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Enhanced HBCU Teacher Preparation Role Discussed at U.S. Education Department Meeting


A national strategy to avert teacher shortages as well as improve overall teaching quality in U.S. public schools will include the participation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as key players in the formulation of strategic policies, U.S. Education Department officials told a gathering of HBCU education school officials and HBCU presidents on Tuesday.

Noting that HCBU graduates account for 50 percent of African-Americans teaching in U.S. public schools, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said HBCUs will play a critical role in helping the United States meet the demand for new teachers in the coming decade.

“Education is the civil rights issue of our generation,” Duncan told attendees at the HBCU Teaching and Teacher Education Forum that was held at the U.S. Education Department.

The meeting, which was organized by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, brought together many of the veterans of past teacher education programming and credentialing reforms to plot new strategies based on what one attendee called “an ideal moment in time.”

Dr. Leonard Haynes, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, said the meeting was a historic and timely gathering. It was the first time, according to Haynes, that the education department has sought to enlist HBCU teacher education programs to help formulate strategy to address what many see as a looming national teacher shortage. Duncan noted that in the next 10 years the U.S. would need an additional 1 million teachers.

In the past, contentious issues, such as accreditation, teacher standards and testing, have proved to stifle policymakers on plotting a coherent national strategy that would include HBCUs. One of the more volatile matters has centered on devising acceptable qualifications for those entering the K-12 teacher corps. Standardized testing of teachers has survived as a gatekeeping mechanism but has proved controversial as certain groups, such as African-Americans, have tended to perform worse on state and national teaching examinations than others. 

Speakers and participants, however, expressed support for the protocols that have been developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The apparent consensus among those at the HBCU teaching forum as well as those of Obama administration officials is that the protocols outlined by the NBPTS are becoming a gold standard for K-12 teaching entry. Individual states, often offering financial rewards, and education schools have grown increasingly interested in having their teachers become  National Board Certified Teachers. 

 “We have every reason to believe that the National Board will be the gold standard that the (Obama) administration will embrace,” said Dr. Mary Dilworth, the vice president of higher education and research for NBPTS.  

According to “Teaching and Teaching for the New Millennium: The Role of HBCUs,” a paper presented by Drs. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine and Leslie T. Fenwick at the HBCU teaching forum, research data has “revealed that (National) Board-certified teachers benefited African-American and Hispanic students more than other students.” Fenwick is dean of the Howard University school of education and Irvine is a visiting scholar in urban education at Howard University.

The authors state that “there are approximately 74,000 Board-certified teachers, of which 7,667 are African-American and other teachers of color. More are needed to provide leadership in high-need schools and to contribute an important cultural lens and understanding to effective practice.” 

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