LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jefferson County Public Schools is on a mission to fix the achievement gap between black and white students.
One initiative includes hiring more minority teachers and now the district is getting some help from Simmons College.
Akhilah Cherry is a JCPS graduate and current Simmons College student.
She said she didn’t have many teachers who looked like her until college.
“It impacts you in a way that… just being able to see somebody that looks like you, that can relate to you, it makes a difference,” Cherry said. “It’s important to have that, every child should have that I think.”
She wonders what impact it may have had on her at a younger age.
“I was constantly trying to find who I was, find where I fit in,” Cherry said. “If I had a black teacher early on, I probably would have felt more comfortable and I probably would have felt more like I fit or belong.”
Meaningful experiences like that for minority students could become a lot more common in JCPS classrooms. The district is teaming up with Simmons College to certify and hire teachers that reflect the student population.
The move is part of the district’s Racial Equity Plan.
“It’s very critical that this is a part of it,” Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said. “We know that about 35 percent of our student population is African American and yet only about 12 percent of our teachers are.”
Statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research show black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are 13 percent more likely to enroll in college.
By 2020, JCPS wants to hire 128 more black teachers.
“Unless we do something innovative like this approach it’s going to be difficult to get that, but we think our partnership with Simmons can help us get there,” Pollio said.
A post graduate certificate program could be an option for Simmons students who got their bachelor’s degrees in another major.
It’s an exciting possibility to make a difference for Cherry -- she graduates in May.
“When I heard about this program, my little antennas went up,” Cherry said. “When someone helps you, you want to be able to become a better person, you want to be able to share that with other people.”