The U.S. Department of Education has announced a new $8 million grant competition aimed at increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce and preparing teachers to meet the needs of our most underserved students. Named for Augustus F. Hawkins, the first Black politician elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from west of the Mississippi River, the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence will support comprehensive, high-quality teacher preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities.
The Hawkins Program was established in 2008 but it has not been funded by Congress until now. The Hawkins Program will focus on key aspects of a high-quality teacher preparation pipeline, including evidence-based, comprehensive teacher preparation programs that provide extensive clinical experience.
Today’s teacher workforce does not reflect the demographics of the nation’s public school students. More than 50 percent of public school students are students of color, yet in the most recent year for which data were available, only 21 percent of teachers were teachers of color.
“At a time when we need to do more to support our teachers and the educator profession, Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help increase the number of well-prepared and qualified teachers, including teachers of color, in our workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We know that teachers of color benefit not only students of color, but all students. When students of color can see their backgrounds and experiences reflected in their teachers, we see higher levels of student achievement and engagement in school, and more students aspiring to be teachers themselves one day.”
Representative Hawkins served in Congress for 28 years. He died in 2007 at the age of 100.