University of Pittsburgh Grant to Boost Minority Researchers

An initiative will pair black and Latino educators with learning scientists to examine best practices and create an advisory group of school districts, colleges and universities, museums and education tech companies.

by Andrew Goldstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / January 13, 2020
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(TNS) — The University of Pittsburgh and the Remake Learning network on Monday will announce a $1 million grant for a program that aims to change how educational research is done by including more educators and students of color.

The Shifting Power Initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will pair black and Latino educators with learning scientists to examine best practices and create an advisory group of K-12 school districts, colleges and universities, museums and education technology companies. 

“We have some expertise in these areas, but we can’t continue to only talk to ourselves and with our students about equity and the type of learning that should happen in schools and in communities,” said Valerie Kinloch, the dean of Pitt’s School of Education. “This opportunity presented itself for the school of education at Pitt and the Remake Learning council to think with each other and to think about how we support educators of color.”

The goal of the initiative is to bring the viewpoints of educators and students of color to the foreground in educational research and development. Those voices and experiences are often marginalized, according to Pitt. 

Remake Learning, a network of people and organizations in Western Pennsylvania, advocates for equitable learning practices, including increasing the visibility for minority educators. One of the major issues is the small percentage of black and Latino teachers in schools, according to Allyce Pinchback-Johnson, a consultant working on the Shifting Power Initiative for Remake Learning.

“In general, I think we know that there are a lack of educators of color that exist in school districts,” Ms. Pinchback-Johnson said. “It’s not just a local problem; it’s a national problem.”

She said the problem has been caused by factors such as the demographic makeup of certain regions and issues around eligibility and recruitment of educators of color. She said research shows that having minority teachers makes a positive impact on both students of color and white students.

The program will not only be open to traditional teachers but educators from inside and outside classrooms, such as administrators and museum staff. Participants will form an advisory group of 20 people representing various school districts and education organizations.

The initiative is intended to be a model that can eventually be implemented nationwide.

“In the short term, this is a regional initiative,” Ms. Kinloch said. “But I’m already thinking about how this needs to be a more national initiative. I think across the nation we need to have critical understandings about what we mean when we say learning, and then what we mean when we say we strive for equity and justice.” 

©2020 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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