Recruiting African American Teachers Requires Collaboration, Cooperation
Concerns about the quality of instruction in schools are directly related to the quality of teachers who graduate from teacher-education programs. Hence, successful reforms dictate a “simultaneous renewal” of schools and teacher-preparation programs.
One of the gravest challenges facing historically Black colleges and universities today is that of preserving their long tradition of educating teachers in the face of new educational reforms. The effective education of well-trained teachers must reflect parity, include role models, and bridge the cultural divide with culturally sensitive pedagogy.
Institutions that are serious about the recruitment of teachers of color must work to promote the sort of collegiality that would overcome institutionalized separation. Past collaborative efforts have not been successful because teacher-education units have chosen to work dependently rather than interdependently on matters such as recruitment.
In 1993-94, the K-12 teaching force in public schools was approximately 2.6 million. Of this number, approximately 13 percent were teachers of color. By 2050, approximately half of the school-age population in America will be “minority.” But what will be the percentage of teachers of color, and more specifically, African American teachers?
Research substantiates that African American youth need to be encouraged to become teachers. Since many never, or rarely have encountered an African American in a P-12 teaching role, it is hard for youth to imagine themselves in the role of teacher. Research also indicates that negative school experiences can discourage students from teaching careers.
In addition, many African American teachers continue to face problems in such crucial areas as compensation, employment and certification. More stringent testing requirements threaten the supply of African American teachers and the future of teacher-training programs at HBCUs.
Also, until very recently, teacher-preparation programs included no multicultural/global perspectives, and no attention was given to diversity in the faculty, student body or curriculum. Not seeing their experiences reflected, African America students perceive high barriers to entering the professions. However, the teacher-preparation experience has changed. Professionally accredited colleges of education are looking for a diverse student body and faculty. They are also including multicultural perspectives throughout the curriculum. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the national accrediting body for the teaching profession, has included diversity among its standards since 1990, and has greatly influenced the growing emphasis on diversity in colleges of education.
Today, many efforts are being made to recruit African Americans into the teaching field. Model programs have reached into the middle school and high school student population to stimulate interest in teaching among African American students. In addition, community college programs and the recruitment of paraprofessionals have yielded new teachers.
But, in order to create systemic change, collaboration is needed. The essential goal of such collaboration is to situate institutions of higher education for interdependent work and to encourage self-sufficiency, while discouraging the perception that colleges and universities are alone, unique and must do all their recruitment without assisting or being assisted by others. Overall, collaboration for recruitment activities must be planned, must have a shared vision and must be built on trust and understanding. Such efforts can work to increase the supply of teachers who reflect and represent our nation’s population.
— Dr. Boyce C. Williams is Vice President for Institutional Relations at the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
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