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Education Opinion

Response: How Universities Are Recruiting More Teachers of Color

By Larry Ferlazzo — September 17, 2015 20 min read
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(This is the second post in a three-part series. You can see Part One here.)

This week’s question (and the first question of the school year) is:

How are school districts, universities, alternative teacher preparation programs, and individual leaders, teachers, and community groups responding to the call to increase the racial/ethnic diversity of our country’s teaching force?

This question, and the columns providing responses, comprise a special project being guest-hosted by Travis Bristol, PhD (Stanford Center For Opportunity Policy in Education) & Terrenda White, PhD (University of Colorado-Boulder).

Dr. White provided an introduction to this three-part series last week. Both she and Dr. Bristol, as well as Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and many other teachers, discussed some of the reasons for this Teachers of Color ‘Disappearance Crisis’ and its impact in a series appearing here this past January.

You can also listen to a ten-minute conversation I had with Dr. Bristol on my BAM! Radio Show about this topic and see a list of, and links to, previous shows.

Part One in this series highlighted ways school districts are recruiting teachers of color and Part Three will spotlight the work of alternative teacher preparation programs and charter schools, as well as community-based efforts on the part of parents. Here is the introduction by Dr. Bristol and Dr. White to today’s column:

This week we draw attention to the work of the nation’s leading organization committed to teacher preparation across hundreds of colleges and universities, as well as four university-based teacher preparation programs that are responding to the call to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of our country’s teachers. The organizations featured this week include: the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Call Me MISTER program at Georgia College, the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the NxtGEN program at the University of Colorado Denver, and the Center of Pedagogy at Montclair University.

-Travis J. Bristol, Ph.D (Stanford University) & Terrenda C. White, Ph.D. (University of Colorado Boulder)

Response: The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

AACTE is a national alliance of educator preparation programs dedicated to high-quality, evidence-based preparation that assures educators are ready to teach all learners. Its over 800 member institutions represent public and private colleges and universities in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. AACTE leads the field in advocacy and capacity building by promoting innovation and effective practices critical to reforming educator preparation. For more information, visit its website.

“Increasing the Diversity of the Teacher Workforce: AACTE’s Networked Improvement Community”

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is committed to increasing the diversity of the teaching workforce to better match the characteristics of our nation’s students. In 2014, AACTE launched a major effort to address this goal: a “Networked Improvement Community,” or NIC, comprising 10 universities around the country.

NICs are characterized by their focus on a well-defined common aim, their deep understanding of a problem and the system that produces it, their disciplined application of improvement science to the problem, and their network of participants. The network accelerates the development, testing, and refining of interventions and then shares and adapts those interventions into a variety of contexts.

AACTE’s NIC aims to diversify the teacher candidate pool by focusing on recruitment of more Black and Hispanic men into teacher preparation programs. It addresses the problem of alignment between the teacher workforce and the demographic makeup of the PK-12 student population, particularly in relation to increasing the percentages of Black and Hispanic male teachers. Focus group interviews were conducted to identify conditions that would inform specific interventions chosen for testing. Both Black and Hispanic male teacher candidates, as well as with a broader sample of teacher candidates and alumni novice and experienced educators were interviewed to investigate factors which influenced their decision to enter teaching, as well as supports and barriers to entry and retention *.

According to data collected from AACTE members through the Professional Education Data System, of the total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2013-2014 to teacher candidates, only 5% were awarded to Black candidates and about 6% to Hispanic candidates. The goal of AACTE’s NIC is to increase the recruitment and retention of Black and Hispanic males into the teacher candidate pool at each of the 10 participating institutions by 25%.

As the educator preparation profession moves to reorient itself more closely around the needs of the education workforce, there is significant need to develop programs’ capacity to meet schools’ needs. The NIC is supporting research and improvement to meet the demographic imperative of developing a diverse teaching workforce by focusing on key points in the pipeline: recruitment and retention.

The following institutions participate in AACTE’s NIC:

  • Boston University
  • California State University Fullerton
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Mid-America Nazarene University
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Saint Thomas
  • Western Kentucky University
  • William Paterson University of New Jersey

AACTE is committed to working with its members to support the development and dissemination of innovative practices. For more information about the NIC, visit its website.

