Inner-City Focus Is Seen in Urban Teacher Colleges

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SAN DIEGO--Teacher education programs in urban areas enroll more minority students and place a greater emphasis on preparing teachers for inner-city schools than do typical members of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a survey has found.

Findings from the study, the seventh in the Research About Teacher Education, or RATE, series, were released here at the association's annual meeting Feb. 24-27.

While previous studies have looked at schools, colleges, and departments of education in AACTE institutions in general, the new study surveyed only programs located near school districts affiliated with the Council of the Great City Schools.

The focus on urban preparation programs was prompted by the results of previous RATE studies, which showed that many prospective teachers did not want to teach in urban schools and did not believe that they were adequately prepared to do so.

Of the 110 institutions asked to take part in the study, 59 agreed to participate. Questions were also asked of 180 faculty members and 240 students.

The most striking finding, according to the study's authors, was the relatively large proportion of students--22.3 percent--who were members of minority groups. Blacks were the most heavily represented minority, at 15.5 percent of enrollment.

Previous RATE studies had found that between 6 percent and 8 percent of the students preparing to become teachers came from minority groups.

In the new study, almost 15 percent of the faculty members were members of minority groups, 5 percentage points more than any previous RATE study had identified. Nearly 10 percent of them were black, double the percentage of blacks found in previous surveys.

And for the first time in the survey series, a majority (55 percent) of the faculty members were women.

Both students and faculty members in the urban programs expressed much greater confidence in graduates' ability to work in urban schools, teach poor or troubled students, and get along in multicultural settings than was found in previous surveys.

More than three-fourths of the students, for example, said that they were more than adequately or well prepared to teach in city schools.

In contrast, only about one-third of both faculty members and students who responded to previous RATE surveys said that their programs offered good or very good preparation for urban settings. And one-third had said that they were not adequately prepared to teach in such schools.

Interest in Urban Jobs

The new survey also found greater willingness among students in the urban programs to actually take a job in a city school, with 44.2 percent saying they would prefer such an assignment. Another 52.5 percent of the respondents said they would consider taking a job in an urban setting.

There was somewhat less enthusiasm, however, for working in a "major urban setting,'' defined as an area with more than 500,000 residents. Only 21.3 percent of the students said they would prefer such job.

More than half of the students and faculty members surveyed also said that their programs placed special emphasis on preparing teachers for working in urban environments, and one-quarter said there was at least some focus on them.

However, only 40 percent of the institutions reported that they required their students to do their student teaching in an urban school.

Kenneth R. Howey, an Ohio State University professor and a member of the òáôå research team, said the share of students from these programs who actually student-teach in city schools might be greater than 40 percent, given their expressed interest in working in such settings.

Some Faculty Concerns

When faculty members were asked to rate their programs' strength in preparing future teachers to deal with issues of race, culture, class, and gender, some problems emerged.

Between 15 percent and 25 percent of the faculty members said that their programs did not adequately prepare students to address such topics.

Fifteen percent said their institutions rarely offered students structured opportunities to interact with people of different races and cultures.

Fewer than half said that students were being adequately prepared to work with children with learning disabilities, students whose first language is not English, and families and communities in inner cities.

More than three-quarters of the faculty members said they were satisfied with their jobs, despite problems with access to adequate resources.

The study found that "fairly sizable numbers'' of faculty members had no support for travel, marginal secretarial support, no student assistants, no institution-supplied computers for their use, and few opportunities for continuing professional development.

And while more than 90 percent of the institutions reported having computer laboratories for students, fewer than half had clinical classrooms, teaching laboratories, and other, similar on-campus facilities.

When faculty members were asked about specific program innovations, they reported "great variability,'' Mr. Howey said. Only 16.2 percent, for example, said they were making good or excellent progress at creating cohorts of students to facilitate their socialization into teaching.

More progress was reported in creating a core curriculum of essential learning.

"What the profile says is that the work of making programs better is uneven,'' Mr. Howey said, "and that our progress has not been substantial.''

On a more positive note, nearly one-fourth of faculty members said they had contributed "a good deal'' to local school-improvement efforts, while 50 percent said they had contributed a moderate amount.

Vol. 12, Issue 24

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