Joliet, Ill. – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently announced that 24 Illinois colleges and universities, including the University of St. Francis (USF), have volunteered for a pilot program to develop plans to recruit and retain future teachers of color. The pilot will help establish best practices ahead of ISBE requiring all 54 Illinois educator preparation programs to develop plans next year.

“The diversity of Illinois is one of our state’s greatest strengths – including in our classrooms,” said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. “By recruiting faculty of color who share their students’ lived experiences or expand their perspectives, our schools can empower more students to achieve their goals and pursue their passions. This pilot program is just the beginning of ISBE’s recruitment efforts and I commend the leadership of the 24 colleges and universities who have volunteered to spearhead this initiative with us.”

“I applaud the 24 colleges and universities that have volunteered to lead the way in breaking down barriers for people of color to join the teaching profession,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “All students, and especially students of color, benefit from having diverse educators throughout their school experiences. My own mentors in my career have been people of color like me. When the role models and people in positions of authority in our lives look like us, that shapes our perception of our place in the world in a positive and powerful way.”

USF College of Education dean John Gambro, Ed.D., said that the pilot program aligns closely with some of USF’s top priorities.

“The University of St. Francis places equity and social justice as a top priority.  The work of this pilot program is essential in ensuring that students in Illinois have access to teachers of color who can make a positive impact on the learning and development of all students.  We view this collaboration as an opportunity to share some of our successes and learn from other successful programs from across the state,” Gambro said.

A press release from the IBHE explained the recruitment and retention efforts are part of ISBE’s three-year strategic plan, which includes the goal of increasing teacher diversity in Illinois public schools. The 2021 Illinois Report Card released last week showed that 82 percent of practicing Illinois teachers identify as White, whereas only 47 percent of Illinois public school students identify as White.

The release also cited research from the Learning Policy Institute which shows that teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, including reading and math test scores, graduation rates, and aspirations to attend college. Studies also show that students taught by teachers of the same race are less likely to be chronically absent and less likely to experience exclusionary discipline.

The number of teachers of color in the profession has grown incrementally over the past three years. The pilot announced today will help speed that progress by supporting programs in addressing their specific barriers to increasing candidate diversity. Pilot participants will draft their plans, receive feedback from a peer review committee composed primarily of Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher Network members, and meet to exchange ideas and collaborate. Pilot participants will finalize their plans by May 31 and reconvene in the future to dialogue about what strategies worked.

The comprehensive listing of participating Illinois colleges and universities includes:

  • Augustana College
  • Benedictine University
  • Blackburn College
  • Chicago State University
  • DePaul University
  • Dominican University
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • Eureka College
  • Governors State University
  • Greenville University
  • Illinois College
  • Illinois State University
  • Lewis University
  • National Louis University
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Rockford University
  • Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
  • Trinity International University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of St. Francis
  • VanderCook College of Music
  • Western Illinois University

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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