“The idea that you have to lower standards to diversify teaching is an erroneous calculation,” shared Sharif El-Mekki, CEO of The Center for Black Educator Development in response to the new NCTQ Teacher Prep Review. “It is my hope that institutions of higher education, school districts, as well as state and federal agencies will use this report to act with accountability and urgency by really diving in and interrogating what they are doing to improve teacher preparation programs and teacher diversity, and aligning all efforts to ensure accelerated student outcomes.”
Programs that prepare teachers have long struggled to attract Black and Hispanic candidates, with only 7 percent of programs reporting enrollments that match the diversity of the rest of the student body on the campuses where they reside. If the programs in this study were to reflect the diversity of their institution, NCTQ estimates that approximately 80,000 more persons of color could enter the teacher pipeline each year.
A number of efforts by teacher education’s accrediting bodies to raise admission standards in order to mirror the practices of high-performing education systems elsewhere in the world have not been successful. As a 2007 study from McKinsey & Company found, these high-performing education systems limit enrollment to aspiring teachers in the top third of their class, as opposed to the U.S. where calls to restrict admission to the top half have been frequently rebuffed.
“Selectivity and diversity are not mutually exclusive standards,” said Bayliss Fiddiman, Associate Director for K-12 Education at the Center for American Progress. “There are educator preparation programs that are very selective in their admissions and also enroll diverse teacher candidates. All students deserve access to high-quality educators and benefit from a teaching workforce that reflects the diversity of our nation’s students.”
A 2017 report from the Center for American Progress found states that increased admissions standards to teacher preparation programs saw increased diversity of undergraduate education majors, and the new NCTQ data make it abundantly clear: teacher preparation programs can both excel in selective admissions and in contributing to teacher diversity.
“We know that both teacher diversity and maintaining high academic standards for entry into teacher preparation are critical,” said Kate Walsh, NCTQ President. “Rather than lower admissions standards in a misplaced belief that it will lead to more diverse enrollment, teacher prep programs have to be intentional and strategic in their efforts to recruit and support aspiring teachers of color, and we are excited to highlight programs that are doing just that.”
Findings on program diversity
NCTQ analyzed the diversity of each elementary teacher preparation program by comparing the diversity of the teacher candidates enrolled in the program to two factors: the diversity of the state teacher workforce and the local community where the program is located.
One-fifth of programs (261) earn an A on the Program Diversity standard because their enrollment exceeds the diversity of the state teacher workforce and matches or exceeds the diversity of their local community. At the other end of the spectrum, the 25 percent of programs (317) that earn a D or F grade enroll teacher candidates that are less diverse than the existing state teacher workforce and local population. (See the full NCTQ Program Diversity standard methodology here.)
The NCTQ data provide encouraging news, finding that two-thirds of programs report a more diverse enrollment than the current teacher workforce in their states. However, state teacher workforces are generally far whiter than the population in their surrounding communities, and only 22 percent of programs match the diversity found in the community where program graduates are most likely going to teach.