Media release

Grants will improve student performance in Providence, Pawtucket, Newport and Central Falls schools

The funding will support work to increase the number of teachers of color in urban school districts

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded nearly $1.2 million in grants to improve student performance in Providence, Pawtucket, Newport and Central Falls schools.

“Diversifying the teacher workforce in pursuit of the educational success of students is a strategy that works. These important investments will help address achievement gaps in urban districts by advancing programs designed to attract and support teachers of color,” said David N. Cicilline, president and CEO of the Foundation.

Research has shown benefits, particularly for students of color, when students are matched with a teacher of their same race. Low-income Black students, for example, who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are 29% less likely to drop out of high school, according to a Johns Hopkins report.

In the most recent RICAS results for Providence, only 12% of Hispanic students and 16% of Black students scored proficient on the ELA assessment compared to 30% of White students. In math the gap is even greater, with 9% of Hispanic and Black students scoring proficient compared to 25% of White students.

“Achievement gaps are real. Students of color can represent 80 percent of enrollment in many urban schools, while just a small percentage of teachers are members of minority groups. The benefits of a diverse faculty are well documented. When taught by a teacher of color, students of color experience higher reading and math test scores, higher graduation rates, decreased dropout and discipline rates and increased enrollment in advanced courses,” said Cicilline.

The recipients of the grants are Equity Institute, Rhode Island College, the University of Rhode Island, and the Central Falls School District.

The Equity Institute will receive $300,000 to establish a teacher apprenticeship program to recruit and train teacher assistants of color to be state certified teachers in Newport public schools. The partners include Apprenticeship Rhode Island, BloomBoard, the Teachers Association of Newport and Newport Public School District. The goal is to develop a federally approved apprenticeship program that can bring additional federal funding into the state.

“We will strategically tackle shortage of teachers of color by effectively addressing the financial, recruitment and preparation challenges that can be overwhelming barriers,” said Carlon Howard of the Equity Institute. “Newport Public Schools will serve as a critical partner by offering apprenticeship placements for participants in the program. Additionally, the school department will support efforts to integrate school-based work experience and classroom instruction.”

The Feinstein School of Education and Human Development at Rhode Island College will receive nearly $300,000 to establish a Grow Your Own Equity Fellows Program (GYO) focusing on diversifying the workforce in career and technical education, with a focus on Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls schools. The goal is to train GYO participants to prepare high school students for college and a career in teaching.

“There is a need for purposeful, pre-collegiate programming to introduce students to the possibility of becoming teachers. The grant targets educators who lead GYO initiatives, such as teaching academies. Grant activities will introduce GYO educators to national experts while also engaging them in culturally responsive and research-based best practices. Such intentional efforts are needed to recruit students into the profession and expose them to meaningful teaching careers," said Dean Jeannine Dingus-Eason of Rhode Island College.

The University of Rhode Island will receive $300,000 to enhance its own programs targeting students of color who plan to become teachers and to develop a teacher-preparation program at Highlander Charter School, including admissions testing assistance and promoting continuing education credits.

“Our work will both increase the knowledge, skills and sense of belonging for urban high school students seeking admission to a Rhode Island-based teacher preparation program and increase the enrollment, graduation and employment of teacher candidates from racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” said Diane Kern, interim director of URI’s School of Education.

The Central Falls School District will receive $300,000 to integrate its Learning Pods Program, which pairs small groups of students with mentors from the community, into its strategic plan. The program prepares students to participate in teaching certification programs offered in the city.

“Our proposal simultaneously works to catalyze student learning growth while working with the broader community of Central Falls to create innovative pathways to a career in the Central Falls School District. Together with the CTE Teacher Academy we are developing at our high school, this collective approach will add more and varied pathways into careers in CFSD by creating positions for people from the community which can be held prior to teaching certification and support our students immediately to build a strong community-based pool of talent and diversify our future teaching workforce, racially and linguistically,” said Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Downey Toledo.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised more than $75 million and awarded nearly $84 million in grants last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.