Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Community Teachers: A Conceptual Framework for Preparing Exemplary Urban Teachers

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Community Teachers: A Conceptual Framework for Preparing Exemplary Urban Teachers

Article excerpt

In the last few years, the educational establishment has experienced a groundswell of educational reform driven by the Title II legislation and the agenda set by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), which consists of improving teaching standards and the professionalization of teaching. This recent movement challenges schools, colleges and departments of education (SCDEs) to elevate the quality of teacher preparation for the largely White, suburban, female and culturally mainstream teaching force-especially given an increasingly culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse urban population of students in the public schools. To meet this challenge, this article presents the community teachers (CT) conceptual framework as a new direction for the preparation of multiculturally proficient teachers.

There is no more important responsibility for a school, college department, or faculty of education than to do the best job that it possibly can do to support the learning of teachers throughout their careers. If we are not prepared to take this responsibility more seriously and do all that we can to have the best possible teacher education programs, then we should let someone else do the job. (Zeichner, 1999, p. 13)

We live in an era of educational reform dominated by the watchword of "accountability" and driven by educational policy that espouses "raising the bar" under the banners of high standards and professionalization of teaching. At the same time, however, systems of public schooling in American cities continue to severely shortchange children in poverty and children of culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The national response to the crisis has generally been a proliferation of policy that increases high-stakes testing for teachers, as well as students. The logic of the new agenda, proclaimed in the report of the National Commission of Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF), is that the way to improve schools is to raise the standard of quality of teachers and teaching. The central proposition of the agenda, simply stated, is that we will improve education if we ensure that there are caring and competent teachers for every classroom (NCTAF, 1996). The hitch to this proposition is that there is more to the problem of American schools than the abilities (or lack thereof) of its teachers. The systems of practice that prepare, develop, and support instruction are just as critical to the quality of education. Contemporary systems of teacher preparation and development are not yet adequate to meet the challenges posed by the crisis in schooling, in spite of the NCTAF agenda.

In spite of this new national agenda, this country has yet to produce a system of teacher education that successfully, and in sufficient numbers, prepares teachers for effective work in diverse urban school settings (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Melnick & Zeichner, 1997; Murrell, 1991,1993, 1998; NCTAF, 1996; Zeichner, 1999). Moreover, the current configurations of teacher education seem unequal to the task of renewing urban education (Comer, 1997; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 1999; Delpit, 1996; Irvine & Fraser, 1998; Hollins, Hayman, & King, 1997; Murrell, 1998; Myers, 1996; Valli, Cooper, & Frankes, 1997) or increasing the numbers of "multiculturally competent teachers" (Gay, 2000; Nieto, 1999).

Educational experts agree that one of the greatest barriers is the difficulty in transforming teacher candidates' attitudes regarding race, class and ethnicity, and critical awareness of structural inequality in America (e.g., Cochran-Smith, 2001). The long-standing lament of teacher education concerns the overwhelmingly White, female, middle-class and culturally mainstream corps of prospective teachers poised to enter the profession at a time when the student population is increasingly ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse. Sleeter (2001) reviewed the literature on the preparation of this population of teachers and concluded that White pre-service teachers still come to teacher preparation with little experience in culturally, linguistically, and racially diverse contexts, with very little understanding of structural inequality and institutional racism, and with serious cultural and racial biases. …

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