The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Education has received a $5 million grant from the Department of Education to strengthen culturally responsive teaching. The three-year grant, in partnership with the Milwaukee Public Schools, is from the U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Effective Educator Development program.
One area of the grant’s focus will be to support 12 MPS community schools to increase equity through culturally relevant practice. Culturally relevant teaching seeks to prepare teachers for increasingly diverse classrooms by helping them develop an approach to teaching that identifies and nurtures each student’s cultural strengths to promote academic achievement and well-being.
UWM will engage with staff at those 12 schools to design and expand professional development and improve culturally relevant practices schoolwide. The schools will also serve as clinical placement sites for student teachers from UWM and from the UW System’s Institute for Urban Education who want to build their skills at using culturally relevant practices.
The goal of the three-year project, according to Kristen Taylor, director of UWM’s Office of Clinical Experiences and one of the two principal investigators on the project, is to strengthen schools. (Donna Pasternak, professor of English education at UWM, is the other principal investigator.) Schools can do this as they build cultures, equity practices and classroom teaching focused on the cultural assets children bring to school, Taylor said. Those are the assets that support making meaning and create connections to learning.
“We want to prepare teachers so they are not looking at students in terms of deficits, but in terms of their cultural assets and focus on ways to make them strong, wonderful learners,” Taylor said.
In addition to providing the funds for professional development at the schools, the award provides money for up to 48 student teachers to do paid internships at the schools. To support those schools and MPS and provide a pipeline of prepared teachers experienced in culturally relevant practices, the grant will also support the expansion of the existing PLUS program. That program, developed in partnership with MATC by Judith Winn, UWM associate professor, helps move educational assistants within the schools into certified teaching.
As part of the grant, UWM will also be reviewing its own curriculum to ensure it is aligned with culturally relevant teaching practices.