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"Teach Plus" Arkansas Fellowship Aims to Increase Educator Diversity

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Last school year, 68 out of the 262 public school districts in Arkansas reported not having a single teacher of color on their staffs.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Twenty educators from across Arkansas will meet throughout the next year to learn how to advocate for education policy changes, as part of the "Teach Plus" fellowship program, in its first year in the state.

Last school year, only 12% of Arkansas educators identified as people of color, compared to 40% of the state's public-school students.

Stacey McAdoo, state director for Teach Plus Arkansas, said the fellows will work to improve early childhood education and increase the number of teachers of color in the state.

She contended having teachers who reflect the diverse student population is key.

"And I think that it's very important for students of color to see people that look like them, and who come from similar backgrounds from them, and who understand them," McAdoo asserted.

The nonprofit has already released recommendations for improving teacher diversity in the state, including prioritizing funding for professional development focused on countering racism and implicit bias, and creating pathways to leadership for educators of color.

McAdoo said a big part of Teach Plus is ensuring educators have a voice in the policies that affect them.

Nelvia Johnson, eighth-grade social studies teacher at KIPP Delta Public Schools in Helena and one of this year's Teach Plus fellows, said she is excited to learn how to advocate on her students' behalf.

"Access is what's going to drive us into a more equitable, educational system," Johnson stressed. "If we want to change this trajectory, we're going to have to put things in place that will ensure the success of our students."

The Teach Plus Arkansas fellowship, which kicks off today, is currently offered in 11 states. Previous Teach Plus fellows helped create and implement COVID safety guidelines for in-person learning.