Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Guest Editors' Introduction: Diversifying the Teaching Force

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Guest Editors' Introduction: Diversifying the Teaching Force

Article excerpt

This special issue of Teacher Education Quarterly explores how teacher education programs can help to diversify the teaching force, mainly by featuring programs that have done so. It is widely recognized that the demographic gap between students and teachers is large and growing. In 2004, enrollment in U.S. public schools was only a little more than half White (57%), and a little under half students of color (16% African American, 20% Hispanic, 4% Asian/Pacific Islander, 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 2% "other"); 19% of students spoke a language other than English at home (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). By contrast, the teaching force was 84% White, 8% African American, 5.5% Hispanic, 1.5% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). Early career teachers are a bit more diverse than the teaching profession as a whole (78% White, 22% of color), with teachers of color concentrated in urban schools (Shen, Wegenky, & Cooley, 2003).

We view this demographic gap not as a permanent natural condition, but rather as a social creation that has historical roots, and that can be changed. Ironically, for example, when schools were segregated prior to the Civil Rights movement, African American students were taught mainly by African American teachers. Beginning in the 1960s, while desegregation was intended to make schools more equitable and responsive to communities of color, because Whites perceived Black schools and teachers as inferior, numerous Black schools were closed and almost 40,000 Black teachers and administrators lost their positions (Milner & Howard, 2004). Rather than re-working desegregated schools around principles of equity and multiculturalism, generally White educators maintained institutionalized schooling processes that continued to benefit Whites more than communities of color. The production of teachers today reflects continued institutionalized White privilege.

Race does not determine teacher quality. However, race, ethnicity, and language shape the nature of experiences teachers bring to the classroom, as well as insights they bring to the teaching profession at large. Currently, largely because of the demographic gap, students of color are much more likely than White students to be taught by teachers who question their academic ability, are uncomfortable around them and their families, and do not know how to teach them well.

White teachers are more likely than teachers of color to hold lower expectations for Black, Latino, and American Indian students (Garcia & Guerra, 2004; Pang & Sablan, 1998), and often have more difficulty forming constructive relationships with students of color than with White students. White teachers are less likely to build relationships with families of color than are teachers of color. White teachers generally assume that underachievement of students of color, particularly African American students, is due to their families not valuing education (Irvine & York, 1993) rather than to factors under control of classroom teachers. Lacking familiarity with communities students of color come from, many White teachers are unable to build bridges between students and curriculum, but then view students' lack of engagement as disinterest in learning. White teachers who are ill-equipped to teach students of color, particularly those in low-income communities, often seek jobs elsewhere as soon as they can, leading to high levels of teacher turn-over in many urban and poor rural schools. Teacher education can and should prepare White teacher candidates for diversity; but, as the most segregated racial category in the U.S. (Orfield & Lee, 2005), Whites tend to enter teacher education with very limited cross-cultural experience and knowledge, curbing the extent to which preparing them will address the issues above.

Preservice teachers of color tend to possess a richer multicultural knowledge base, and greater commitment to multicultural teaching, social justice, and providing children of color with an academically challenging curriculum (Dee & Henkin, 2002; Rios & Montecinos, 1999; Su, 1997). …

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