Over the last year, Dr. Kim Finch, associate professor of education, and Jennifer Novo, director of student success, have been a part of an initiative of the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition called the “Trailblazers Coalition,” which is addressing the issue of teacher diversity in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Cumberland University is one of six universities participating in the coalition.
The Trailblazer Coalition recognizes that in order for Metro Nashville Public Schools to recruit and retain more teachers of color there must be a more diverse pipeline of teacher candidates. “The Coalition has been working collaboratively with major institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations and attorneys to draft a report to address the need and issue of diversity in schools,” said Novo. The Trailblazer Coalition spent its first year of work, the 2016–2017 grant cycle, studying the barriers that prevent people of color in Nashville from choosing education as a career path. Now in its second year, the Trailblazer Coalition is focusing its work on reducing those barriers through advocacy, collective action and implementation of practical solutions.
Together with community partners, the Trailblazer Coalition is focusing its work on four key areas: promoting teaching as a transformative practice, licensure and testing, teacher retention and success and financial support. “The report highlights that over ‘68 percent of Nashville’s students identify as African American, Hispanic, or Asian… but less than 26 percent of Nashville’s teachers do,’” said Novo. From the report: “This broad coalition of educator preparation programs recognized a shared challenge in the issue of teacher diversity in Nashville. Specifically, the Trailblazer Coalition unified around the common belief that in order to increase the number of teachers of color, we must address bias and intolerance to effect change; we must act differently in order to provide equitable access and education to students of color; we must elevate marginalized voices to change the culture of schools.”
The coalition consists of representatives from Austin Peay State University, Belmont University, Cumberland University, Lipscomb University, Metro Nashville Urban Teacher Residency,Nashville Teacher Residency, Relay Graduate School of Education, Teach for America of Greater Nashville, Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University.
The Trailblazer Coalition report can be found at http://tnedequity.org/trailblazer-coalition