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State report: Tennessee schools slowly becoming more diverse, work still needed

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Feb 14, 2018 at 9:26 AM

After a closer look at the 2017 Tennessee Teacher Preparation Report Card, the Tennessee State Board of Education has highlighted a diverse set of needs at universities and colleges across the state.

And one of the most critical areas of need is diversity itself.

In addition to the need for more racial diversity among students enrolled in education programs were areas such as preparing more teachers for courses such as English as a second language, Spanish, secondary math, secondary science and special education.

Ahead of the full release of the report set for Thursday, Board of Education Executive Director Sara Morrison and Spenser Gwozdzik, research associate and project manager for the Teacher Preparation Report Card, held a media conference call Tuesday morning to reveal some key findings.

The report showed that education preparation programs were more racially diverse in 2017 compared to 2016, but Morrison and Gwozdzik said this area of concern still needs to be emphasized in future years.

“The research is clear about the need to have a more diverse teacher population that reflects the student population,” Morrison said.

At East Tennessee State University’s Clemmer College of Education, not much has changed in terms of racial diversity in education programs — 97.6 of those enrolled in ETSU’s education programs were white, according to the 2016 report; and in other non-metro regions across the state, the story is much the same.

While both Morrison and Gwozdzik said there has been some minimal improvement in this area in some regions across the state, Gwozdzik said places that aren’t as densely populated often find it difficult to educate and eventually retain a racially diverse population of educators.

“I think you see more diversity around the more densely-populated metro areas, but it’s an area in the state overall that needs improvement,” Gwozdzik said.

The data collected from each post-secondary education preparation program across the state looked at multiple metrics, including placement and retention data, observation and growth scores of recent graduates, enrollment numbers and other measurements to determine the areas of need for Tennessee’s education preparation providers.

Gwozdzik said last year’s redesign of the report has made it easier for education officials to take a closer look at what Tennessee’s teacher preparation programs are lacking. The data was gathered through a combination of self-reporting and research from the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Tennessee Department of Education.

“We realized the Teacher Preparation Report Card should be a public tool for districts, prospective teachers, educator preparation providers and the general public to view the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs,” he said.

For additional information on the Teacher Preparation Report Card, visit www.teacherprepreportcard.tn.gov. 

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