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APSU named “bright spot” in state for Black and Latino student inclusion


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Late last year, the Education Trust of Tennessee released a sobering report on the number of Black and Latino students enrolled in colleges across the state.

“In 2019, Black and Latino Tennesseans respectively made up 21.2% and 5.7% of the state’s 18- to 24-year-old population, though they are largely underrepresented at many of our state’s public higher education institutions,” Kiah Albritton, a higher education policy fellow with the trust, said.

Several Tennessee schools received failing grades for their efforts, but on page 14, the report highlighted one of the “bright spots” of Tennessee higher education – Austin Peay Peay State University’s Eriksson College of Education. Austin Peay was one of only two Tennessee universities to receive an “A” for the report’s Black Student Access Grade and an “A” for the Latino Student Access Grade. The Education Trust of Tennessee also spotlighted the College of Education’s accelerated Grow Your Own Teacher Residency program.

Originally developed with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School District, the program provides recent high school graduates with a free path to become full-time teachers, and a guaranteed job in partner districts, in just three years. The program specifically targets minority and first-generation college students, increasing diversity both within the school system and at Austin Peay.

According to the report, “50% of each Grow Your Own cohort is composed of Black or Latino students. By publicly stating and restating these goals, Austin Peay has held itself accountable to increasing outcomes for Black and Latino students.”

Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of APSU’s College of Education, is pleased with Austin Peay’s score, but he said they still need to work harder to recruit diverse students and professors to campus. The College of Education recently partnered with the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance (TECA) to develop the college’s inaugural Strategic Diversity Plan, which should be completed by April. The Grow Your Own programs are a good first step, and he said much of the credit goes to the school system’s leadership.

“The very first conversations we had with the district about this idea of residency programs, it became clear very quickly that our strategic goals and the district’s goals were the same,” Chandler said. “This is a good example of what we can do when we partner with a top-notch school district.”

The Grow Your Own programs allow school districts to recruit and train teaching candidates amid a national teaching shortage, while also providing more education students to Austin Peay’s College of Education. But Chandler said there’s a more important reason for initiating programs that provide minority students with free, accelerated education.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We are intentionally targeting unrepresented people to be teachers. There’s research out there that students perform better who have teachers who look like them.”

To read the Education Trust of Tennessee’s report, “Tennessee: Segregation Forever?,” visit https://edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/120920-ETT-SegregationForever-Report-web.pdf.

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