Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Teacher Education Reform

Article excerpt

As for all teacher education programs, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have been subject to a host of policy mandates for reform over the past three decades. As a group their approach to these changes has differed from those of majority institutions and their voice in the policy reform dialogue has been muted or absent. This article examines the consequences of HBCU exclusion and calls for more active participation from these institutions and a more receptive climate for their contributions.

Keywords: teacher education reform, education policy, teacher education policy, historically Black colleges and universities

Introduction

Perhaps one of the most difficult, yet effective, approaches to accomplishing a goal is to recognize past success, acknowledge past failure, and proceed with the collective knowledge garnered from these experiences. For the past 30 years the African American community and its colleges and universities have focused attention on the survival, maintenance, and advancement of their teacher education programs and the representation of African Americans in the teaching force. The implicit goal has been to rescue, support, and leverage those PK- 12 students whose academic achievement is unrealized. Some of the initiatives that HBCU and other supportive organizations employed have met with success while others have been less effective. During this time of major change in the PK- 12 and postsecondary education sectors, it seems appropriate to examine the accomplishments and problems in some of these efforts to inform new and on-going efforts.

In recent decades, a host of socioeconomic and political issues and factors have prompted unprecedented discussion and debate regarding the quality of teaching. All colleges and universities that train individuals to teach must make adjustments, but their approaches and strategies vary by mission, goals, size, affiliation and vicinity. Although HBCUs are a subset of all postsecondary institutions, their historical roots bind them in significant ways. Therefore, it is not surprising that one finds the HBCU approach distinctly different than that of majority institutions (Dilworth, 1984, 1986). This article focuses on the approach of HBCUs to teacher education reform over the past three decades and speculates how and why these institutions by and large are often marginalized or absent in the discussions and debates of the day. Reflecting on the key issues and trends of the past and the needs of all institutions, this author argues that the absence of an HBCU voice in the educational policy arena has disadvantaged a number of teacher quality initiatives and that there are compelling reasons for these institutions to continue to do what they do best in the preparation of educators, but to simultaneously consider new directions, strategies and missions. The author approached this work with the highest regard for all those who work to advance the quality of teaching for all children. While the observations and comments are derived largely from the literature they are influenced by this author's significant involvement in the teacher education reform initiatives of recent decades.

This article begins with a discussion of the mission and goals of colleges and universities that train teachers for the nation's schools highlighting the various strategies that colleges of education, generally, and HBCUs, specifically, have developed to sustain their programs. The discussion moves to a review of select events that have influenced the expectations and nature of teacher education over the past three decades, noting HBCU accomplishments and missed opportunities. The author concludes with suggestions for leveraging the HBCU presence in today's teacher quality dialogue.

MISSION AND PURPOSE

Nearly 30 years ago, Garibaldi (1984) argued that HBCUs need to reinforce their traditional missions and goals in order to stay viable in the postsecondary sector. …