, the strategy is to recruit teacher candidates from community members and help them earn their teaching credentials.

“It’s not just placing a [community] member within a classroom because they’re a person of color. It’s providing opportunities for people of color to grow and become leaders within their community and ensuring they have the supports,” Mindy Merritt, president of the Salem-Keizer Education Association in Oregon, told NEA Today.

Approaches vary. Some Grow Your Own programs focus squarely on undergraduate students while others plant the seed in middle school and high school.

Research consistently shows that academic outcomes improve when matching the race and ethnicity of students and teachers.

A recent study, reported by Johns Hopkins University, found that low-income Black students who had at least one Black teacher in elementary school graduated and considered college at significantly higher rates than those who did not have a Black teacher.

Policy makers, by-and-large, see the need for teacher diversity, especially in urban communities. But it’s a struggle to recruit and retain teachers of color.

Illinois, for example, has faced challenges implementing a successful Grow Your Own program, The Chicago Tribune reported. The state spent more than $20 million over a decade to train 1,000 teachers for “distressed” schools. However, it produced only 102 college trained teachers by 2015.

Still, Grow Your Own programs are having an impact. NEA Today pointed to Alejandra Guerrero Morales, a special education instructional assistant in Salem-Keizer School District’s program.

Morales, born in the United States to Mexican parents, has been working toward earning her teaching credentials for three years. She expects to cross the finish line by September 2017 to become a special education teacher, who will bring her cultural understanding and language skills to the classroom.

SOURCE: NEA Today, Chicago Tribune

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