Teacher Preparation

Teacher Colleges Can Do More to Support Black and Hispanic Students, Brief Says

By Sarah Schwartz — February 26, 2019 4 min read
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Black and Hispanic undergraduate students who are majoring in education face financial challenges and demands on their time that their white peers do not, according to a new report from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

And it’s up to colleges of education to provide more support, the brief argues.

AACTE analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Postsecondary Student Aid survey, which includes information from 89,000 undergraduate and 24,000 graduate students, collected during the 2015-16 academic year. The brief looks at students from the survey who are majoring in education.

The demographic breakdown of education students reflects the disproportionately large number of white teachers in the profession: 68 percent of undergraduate education majors are white, 12 percent are African American, 13 percent are Hispanic, 3 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 1 percent are American Indian or Alaska Native. (The proportion of white educators in the classroom is even greater—80 percent of teachers are white.)

See also: The Nation’s Teaching Force Is Still Mostly White and Female

Education is also whiter than other majors. Across all undergraduate disciplines, 57 percent of students are white—11 percentage points lower than the proportion of white education majors. By contrast, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander students are underrepresented. These trends are also present in education master’s programs, according to the brief.

African-American and Hispanic undergraduate students are more likely than white students to be financially independent, paying for their college tuition themselves. Among education majors, 69 percent of white students are dependent on parents or other caregivers, while only 60 percent of Hispanic students and 52 percent of African-American students are.

And even among those whose parents are covering their expenses, white students may be at a financial advantage. The median parent income for white education students was almost $95,000, while the median income for African-American and Hispanic students’ parents was less than half of that.

The difference in income is stark, and demonstrates that African-American and Hispanic students may have a significant need for financial aid to successfully complete an education degree, said Jacqueline E. King, a consultant to AACTE and the author of the brief.

Hispanic students are also more likely than white or African-American students to be the first in their families to attend college—45 percent of Hispanic education students are first-generation.

The data also looked at students’ family and caregiving responsibilities. Many undergraduate education students are also parents, though the proportion varies greatly by race: 15 percent of white students, 19 percent of Hispanic students, and 30 percent of African-American students have kids. Among students who are parents, almost half have children who are under the age of 5.

At the master’s level, more students have children—41 percent of white students, 44 percent of Hispanic students, and half of all African-American students.

Making Programs Work for Students of Color

The analysis shows that teacher colleges will need to provide more supports if they want to diversify their student populations, said King, in an interview with Education Week.

“Certain student populations are more likely to have certain needs than others,” she said. “For example, 1 in 5 African-American undergraduate students is a single parent. The likelihood is that those students are going to have a greater need for child care than white or Hispanic students, who are less likely to be parents at all as undergraduates, and less likely to be single parents.”

The clinical requirements that come along with a teaching degree may place additional burdens on students with children, beyond what they would face if they were pursuing other majors, she said.

Residency models, where students spend a year or more working in a classroom, could be especially difficult. The dual responsibilities of courses and practical experience place great demands on students who are parents, and most of these residency programs don’t pay students for their work—a barrier for students who may be putting themselves through college.

In addition to students’ socioeconomic status, AACTE also analyzed students’ attendance patterns. “We know that [full-time attendance] is associated with higher levels of degree completion,” said King.

Two-thirds of white undergraduate students attend full-time for the full academic year, while only about half of African-American and Hispanic students do the same.

At the master’s level, the numbers are different—most students, across race, attend school part-time.

It’s common among master’s programs in all disciplines for courses to be offered in the evenings, to accommodate the schedules of students working full-time. Colleges might consider offering night classes for undergraduates, too, said King, if they are looking for ways to make it easier for working students to attend full-time, year-round.

See also: Enrollment Is Down at Teacher Colleges. So They’re Trying to Change

Of course, said King, the particular demographic contexts of individual colleges and universities will differ. At AACTE’s annual meeting, which took place last week in Louisville, Ky., she presented the brief’s findings and encouraged participants to do a similar analysis on their own campuses.

“A big part of why we did this [analysis] is to put a model out there of some key data elements, and then give the educator-preparation programs that template for doing their own research,” she said, in a phone interview.

“These data suggest that we have a lot of nontraditional students,” said King. “And to the extent that we want to diversify the workforce, it’s going to only mean more nontraditional students. So we need to figure out ways to be as supportive as possible.”

Images courtesy of AACTE.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.