New TAG Devoted to HBCU Teacher Education

The author is the administrator for AACTE’s newly formed “Issues in HBCU Education” topical action group (TAG). The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Did you know that 25% of bachelor’s degrees in education conferred upon African Americans are awarded at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs)? In addition, HBCUs with educator preparation programs have consistently produced more African-American graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields than any other type of institution. The success of HBCUs at educating students for the 21st century workforce could be a signal to educational leaders to seek the HBCU as a source for making large-scale improvements among African American students on the PK-12 level.

The new AACTE Issues in HBCU Education TAG was created for the purpose of raising awareness and engendering support from the broader education community on education policy and teacher preparation within HBCUs. Since the establishment of Cheney University in 1837, the 107 institutions that carry the HBCU distinction have faithfully carried out their missions. AACTE understands the vital role that these unique schools (many of which were created for the purpose of producing teachers) play in future conversations on education. It is intended that discussions emanating from AACTE members who maintain an academic or professional connection to topics germane to this TAG will add to the body of knowledge on teacher preparation.

Recently, HBCUs have battled a series of enacted and proposed legislation that has disproportionally affected funding and forced the unintended consequence of diminished enrollment at these institutions. These issues have many questioning HBCUs’ ability to adhere to their intended missions while remaining sustainable. Furthermore, these occurrences have threatened the stability of the PK-12 environment where calls for teacher diversity grow louder.

A 2014 report from the Center for American Progress revealed appreciable diversity gaps in teaching when evaluated across race. Could the cultural and socioeconomic ties that bind HBCU graduates to PK-12 students contain lessons for improving learning gains for underperforming students of color across the educational spectrum? There remains a need for discussion on the revelations of research, policy, best practices, and positive outcomes for this demographic, which historically has underperformed when compared to other groups. Although the statistical analysis can be disconcerting, there are examples of great success as educators have reported promising results in both the PK-12 and higher education environments.

Could HBCU teacher education programs play a larger role in engendering the success of students of color everywhere? Can collaborations with other institutions yield research and best practices that demonstrate results in the PK-12 arena? Already, programs like Call Me Mister and the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers are making a substantial impact in the area of teacher diversity by galvanizing resources across all university types. Teacher preparation and behavioral research from HBCU lab schools can be quite beneficial to school systems that strive for solutions to improving achievement among students of color.

As a participant in our TAG, perhaps you will choose to address the issue of culturally responsive teaching, declining state funding, enrollment, retention, or the lack of diversity in teaching. You may be inclined to contribute to a conversation on special education, disproportionate discipline, HBCU lab schools, or early childhood development. Naturally these issues affect all schools, but by generating dialogue through the HBCU lens, we may collectively discover mechanisms for addressing common problems that are culturally competent and solution-focused. We may also become more effective at addressing the needs of African-American students once research, best practices, and policies meet practice. Perhaps this forum will yield discussion, research, and success stories that can inform the teaching practice overall.

To join the new TAG and access our online community, visit this web page. For information on starting or joining other AACTE TAGs, see the general TAG web page.

Terrance McNeil is a 3rd-year doctoral candidate in the Florida A&M University College of Education, Department of Educational Leadership. He is also vice president of the AACTE Holmes Scholars Council.

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Terrance McNeil

Holmes Scholar, Florida A&M University.