School of Education at IUPUI receives grant to train 300 Indiana schools in cultural competency

INDIANAPOLIS -- A national education law called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, passed in 2015 to ensure that states provide all children with equal access to a high-quality public education. States must hold schools accountable for student outcomes and identify schools to receive improvement services if their students, including historically underserved groups, struggle to succeed.

Nearly half of the schools in Indiana graded for the performance of students with disabilities received "F" grades from the state in 2018, and nearly one-third received that grade for the performance of black students.

The School of Education at IUPUI is preparing to help get those schools up to standards, receiving a grant for $498,308 from the Indiana Department of Education to provide cultural competency training and support for more than 300 schools across the state.

"What we know to be true is that, in general, minoritized groups tend to not do well because there's a huge disconnect between student populations and the demographics of teaching populations," said Tambra Jackson, interim dean of the School of Education at IUPUI and an associate professor specializing in urban teacher education.

"Across the country, over 85 percent of teachers are white females, while the public school student population is 55 to 60 percent kids of color."

Jackson and professor Annela Teemant are the principal investigators on the grant, while fellow professors Les Etienne, Cristina Santamaria Graff, Cleveland Hayes, Lasana Kazembe and Gina Yoder comprise the remainder of the core grant team. Their combined academic, professional and personal experiences are optimally positioned to address issues of equity at the school and district levels for culturally, linguistically, economically and learning-diverse student populations.

The team is developing four strands of professional learning services for trainer-of-trainer leadership teams across the state. Professional learning offerings will be in the forms of webinars, regional seminars and virtual coaching to support team leaders at the schools.

"We will train the trainer, and then they will work with their peers in the schools," Jackson said. "As an urban-focused School of Education, we are excited to partner with the state as a provider of professional learning to expand on every teacher's cultural competency for serving all learners."

The grant is for two years with a possibility for a two-year renewal.

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