* Focus group interviews were conducted with Black and Hispanic male teacher candidates to investigate at what point in their education they decided to pursue a career in teaching, what their personal goals were for entering the profession, how aspects of their program did or did not support their success, and how they felt race and the degree to which the inclusion of multicultural education impacted their experiences. A similar focus group survey was conducted with teacher candidates and alumni novice and experienced professional educators which provided information about personal reasons for choosing to enter the teaching profession as well as supports and barriers to entry and retention. These surveys were administered broadly and allowed for the collection of comparative input by race and gender.

Response: C. Emmanuel Little, Georgia College

Emmanuel Little is the director of the Call Me MISTER program and minority retention at Georgia College. Emmanuel is also a doctoral student whose research focuses on the experiences of historically marginalized communities in higher education.

“The Importance of Teacher Diversity”

I currently help administer the first and only “Call Me MISTER” (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) program in the state of Georgia, located at Georgia College in Milledgeville, GA. Call Me MISTER is focused on diversifying the teaching field by recruiting, training, and empowering transformative Black male educators. Since its inception in 2000 at Clemson University, the program has provided a resounding answer to the question “where are the Black male teachers?” by introducing young Black men to the classroom at early stages and training them to become not just traditional teachers, but transformative role models inside and outside of the classroom.

We hope to have the same impact on teacher diversity here in Georgia. Through Georgia College’s Call Me MISTER program, we are introducing our first cohort of four MISTERs and plan to foster their development and growth in several ways. First, these future teachers are a part of a living-learning community, living in the same residence halls throughout their time on our campus. This fosters a collaborative atmosphere, as a sense of brotherhood is crucial in providing a collective determination to graduate and enter the teaching force. Such a dynamic is particularly needed on our campus, where Black men account for a minute percentage of the undergraduate student body.

We also use a multifaceted system of mentorship. MISTERs receive guidance from current educational leaders in the area, as well as from that of their respective host teachers once entering their respective cohorts to do student teaching. This is crucial, given that we expose our future teachers to the classroom as early as their freshman year of college. Our MISTERs are also connected to programs such as our African-American Male Initiative on campus, not only as a way to foster the aforementioned sense of brotherhood & peer mentorship, but also to reach younger Black males that may possibly wish to pursue teaching in the future.

As we say in Call Me MISTER, “teamwork makes the dream work”. Thus, relationships across our campus and community are absolutely crucial. We are deeply invested in creating pipelines for this program by forging strong collaborations with our admissions office, College of Education cohort programs and local school systems for recruitment and retention. The success of our Call Me MISTER program also depends on partnerships with advancement and development offices to cultivate financial resources to support these efforts. This means providing the necessary incentives for underrepresented populations to consider teaching as a viable career option.

We must continue to ask the tough questions about why people of color are so severely underrepresented in front of the classroom despite the increasing racial diversity of their students. Finding solutions to these questions means making connections and partnerships with like-minded organizations with the resources to help shift the current paradigm. Call Me MISTER is one piece, but we must use every tool at our disposal to change the face and future of education. The fate of our children depends on it.

Response: Ramon B. Goings, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Ramon Goings is the Program Coordinator of the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a doctoral candidate in Urban Educational Leadership at Morgan State University. His research is centered on African American male student success (PK-PhD/MD), Urban STEM teacher preparation and retention, and nontraditional student success in higher education.

“Diversifying the STEM Teacher Workforce in Maryland”

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) prides itself on being a national leader in producing graduates from over 150 countries, with a strong liberal arts foundation. While our university is known for producing students of color who earn advanced degrees in STEM, we are equally committed to developing students of color for Maryland’s STEM K-12 classrooms. As a result, the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program was established at UMBC to address the shortage of highly qualified STEM teachers serving in high-needs schools. The program has a three-pronged mission to: 1) support UMBC’s students and alumni who are pre-service and in-service teachers in the STEM fields; 2) increase the number of those who teach in high-needs and urban schools and school systems; and 3) increase retention of Sherman Program alumni in those schools and school systems.

