Minority-Serving Colleges Call For Teacher-Training Help

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Colleges and universities that serve large proportions of minority students can play a crucial role in producing more minority teachers, but that role has been largely overlooked, a recent report argues.

The report was prepared by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that promotes access and quality in postsecondary education. The Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, a coalition of institutions representing 320 historically black, Hispanic- serving, and tribal colleges and universities, sponsored the report.

For More Information

The report, "Educating the Emerging Majority: The Role of Minority Serving Colleges and Universities in Confronting America's Teacher Crisis," is available online from the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

While almost 40 percent of U.S. elementary and secondary school students are members of racial or ethnic minorities, nine out of 10 teachers are white, the authors point out. Minority-serving institutions produce nearly half of all minority holders of teaching degrees, they write, but have been "chronically underfunded."

The report, released last month, calls for a $100 million federal pilot program, to be administered by the U.S. secretary of education's office, that would support the development of model teacher-preparation programs at such institutions.

Instead of receiving such support, the report says, minority-serving colleges are threatened by the accountability provisions of the 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which it argues could actually reduce the pool of minority teacher candidates.

Under those provisions, institutions that train teachers must report their students' passing rates on state licensure examinations, which will be published so comparison between institutions can be made. Federal funding, in turn, will be linked to how well students perform on the tests.

Penelope Early, a vice president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a Washington-based organization that represents 750 colleges and universities that prepare teachers, said the recommendation for additional money "sounds like it would be a real positive step. With the additional funds, that would be a program worth looking at."

'Closing the Door'

The report is sharply critical of using "onerous single pass-rate measures" to judge the strength of teacher-preparation programs. The pressure to produce students with high pass rates, it contends, is forcing some minority- serving institutions to deny admission to students who have not performed well on the SAT and other tests, but ultimately could be effective teachers.

"This is closing the door on people who are knocking on it," said Antonio R. Flores, the president of the San Antonio-based Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. "This is a punitive way of holding people accountable."

Henry Ponder, the president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, a Silver Spring, Md.-based organization that represents 118 historically black colleges and universities and other predominately black institutions, said it would be shortsighted to judge a potential teacher's worth based on her performance on a licensure test.

Alternative measures such as rewarding schools that have improved their passing rates should be considered, he argued, and financial resources for minority-serving institutions must be improved.

"We have not had equity in higher education," he said, "and that is what we need now."

Given the demand for accountability in the teaching ranks, the goal should be to help minority-serving institutions reach higher standards, said Arthur E. Wise, the president of the Washington- based National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

"It is just not plausible to expect a relaxation of the demand for content knowledge," he said. "You are caught in the crossfire here, because these content tests, by themselves, don't predict teaching competency, but the public and policymakers are demanding evidence that teachers have mastery in their content areas."

In 1995, NCATE started a technical-support network for historically black colleges. Today, about 80 percent of historically black institutions with teacher-preparation programs either have NCATE accreditation or are moving in that direction, Mr. Wise said.

"There have been real improvements," he said.

Vol. 20, Issue 5, Page 7

Published in Print: October 4, 2000, as Minority-Serving Colleges Call For Teacher-Training Help
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