Posted on October 20, 2016

To Increase Teacher Diversity, Ignore Selectivity of Teacher Education Programs?

Jackie Mader, Hechinger Report, October 12, 2016

The federal government is trying to increase the number of minorities in the teaching profession by, in part, allowing institutions to maintain a low bar for entry into teaching programs.

Teacher preparation programs don’t need to be selective in accepting students under new federal rules released by the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday, “so long as they maintain a high bar to exit, to allow programs to recruit a more diverse student body while maintaining the requirements for quality preparation as shown by graduation.”

The final rules, which apply to traditional, alternate, and online programs, come after a nearly two-year wait from their initial introduction, during which the U.S. Department of Education sought public input about the proposed rules.

The final rules were based in part on these comments, including several that recommended the U.S. DOE remove its original proposal to use entry requirements as a method of judging a teacher preparation program’s success. Commenters said that assessing teacher preparation program performance based on their selectivity “could compromise the mission of minority-serving institutions, which often welcome disadvantaged students and develop them into profession-ready teachers.”

Teacher candidates may not meet “purely grade- or test-based entry requirements,” the commenters said, but could still become well-qualified teachers if a preparation program is strong.

The government’s strategy of removing requirements around selectivity to diversify the teaching force met some criticism.

“I’m very much opposed to anything that would lower the bar for entry, for a simple reason: It’s already about as low as you can go. In many institutions in the United States, there are lower bars for entry than playing college athletics,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “We do a tremendous disservice to think that the way to diversify the teaching profession is to lower the bar.”

She added, “It’s such a tremendously insulting move to African-Americans and Latinos to say we want you to come into the profession so badly and the only way we can make that happen is if we have no standards. I can’t imagine what that does to someone’s psyche.”

The proportion of teachers who are African-American, non-white Hispanic, Native American and Asian is 18 percent, according to the authors of an August 2016 report published by the Brookings Institution. The report, which focuses on African-American and Hispanic teachers, projects that 300,000 African-Americans and 600,000 Hispanics would need to join the profession–as 1 million white teachers exit–in order to close the diversity gap.