In order to seek a diverse applicant pool, the Sherman program actively recruits students throughout their undergraduate experience. This is important because in Maryland like other states, many students of color begin their collegiate careers in community colleges. As a result we have students who enter as freshmen, transfers, upperclassmen, and masters level candidates (visit website for more recruitment information). The Sherman Program provides professional development for both UMBC students and alumni who are currently teaching in school districts across Maryland and other states. In particular, our professional development is focused on developing culturally competent students. Through our partnership with Lakeland Elementary/Middle School a Baltimore City Public School, our students are able to work in an actual classroom settings with children and experienced teachers prior to student teaching.

To support our retention efforts it is imperative that after students complete their degree they transition seamlessly into a teaching position. Currently, many school districts contractual policies impact the timeline for new hires and teacher candidates may not be offered a position until mid-August. Particularly in districts where highly qualified teachers are needed most, they miss potential candidates because of this policy. This impacts new teachers of color specifically, as many may incur significant student loan debt from their college education; thus, if employment opportunities are not readily available, some candidates may choose other jobs to pay their debt and subsequently not become an educator. Changes in district-level policies regarding hiring timelines will greatly benefit school districts attracting and retaining more teachers of color.

As the nation’s demographics continue to shift concerted effort from stakeholders to diversify the teaching profession is essential. UMBC has created an evidence-based support system to diversify our STEM teachers. We believe it is imperative to work with students prior to college in order to develop their desire to become teachers and desire to pursue a STEM degree. Thus, through our partnership with Lakeland and other applied learning placements, our students are able to build the next cadre of STEM teachers and innovators while improving their pedagogical practices. UMBC and the Sherman Scholars Program are committed to fighting for diversity in the STEM teaching workforce.

Response: Barbara Seidl and Cindy Gutierrez, University of Colorado Denver

Dr. Barbara Seidl, Associate Dean in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, supports the school’s multiple teacher education pathways and has over 20 years of experience in preparing teachers for diversity.

Dr. Cindy Gutierrez, Director of the Office of Partnerships in the School of Education & Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, leads the School’s extensive school and community partnership network focused on innovative clinical preparation of urban teachers:

“The NxtGEN Undergraduate Residency”

The Next Generation of Educating Diverse Teacher Project, or NxtGEN, is a unique Four Year Undergraduate Residency (4Y-UGR) teacher preparation program created through a partnership between the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and a diverse, high-poverty urban school district, Denver Public Schools (DPS). NxtGEN is aligned with the district partner’s needs and builds upon the transformative teacher preparation agenda of the School of Education and Human Development at CU Denver.

While 15% of teachers are of color in DPS, the majority of students (79%) are of color and 36% are identified as English Language Learners (Colorado Department of Education, 2013). Additionally, like most high poverty, urban districts, DPS faces high teacher turnover each year with nearly 22% of the district’s 5000+ positions needing to be filled this coming year.

The NxtGEN 4Y-UGR aims to address these issues, creating the “next generation” of teacher education designed around the recruitment and preparation of teachers equipped to support the education of children in our highest need schools. The residency is framed by several key components. NxtGEN recruits local talent through high school, community college, and paraprofessional pipelines to bring in residents who are from the community, whose goals are to stay and work within the community and who better reflect the diversity of students in DPS. NxtGEN residents serve in newly designed, three year, district paid paraeducator internships.

These paid internships provide three years of extensive clinical experience and are a means for mitigating some of the financial barriers many first generation college students experience. Residents then participate in a full, final year residency that combines district specific curriculum with university coursework that includes an endorsement in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education. Throughout the residency, students are provided academic, social, and emotional support by the NxtGEN Student Support Center. These supports are designed around principles of cultural responsiveness and target the strengths and needs of first generation college students. Finally, NxtGEN graduates receive two years of differentiated induction within a cohort model.

The NxtGEN residency represents innovation along several lines. It takes the idea of partnering to a new level with the distribution of responsibility much more evenly distributed across the university and district. The residency also moves even further toward a clinical approach where extensive classroom experience and coursework co-mingle in a tightly integrated model of delivery. Finally, it reconceptualizes initial teacher education as the period encompassing preservice education and the first years of teaching, thus requiring that new teachers continue to receive targeted, differentiated support as they grow from beginners to accomplished teachers in their first years of teaching. This next generation of teacher education is a much-needed response to the call to prepare a more diverse teaching force for our diverse students.

