Increasing the Number of High-Quality African American Teachers in Urban Schools

Article excerpt

The problem of recruiting, preparing, and retaining African American teachers in urban schools can be resolved. The primary place to seek minority candidates is in the expanding pool of mature adults with college degrees who already reside in the particular metropolitan area. This follow-up study tracked the graduates of a post baccalaureate urban teacher preparation program now in its tenth year. The procedures involved tracking the graduates, securing their evaluations of the program, and gathering the evaluations of the principals of the schools in which participants currently teach. In an urban school system in which almost half of the traditionally prepared beginners leave in three years or less and in which the African American teachers are fewer than 19 percent of the teaching force, this program had a 94 percent retention rate and 96 percent of its graduates rated as satisfactory or exemplary by the principals. The results support the contentions that (1) successful urban minority teachers can be locally recruited, selected, and prepared; (2) that minority college graduates who already reside in the particular metropolitan area are very likely to remain: and (3) that the on-the-job approach prepares teachers evaluated as successful by superiors.

The conventional wisdom in teacher education is that it is not possible to increase the number of African American teachers. The problem is that teacher educators are looking in the wrong place. Rather than assuming the recruitment of African American teachers must be done in universities, urban school districts are now looking in their own metropolitan areas for African Americans with college degrees. Using the opportunities offered by alternative certification, adults are trained on the job in the same urban districts where they reside and are very likely to remain. This study supports the contention that there are untapped pools of highly qualified African Americans who can and will effectively teach urban children.

The Problem

Table 1 illustrates the need for minority teachers in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) in order for the professional staff to become more representative of the student population. As the student population increased 13 percent over a nine-year period, the minority teacher population increased 3.5 percent. This difference in the proportion of minority students and teachers worsened considerably as the ethnic gap for African Americans and other minorities declined 5.4 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively. As a result, more minority students had fewer minority teachers by the end of this period.

Table 1 Change in Racial Composition of MPS (1988-1997)

                     1998                1997

                Number   Percent   Number    Percent

Enrollment
  White         30,578    31.8      19,963    18.6
  Black         52,908    54.9      65,587    61.3
  Other         12,804    13.3      21,493    20.1
  Total         96,290             107,043

Teachers
  White          4,493    78.9       4,682    75.5
  Black          1,023    18.0       1,176    19.0
  Other            179     3.1         346     5.6
  Total          5,695               6,204

Ethnic Gap(*)
  White              47.1%               56.9%
  Black             -36.9%              -42.3%
  Other             -10.2%              -14.5%

                      Change
                    1988-1997

                          Percent of
                Number      Total

Enrollment
  White         -10,615     -13.2
  Black          12,679       6.4
  Other           8,689       6.8
  Total          10,753

Teachers
  White             189      -3.4
  Black             153       1.0
  Other             167       2.5
  Total             509

Ethnic Gap(*)
  White                 9.2%
  Black                -5.4%
  Other                -4.3%

(*) difference in % of teachers and students by race. …