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

  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

  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%


                          Percent of
                Number      Total

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

  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.

This study seeks to answer four questions:

1. Can the School of Education, UWM, recruit and prepare more minority teachers?

2. Do these teachers remain in MPS?

3. How well do they do?

4. How do they evaluate their preparation?


The focus of the study are graduates of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Teacher Education Program (MMTEP). This program is offered by the Milwaukee Public Schools, the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association, and the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). The purpose is to offer a high-quality preparation program to individuals who have completed a bachelor's degree in an accredited institution, but who have not completed a certification program. There are approximately three times more applicants than the number who can be accepted into this program each year.

The program includes seven weeks of work in the summer beginning in mid June and finishing the end of July. The summer portion includes work in the MPS Summer School Program in the morning and UWM courses in the afternoon. The summer portion of the program is designed to observe participants interacting with children. From September through June the participants are teachers of record in their own classrooms for the entire school year. During this residency year, participants are paid at the rate of a beginning teacher plus all fringe benefits. Each four Residents have a mentor who makes regular visits and provides on-site coaching. Mentors are outstanding Milwaukee teachers released full time to coach beginning teachers. Upon successful completion of the program, residents are guaranteed a contract by the Milwaukee Public Schools and recommended for certification by the university for grades 1-8.

All graduates were located by using an informal network and the official records of the Department of Human Resources of the Milwaukee Schools. Those not found in the MPS, DHR computer are identified as "not teaching in MPS." A telephone survey was conducted of all graduates to get their reactions to the program. A mailed questionnaire to their principals was used to gather principals' assessments of the teaching.


Can the UWM School of Education recruit and prepare more minority teachers? Table 2 summarizes these data.

Table 2 MMTEP Participants Who Have Successfully Completed the Program and Remain in MPS- 1990-1999

                      Male     Female      Total

African American    24 (19%)   68 (52%)    92 (71%)
European American    3 (2%)    25 (20%)    28 (22%)
Hispanic             2 (1%)     6 (5%)      8 (6%)
Asian                1 (1%)                 1 (1%)

TOTAL               30 (23%)   99 (77%)   129 (100%)

MMTEP is producing 78 percent minority teachers, 71 percent of whom are African American. In absolute numbers as well as in percentage, MMTEP produces more African American males than males of any other background.

Do MMTEP graduates remain in MPS? Table summarizes these data.

Table 3 Retention of MMTEP Completers in MPS - 1990-1999

Graduates still teaching in MPS     129 (94%)
Graduates teaching outside of MPS     8 (6%)
                                    137 (100%)

Of the MMTEP participants who have completed the program, 94 percent are still teaching in MPS (two are assistant principals and one is a mentor for the Compton Program). This retention rate surpasses that of any teacher source utilized by MPS.

Table 4 summarizes the status of MMTEP non-completers.

Table 4 MMTEP Non-completers 1990-1999

Deselected                                           12
Self-selected out of program                          3
Dropped MMTEP and completed traditional program       1
Forced to leave country by Immigration Authorities    1
Died                                                  1
Stopped out--planning to complete in 1999-2000        2

Total                                                20

How do graduates evaluate their preparation in the MMTEP? Following is a summary of these respondents' statements:

Table 5

149   Positive statements

 22   Negative statements re: how program might be improved

       9   First cycle has no mentors
       1   Poor mentor
       1   Needed assertiveness training
       1   Too much paperwork
       1   Felt discriminated against as white
       2   Not enough reading methods
       1   No preparation for record keeping
       2   Poor summer program
       1   Not enough art/music
       1   Not enough focus on middle school
       1   Needed more assessment tools
       1   More preparation for LD kids


The question of how well the graduates did in their teaching was answered by a mailed questionnaire to their current principals. Table 6 summarizes these data.

Table 6 Principals' Ratings of MMTEP Graduates

                  African          European
                  American         American

               Male    Female   Male   Female

Exemplary         10      35       1       8
                (8%)   (27%)    (1%)    (7%)

Satisfactory      13      29       2      16
               (10%)   (22%)    (1%)    (1%)

Improvement                1               1
                        (1%)            (1%)

No Response        1       3
                (1%)    (2%)

Total             24      68       3      25
               (19%)   (52%)    (2%)   (20%)

                  Hispanic        Asian

               Male   Female   Male   Female   Total

Exemplary         1       2                        57
               (1%)    (1%)                     (45%)

Satisfactory      1       4       1                66
               (1%)    (3%)    (1%)             (51%)

Improvement                                         2

No Response                                         4

Total             2       6       1               129
               (2%)    (4%)    (1%)            (100%)


The MMTEP prepares 78 percent minority teachers. Ninety-four percent of all who complete the program stay in the Milwaukee Public Schools over a ten-year period of study. The school principals rate 51 percent as satisfactory and 45 percent as exemplary. The participants are overwhelmingly positive about their preparation.


There are large numbers of African Americans and other minorities with college degrees residing in metropolitan areas nationwide who can and should become urban teachers. The number of minorities available for urban teaching is not a function of the number of Black undergraduates but of urban universities' willingness to prepare minority adults on-the-job.

Dr. Martin Haberman, Distinguished Professor, School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Martin Haberman, Distinguished Professor, 397 Enderis Hall, University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201


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