At the beginning of its second year, NxtGEN has 10 graduates and 42 current students. Of this number, 31 % are of color, 20% are bilingual with 6 different languages spoken, many are first generation, and close to 50% come from the local Denver Metro community. These numbers indicate that the strategies used in NxtGEN to both recruit and support diverse, local talent are having an impact.

Response: Jennifer Robinson, Montclair State University

Dr. Jennifer Robinson is faculty and Executive Director of the Center of Pedagogy, the institutional unit charged with coordinating policies and collaborative work among faculty from the liberal arts and sciences, the college of education, and the schools in the preparation of new teachers. Robinson is also founding director of the Teacher Education Advocacy Center, to increase the recruitment and retention of students from under-represented groups into teaching at Montclair State University.

At Montclair State University in NJ, the Center of Pedagogy (CoP) coordinates programs for teacher preparation. Recognizing the inherently political nature of schools and teaching, the CoP promotes a vision of teachers as ethical decision-makers who embrace the value of diversity and are committed to changing inequitable school practices. The Teacher Education Advocacy Center (TEAC) in the CoP, enhances the Teacher Education Program by supporting the recruitment and retention of students from minority groups (e.g. linguistic; cultural; racial and/or ethnic) into teaching.

TEAC promotes the implementation of culturally responsive educational programs and academic assistance activities for pre-collegiate, undergraduate and graduate students; and has special initiatives that respond to the need to recruit a diverse, well-prepared teaching force. Full-time advisors assess student needs and provide personalized support, academic guidance, college life adjustment, mentoring, counseling, and financial assistance. TEAC interacts with several offices on campus to provide students with appropriate interventions designed specifically for them. Advisor contact begins at any point at which a student is identified as interested in teacher education: elementary, middle, high school, community college, and at non-traditional settings including churches, ethnic sororities and fraternities, civic, and community organizations. Advisor contact during the summer prior to freshman or transfer enrollment is critical, as is on-campus orientation.

Continued contact amounts to at least two visits per semester with the advisor, to ensure student adjustment to campus and to monitor academic progress. Students experiencing academic difficulties are assessed to identify the source of the challenge (e.g. need for tutoring, test anxiety, financial need, housing) and interventions are designed specifically for the student. TEAC staff refers students to existing campus resources, based on identified needs. When a resource does not exist at the university, TEAC has the capacity to develop or provide new services to meet student needs. For example, a TEAC writing coach provides students, especially ELL’s, with personalized assistance during hours when students are available or when the campus-writing center is not open. Thus students are not left alone to discover the maze of potential supports available to them at the institution.

It is also through specific approaches and practices with students that TEAC serves in an advocacy role on the campus, intentionally avoiding a deficit posture that historically has characterized programs targeting minority populations. Students are intentionally informed about the bureaucratic and political nature of large educational institutions and they are taught negotiation skills as they matriculate through the university (Lucas & Robinson, 2003). TEAC staff members help students become self-advocates who will eventually advocate for their students in future classrooms. Thus, a culture of support, encouragement, community building, and goal attainment exists for those students who utilize the Center and make a commitment to pursue teaching as a career. Within this context, programs and services designed to recruit and retain pre-collegiate, undergraduate, and graduate students of color are established and flourish.

Bold new policies to recruit and retain teachers of color need to be implemented on local, state, and national levels. Locally, universities should invest in both recruitment and retention of candidates of color because students need consistent, long-term support in varying degrees and at different levels through the teacher preparation program.

States should assist school districts in developing strategic plans to diversify the teaching force and improve all staff’s ability to be culturally responsive. Finally, the federal government must increase opportunities for talented candidates of color to enter the teaching force through grants and loan forgiveness opportunities and programs.[1] [2]

[1] This piece is excerpted from the article: Robinson, J., A. Paccione, F. Rodriguez (2003). A Place where people care: A case study of recruitment and retention of minority-group teachers. Excellence and Equity in Education, 36, no. 3.

[2] Lucas, T. & Robinson, J.J. (2003). Reaching them early: Identifying and supporting prospective teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching, 29, no.2

Thanks to Dr. Bristol and Dr. White for “guest-hosting this series, and to AACTE, Emmanuel Little, Ramon Goings, Dr. Barbara Seidl, Dr. Cindy Gutierrez, and Dr. Jennifer Robinson for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post. Contributions from readers will be included in Part Three.

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