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A new report finds that nearly 200 teacher preparation programs maintain high-quality admission standards while ensuring diversity among aspiring teachers

What diverse teacher preparation programs get right

A new report finds that nearly 200 teacher preparation programs maintain high standards while ensuring diversity among aspiring teachers

A diverse teacher workforce benefits all students, particularly students of color–and teacher preparation programs can maintain strong admissions standards while at the same time diversifying their enrollment, according to new research from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

Research has found that having same-race teachers increases student achievement, improves the likelihood of graduating high school and attending college, and can lead to lifelong benefits for students of color. At the same time, teachers who were themselves strong students are more likely to be effective teachers. Greater selectivity in admissions to teacher preparation programs provides students with access to the highest quality teachers, helps to raise the status of the teaching profession, and supports the push for higher teacher salaries.

The new data and analysis examines both the academic admissions requirements and diversity in enrollments in more than 1,200 of the nation’s elementary teacher preparation programs. The Teacher Prep Review: Program Diversity and Admissions (2021) assesses 198 programs that are driving greater teacher diversity in their communities while also maintaining adequate admission standards–strong evidence that academic selectivity and diversity are not mutually exclusive.

These 198 programs earning high marks for both diversity and selectivity in a field of 1,256 elementary programs are notable for the fact that they constitute almost half of the 420 programs earning high marks for diversity–indicating just how achievable it is for diverse programs to impose reasonably strong admissions standards.

“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.

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