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ISU and Eureka College are among 22 schools piloting diversification effort in teacher prep programs

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Illinois State University
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DeGarmo Hall is home to Illinois State University's College of Education.

Ahead of a statewide mandate for Illinois colleges and universities to make plans to recruit and retain students of color into teacher education programs, Illinois State University will join 23 other schools in a pilot program aimed at identifying best practices.

Eureka College, a private liberal arts college in Woodford County, also is among the schools listed in an announcement from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on Thursday.

The schools participating in ISBE's pilot program will work with each other to determine which recruitment and retention strategies work best to bring in future teachers of color.

At ISU, Director of Enrollment and Transition Services Kelli Appel told WGLT the pilot program will be tested in its early childhood education and special education — specialist in learning and behavior programs.

"We are focusing on two specific programs with the goal of expanding," she said. "What the pilot involves is reviewing our data and our current strategies for both recruitment and retention of future teachers, and involving an advisory group to give us input on that those decisions."

Those results will be shared with the board so it can determine best practices before all state colleges and universities have to implement plans to diversify their students bodies the following year.

There is no additional funding from the state provided to the participating schools, Appel added.

Both the pilot program and the forthcoming diversification plan requirement for all 54 teacher prep programs in Illinois are efforts in a three-year plan ISBE said is aimed at "increasing teacher diversity in Illinois public schools."

In a news release, ISBE cited a disparity reported in the 2021 Illinois Report Card data: While 47% of public school students identify as white, 82% of the state's public school teachers said they identify as white.

ISBE also went on to cite research from California-based national education think tank Learning Policy Institute that showed a correlation between higher attendance rates, test scores and graduation rates when students of color have teachers of color.

“All students, and especially students of color, benefit from having diverse educators throughout their school experiences,” State Superintendent Carmen Ayala said in the release. “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.”

A representative from Eureka College did not respond to a request for comment.

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