The Virginia Department of Education is awarding grants totaling $50,000 to help a projected 337 provisionally licensed minority teachers in seven school divisions attain full state licensure.
The funds will cover tutoring costs and fees for the content-knowledge assessments required by the state Board of Education for full licensure.
The grants were authorized by the 2018 General Assembly in response to the August 2017 report of the Taskforce to Diversify Virginia’s Educator Pipeline. The task force‘s recommendations included state assistance to help provisionally licensed minority teachers attain full state certification.
“Improving teacher diversity must be part of the commonwealth’s strategy to recruit and retain the educator workforce necessary to prepare our growing and increasingly diverse student population for success,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “This funding will help to close the diversity gap between our teachers and students of color by focusing on the unique set of challenges faced by minority educators and teacher candidates in Virginia.”
In keeping with the language of the Appropriation Act, school divisions, teacher preparation programs and non-profit organizations in Central Virginia, Hampton Roads (including the Eastern Shore) and Northern Virginia were invited in December to apply for grants of up to $10,000. The seven school divisions awarded grants this month are as follows:
- Accomack County Public Schools — $4,216
- Alexandria Public Schools — $3,693
- Franklin Public Schools — $6,709
- Norfolk Public Schools — $10,000
- Petersburg Public Schools — $9,000
- Richmond Public Schools — $8,980
- Virginia Beach Public Schools — $7,401
“The lack of diversity among our teaching force is significant,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “Non-white students now make up nearly 50 percent of Virginia’s student population, but only 17 percent of the commonwealth’s teachers are non-white. With these grants to support the diversification of our teaching workforce, we can make strides towards eliminating this glaring disparity and at the same time address the general teacher shortage.”
A provisional license is a non-renewable teaching credential that allows an individual to teach for up to three years while completing the requirements for full licensure.
The Taskforce to Diversify Virginia’s Educator Pipeline identified provisional licensure as a potential means for drawing new and nontraditional teacher candidates into the teaching profession. But the task force also found that the Praxis content-knowledge examinations teachers must pass to earn full certification can serve as a barrier for teachers of color. For example, while 76 percent of the white teachers with provisional licenses in 2013 were fully licensed by 2016, the taskforce reported that only 63 percent of provisionally licensed black teachers attained full certification after three years.
“Our goals are a more diverse teaching force and a fully licensed teacher in every classroom,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “These grants represent a first step toward achieving these important objectives and demonstrate our commitment to equitable representation in our schools.”
During 2017-2018, 7 percent of the commonwealth’s public school teachers held provisional licenses. The percentage was two points higher in high-poverty schools, where 9 percent of teachers lack full state licensure.
—Virginia Department of Education