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Should We Tighten or Expand the Teacher Pipeline? Holmes Scholars Explore a Teacher Quality Paradox

A double narrative dominates contemporary discussions of teacher quality, leading to often-contradictory policies that stymie reform efforts. First is the democratic imperative to provide equitable access to a quality education to all students, which calls for broadening the diversity of the teaching force to better reflect student demographics. Second is the push for tightening quality controls such as GPA and testing requirements in teacher preparation programs, which results in a considerably less diverse teaching pool. AACTE Holmes Scholars learned about this paradox firsthand earlier this month during Washington Week as they explored the themes of diversity, equity, access, and accountability with a variety of guest speakers from national organizations.

Adriane Dorrington, senior policy analyst on teacher quality for the National Education Association, made a compelling call for diversity and leadership in education by highlighting three programs that are achieving this objective: the Culture, Ability, Resilience, and Effort Guide for closing achievement gaps; the Teacher Leadership Initiative; and Grow Your Own Teachers efforts. David Bergeron, vice president of the Center for American Progress, emphasized “College for All” and the need to increase opportunities for marginalized students through attention to issues such as access, affordability, graduating students on time, and measurable outcomes.

Luis Maldonado, chief advocacy officer for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), and Serena Dávila, executive director of legislative affairs for HACU, discussed the work of the 490 Hispanic-serving institutions throughout the United States to examine legislation and find ways to advocate for changes to benefit their students. Like historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), HACU institutions often face challenges from policies that do not align with their unique missions, which has a detrimental effect on their ability to help build a more diverse educator workforce.

To conclude the panel, Christine Carrino Gorowara, vice president of the IB Pathway and CAEP Evidence for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), expounded on the need for quality assurance via more rigorous accountability standards for teacher preparation programs. Institutions may soon be required to provide data proving that graduates are effective teachers and evidence of data usage in program decision-making.

After listening to the panel, Florida A&M University (FAMU) Holmes Scholar Terrance McNeil shared a personal story that exposed the fallacy of new performance standards. FAMU has attained notoriety for its mission and success in improving the achievement and socioeconomic status of students who enter with low achievement scores, but now FAMU has lost millions of dollars in funding for not meeting new performance funding standards. Participants discussed how policy should recognize different examples of excellence and acknowledge ways in which distinct missions may inform broader accountability standards. In the absence of such, policies that penalize teacher preparation programs will result in the dismantling of programs that prepare scholars of color to teach diverse populations.

How do we prevent policy from marginalizing teacher preparation programs at HBCUs and HACUs? The answer is voice. We must heed Maldonado’s admonition, “If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the table.” Dorrington reminded us that our experiences and the experiences of those we serve are different, and we must get a seat at the table so that our voices are a part of discussions that inform policy.

Shaneé Wangia is a Holmes Scholar at Boston College (MA) and serves as secretary of the Holmes Scholars Council for 2015-2016. DeShawn Sims is a Holmes Scholar at the University of Central Florida and serves as historian on the Holmes Scholars Council for 2015-2016.

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Shaneé Wangia

Holmes Scholar, Boston College (MA)

DeShawn Sims

Holmes Scholar, University of Central Florida