AACTE Networked Improvement Community Yields Exciting Results at UConn
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
Like other programs, our teacher preparation program at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education has long struggled to recruit as many students of color as we’d like. That’s why we joined AACTE’s networked improvement community (NIC) in 2014 to collaborate with other institutions on strategies to bring more Black and Latino men into our programs. Already, we have nearly doubled the percentage of students of color in our program, going from roughly 12% of students to 20% of our entering cohort this fall.
We attribute these gains to several factors spurred by our participation in AACTE’s network, which is now called the Black and Hispanic/Latino Male Teachers Initiative NIC.
First, our leadership is firmly committed to the goal of diversifying our student population. Our deans funded graduate assistantships to support our NIC participation. Our executive director led a program redesign that foregrounds multicultural education and also worked with our director of advising to hire two academic advisers dedicated to recruiting and retaining students of color. The new advisers are African American women with professional backgrounds in K-12 schools. Faculty have also led an effort to support new student groups and led conversations with other faculty about diversity and equity in our program.
Second, we developed a coherent plan to guide our efforts, which previously had been largely piecemeal. The NIC work pushed us to identify, implement, and assess research-based strategies to recruit and retain students of color. These include forging both on-campus relationships with cultural center directors and advisers and off-campus relationships with community colleges and K-12 schools. Advisers and faculty created courses focused on issues of social justice, diversity, and education to reach prospective teacher candidates. Our academic advisers facilitated study groups and tutoring to support students in passing state licensure exams. And our academic advisers now employ an “intrusive advising” method to address students’ specific needs.
Third, we fostered leadership and professional networking opportunities for students of color. The program’s leaders, advisers, and faculty supported students in creating Leadership in Diversity (LID), a student-led organization primarily for students of color who meet to share common goals, support one another academically and socially, and lead and participate in various events. This last function includes helping to organize our annual Celebrating Diversity Dinner and presenting at the National Association for Multicultural Education conference. This spring, LID students organized the Teaching for Tomorrow Today conference that drew students and educators from across Connecticut to examine issues related to culturally responsive teaching.
We’ve also worked with LID students to create the Diverse Educators Making Outstanding Change (DEMO) group. DEMO provides mentoring for prospective and currently enrolled students of color. Each student is paired with a K-12 teacher or administrator, university faculty, or staff member of color. We hope that the connection, support, and networking will provide our students additional inspiration as they pursue their goals.
Taken together, these efforts form what we and our NIC partners call culturally responsive support systems. As the increase in our students of color indicates, these systems have already made a difference for our students and our program.
Mia Hines and Dominique Battle-Lawson are academic advisers, Ann Traynor is director of advising, Mark Kohan is assistant clinical professor, Rene Roselle is associate director of teacher education, and Dorothea Anagnostopoulos is executive director of teacher education in the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education.