The Trailblazer Coalition
Nine teacher preparation programs in Middle Tennessee have come together in an unprecedented alliance to collectively address the issue of teacher diversity in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The Trailblazer Coalition recognizes that in order for MNPS to recruit and retain more teachers of color there must be a more diverse pipeline of teacher candidates.
Fixing Broken Pipeline
That pipeline is currently broken; research from the Brookings Institute last year challenged teacher preparation programs and communities to think differently about teacher diversity efforts. The report stated “making serious progress toward a teacher workforce which is as diverse as the students it serves will require exceptionally ambitious patches to fix the leaky pipeline into the teaching profession …. because efforts face obstacles at every point necessary to become a teacher” (Putnam, Hansen, Walsh, & Quintero, 2016).
The analogy of the broken pipeline forces stakeholders to recognize that it is not enough to call upon local districts to hire more teachers of color. The entire community must come together to address the multitude of points along the pipeline that are leaking.
Fixing a pipeline with leaks at every turn requires a comprehensive multi-pronged approach supported by the collaboration and innovation of many community partners. Only when all community members work together to build comprehensive solutions that target institutional barriers will Tennessee begin to diversify the teacher workforce in meaningful ways.
The Trailblazer Coalition is committed to raising awareness and changing the conversation around teacher diversity. Instead of a variety conversations currently occurring in siloes, the Trailblazer Coalition believes all stakeholders must convene to focus on our ability for collective impact. Every community member has a role to play in solutions, and all organizations with a stake in teacher diversity must address fault in their own policies and programs, and support partners in doing the same.
The Trailblazer Coalition has identified five key areas that must change in order to fix the pipeline:
as a Transformative Practice
Equitable Access to
Licensure & Testing
Teacher Retention & Success
teacher prep programs
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. The Coalition felt a strong need to listen to the community first before proposing a plan of action – with two predominantly white institutions and one brand new program at the helm did not want to position ourselves as experts. Most research around teacher diversity has focused on specific populations such as black men or Hispanic teachers or has looked at areas like Texas, California with long traditions of immigration. Strategies from these areas will not work for Middle Tennessee and its unique context! The Coalition also wanted to hear from many different stakeholders representing the broad diversity found in Middle Tennessee. The Coalition conducted a research project with two prongs: a survey project reaching 420 area high school and college students about their perceptions of the teaching profession, and a series of 19 focus groups with different stakeholders, ranging from current candidates and teachers of color, up through community leaders, parents, and faculty at teacher prep programs.
The Coalition used this project and its results to drive the creation of its group and defining its priorities. At the end of its first year of work, the Coalition hosted a community event at Casa Azafrán to share its work and to host collaborative conversations with a variety of community partners.
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. The Coalition intends to spend this year:
Monitoring and supporting growth internally in member programs to better support candidates of color
Developing a strong partnership with MNPS high schools who have a curriculum focused on recruiting future teachers, which will entail two to three meetings each school year between EPP faculty & high school teachers, and regular coordination of guest speakers for the different high school classrooms.
Developing a plan for a Praxis prep program complete with curriculum, structure, and funding proposal, that would be available to any teacher candidate in any program in Middle Tennessee
The Coalition intends to host another community event at the end of its second year of work, in summer 2018. All interested community members are encouraged to attend.
For More Information
To learn how you or your organization can get involved, contact lead partner Laura Delgado, Program Director for the Pionero Scholars Program at Lipscomb University.
Program Director, Pionero Scholars
Dr. Randall Lahann
Nashville Teacher Residency
Dr. Jewell Winn
Tennessee State University
Deputy Chief Diversity Officer
Dr. Kara Krinks
Dr. Mona Ivey-Soto
Assistant Professor of Education
Dr. Elizabeth Self
Lecturer and Secondary Education Licensure Program
Dr. Teresa Dunleavy
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Mathematics Education
Austin Peay State University
Dr. Anthony Sanders
Dr. Charmaine Lowe
Tennessee State University
Dr. Kisha Bryan
Dr. Kim Finch
Program Director for Instructional Leadership
Director, Office of Student Success
Teach for America of Greater Nashville
Dr. Kevin Haggard
Director of School Partnerships & Recruitment
Relay Graduate School of Education
Director of Operations