Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Academy for Teacher Excellence: Recruting, Preparing, and Retaining Latino Teachers through Learning Communities

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Academy for Teacher Excellence: Recruting, Preparing, and Retaining Latino Teachers through Learning Communities

Article excerpt

Research supports the importance of ethnic minority teachers as role models for diverse populations (Zirkel, 2002). Quiocho and Rios (2000) poignantly argue that minority teachers bring a unique critical perspective to schooling because of their personal experiences. Equitable ethnic representation and distribution among school faculty appear to positively impact student achievement (Meier, Wrinkle, & Polinard, 1999).

Regrettably for first generation/ethnic minority students, college graduation and teacher certification completion rates are dismal (Haselkorn & Fideler, 1996). Several reasons exist: college enrollment rates, increased tuition costs, academic preparation and attrition, and wider career options. Equally worrisome is that teacher shortages exist in areas critical to minority students' success, specifically in bilingual education, special education, mathematics education, and science education. Even more disconcerting, a large number of teachers do not feel adequately prepared for teaching in diverse settings (Lewis et al., 1999). As the demand for equity and accountability for high student achievement and success of ethnic minorities, higher education institutions must re-examine mechanisms for recruiting, preparing, and retaining minority teacher candidates. Universities must acknowledge that the preparation of teachers requires retrospection and an examination of higher education's relevancy among institutions that comprise the P-20 pipeline.

Ethnic minority students are likely to attend community colleges prior to transferring to a four-year institution (Recruiting New Teachers, 2002). Wilson (2001) suggests that collaboration between community colleges and universities is essential in addressing the current teacher shortage and in assuring retention and success of teacher candidates. This is vital for increasing the number of minority teachers. Further, to augment the pool of ethnic minority teacher candidates, their academic success must be assured (Flores & Clark, 2002). Although there has long been a call for changing the way universities prepare teachers (Clark, Flores, Riojas-Cortez, & Smith, 2002; Futrell, Gomez, & Bedden, 2003), to date there has not been a systematic, viable model proposed that clearly considers all constituents and issues.

The Academy for Teacher Excellence

The Academy for Teacher Excellence (ATE) at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and San Antonio College (SAC) is proposed as a comprehensive model whose overarching goals include: (1) creating a learning ecology that values diversity and prepares teacher candidates for work in diverse communities, (2) increasing the number of Latino students pursuing teacher certification, and (3) preparing all teachers for linguistically and culturally diverse populations. ATE's ultimate outcome is to assure that diverse school populations have equitable opportunities for school success. These goals are addressed through five critical components, shown in Figure 1: Teacher Academy Learning Community, Faculty Development, Faculty Research, School Partnerships, and Induction Support. Essentially, all these components form a cohesive, comprehensive model that teacher preparation institutions can adopt to further enhance the learning ecology for both teacher candidates and their future students. In this paper, we will exclusively examine the Teacher Academy Learning Community (ATE-TALC).

UTSA is a Hispanic-Serving Institution producing one of the largest numbers of Latino teachers in Texas and third largest in the nation. Over the last five years, UTSA has improved passing rates from 70% to 97% on the teacher certification exam. Several reasons account for this high passing rate: curricular alignment with state certification standards; increase in tenure-line, lead faculty for undergraduate courses; diversity standards incorporated into the curriculum; and standard syllabi across course sections. …

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