Education Commissioner Candice McQueen awarded funds to five school districts this week for Diversity Innovation Planning Grants. These grants underscore the department’s commitment to supporting a high-quality, diverse, and effective educator workforce that meets the needs of all students.


Tennessee has focused on fostering an educator pipeline that improves diversity, equity, and teacher shortages, as illustrated in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. To encourage innovative practices in districts around recruiting diverse, high-quality teachers and to better reflect the student population of Tennessee’s public schools, the department launched the Diversity Innovation Grant program.


“Our districts share in the challenge of recruiting, hiring, and retaining educators who reflect the backgrounds and diversity of all their students,” Commissioner McQueen said. “We know that students benefit when they can learn from educators who have similar backgrounds, and these grants will allow our districts to intentionally focus on increasing the diversity of their faculty to better meet the needs of every child.”


Statewide, the teaching workforce does not reflect the diversity of the student population. About 35 percent of Tennessee’s students are African-American, Hispanic, or Native American. However, only 15 percent of Tennessee educators identify with those racial and ethnic groups. As of 2014, out of 146 school districts, 122 did not have a single Hispanic teacher and 27 did not have an African-American teacher. Research continues to show that students benefit from having teachers who have diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, especially when those are similar to the student’s own experience.


The department has committed Title II, part A funds for two rounds of a competitive application process. The first set of funding includes $35,000 for Diversity Innovation Planning Grants, which provide districts with resources to develop a theory of action and project plan, while the Diversity Innovation Implementation Grants will allow districts to implement those plans and focus on the practice of increasing the diversity of their teaching workforce.


The Department of Education reviewed the submitted proposals and selected five districts to receive the Diversity Innovation Planning Grants. Selections were based on the proposal’s strength in the areas of planning for project activities, support, and budget:

  • Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Fayette County Public Schools
  • Humboldt City Schools
  • Knox County Schools
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools

Applications for the Diversity Innovation Implementation Grants are available to districts now and due on Nov. 15, 2017. The department will then select grantees for implementation funding.


For more information on the Diversity Innovation Grants, please contact Sylvia Flowers, executive director of educator talent, at For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at or (615) 532-6260.