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LaFetra College of Education awarded grant to boost diversity

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Ryan Konrad
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne LaFetra College of Education received a $400,000 grant from the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, which will go toward the LaFetra College of Education’s efforts in diversifying the teaching profession in the classroom and within the surrounding region.

The Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, or BranchED, is a nonprofit that serves minority-serving institutions nationwide. The grant will be used toward improving the college’s education program by making it more inclusive to students of color and to the community as a whole. 

“For students with us this means really keeping them within the program and making sure that they’re expanding their borders in terms of teaching underserved communities.” said Kimberly White-Smith, dean of the college of education.

White-Smith added that the college is focusing on removing barriers that impact diverse candidates. This includes standardized tests and replacing them with subject-matter waiver programs that were developed by LFCE faculty in collaboration with the University’s College of Arts and Sciences. 

Betina Hsieh, a professor and director of teacher education, said the BranchED grant will also help the University outreach to surrounding communities like the Pomona Unified School District, or PUSD. 

“We’re working to find what are the needs of Pomona Unified and how students can help support the needs within the district and also how we can reach out to Pomona Unified and create this pipeline through our education studies undergraduate major and teacher education program and then back into the district,” Hsieh said. 

This “pipeline” is also the focus of La Verne’s Transforming and Overcoming Barriers in Teacher Education Program, or TO BE program. 

“TO BE is a data-driven, three-year commitment to diversify the profession and increase the number of minority students in the pipeline,” said White-Smith. 

She added that the program was developed thanks to the BranchED grant. 

Hsieh was part of a group of faculty and staff from the LFCE who helped obtain the grant that included Anne Mangahas, Kristan Venegas and Juli Johnson. 

The grant also signals the University’s induction into the National Teacher Preparation Transformation Center, a cohort of six universities nationwide dedicated to improving diversity in the teaching profession. 

We have a pretty competitive process for universities to be accepted in the transformation center, including a visit to the campus, a review of curriculum, talking to faculty, talking to students [and] talking to school partners,” said Cassandra Herring, founder and CEO of BranchED. “What we were very excited about is the way in which they are explicitly trying to deal with diversity, equity and inclusion in the curriculum and empowering their teachers.” 

The grant reflects broader efforts in reforming the teaching profession in the United States. White-Smith said about 80% of teachers in the United States are white and since students in K-12 education are increasingly more diverse, it is important to diversify the profession. PUSD serves nearly 22,000 students and about 87% of those students are Hispanic, according to the district’s fact sheet for the 2020-2021 school year.

“All students benefit from seeing a variety of different teachers with different strategies and skills but are also linguistically and ethnically diverse,” White-Smith said.

Ryan Konrad can be reached at ryan.konrad@laverne.edu.

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