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New JCPS, UofL Program Tries Keeping Qualified Teachers In Neediest Schools

Jefferson County Public Schools and the University of Louisville have announced a program that will help the district retain its most qualified teachers in the district’s lowest performing schools.

The new CARDS program—which stands for Competency, Awareness and Responsiveness to Diverse Students—will offer its first cohort of seven JCPS middle and high school teachers full ride scholarships funded by the Gheens Foundation.The first classes will begin this fall.JCPS has paid more attention to diversity and its lowest achieving schools as the state education department and some Jefferson County residents have raised concerns that the district isn't do a good enough job educating some of its most at-risk students.Through the CARDS Program, teachers like Wesley Mayes will earn both a graduate certificate in diversity literacy and a master’s degree in teacher leadership. In return, teachers must stay in one of JCPS’ 18 low performing schools, known as priority schools.“I just hope I can take from the program that I can help influence not just myself, not just my students, but the classroom, the school building and other teachers,” says Mayes who grew up in the Park Duvall neighborhood and now teaches at Knight Middle School.Mayes says the school has many challenges—like getting more parents involved—that some other schools don’t have to deal with. Knight was also in the second cohort of schools that were deemed lowest achieving by the state.“I’ve got to find a way to make them [students] care, which is important, just making them care. I’m making them understand how important education is to them and how important it will be to them in their lives," he says.The CARDS Program will help teachers understand where their students come from and the environments where they are growing up, says Shelley Thomas with U of L’s department of middle and secondary education.The CARDS students will discuss their experiences through a collaborative approach during the program and will work closely with university faculty for coaching and mentoring, says Thomas.Around 40 applications were received and screened by JCPS and the seven teachers who were accepted into CARDS have between one to ten years of experience between them, according to JCPS officials.“We need teachers that understand what the culture is,” says John Marshall with JCPS’s department of diversity, equity, and poverty programs.Likewise, Superintendent Donna Hargens said the “language” of students isn’t limited to the over 100 foreign languages the JCPS student body speak.The Gheens Foundation is providing the funding but how much the program will cost is not yet known, says Marshall. Further, he says while JCPS would like the program to continue for other cohorts, there is no assurance it will.But that’s the goal, he says.