A Community College Pathway into Teacher Education Increases Diversity in Teacher Candidates
The need to diversify the teaching workforce is well documented (Darling-Hammond, 2010). Student demographics across the United States have significantly changed in the last 20 years, with particular increases in bilingual and Hispanic student populations (Aud, Hussar, Kena, Bianco, Frohlich, Kemp, &Tahan, 2011). However, the teaching workforce has not reflected the shift in student demographics, and a growing gap has emerged between the racial and ethnic backgrounds of students and teachers. Because community colleges serve a high percentage of diverse students, a community college pathway into teaching represents a promising approach for increasing the diversity of the teaching workforce.
Chemeketa Community College initiated a teacher education pathway model in 2015 that is successfully adding diverse teachers to the region’s education workforce. The model pathway includes a set of interrelated strategies designed to support all students, with specific approaches that encourage diverse student populations. The Chemeketa model features six key elements:
- Bilingual faculty and staff that inherently honor linguistic diversity
- An ethic of caring
- Academic supports that keep students on track
- A clear and efficient transfer pathway that includes Education courses
- Financial assistance
- Community outreach
Bilingual faculty and staff cultivate a campus climate that is encouraging and welcoming to diverse student populations. Language and sociolinguistic consciousness influences student engagement, strengthens student identity, and supports the value of linguistic diversity. (Lucas & Villegas, 2013). Bilingual faculty and staff deliberately foster an ethic of caring that integrates cross-cultural awareness and creates a strong foundation for productive academic supports. Frequent contact around academics, service activities, and community events allows faculty and staff to build close relationships, which builds cultural bridges between teachers and students in a meaningful way. This positive support generates cariño (caring) and confianza (trust), which is especially important to diverse and Latinx students (Hammond, 2014; Rueda, Monzó, & Higareda, 2004).
Clear transfer agreements support academic participation, persistence and success. The Chemeketa model shows higher than average participation and graduation rates for Hispanic students and continued academic success upon transfer. Depending on the year, between 54-43% of students enrolled in the education pathway were Hispanic, compared with a college average of 24% for the same years and graduation rates were also higher than average. Following transfer, 2019 reports found that 94.8% of students from this teacher pathway graduated from university or remained enrolled and working towards graduation. These successful student outcomes data suggest that the community college pathway provides students with solid academic preparation for university coursework and commitment-building towards teaching careers.
Financial assistance and outreach to diverse communities also sustain student engagement and ultimate success. Frequent activities with government and service organizations integrate the program into the community, including regional school districts that create employment opportunities.
The combination of strong student success rates and the high percentage of diverse student participation show that a community college pathway can be an effective strategy to cultivating a diverse teacher workforce. Although this model focuses on Hispanic students, the model could be tailored to unique demographics in other regions for replication.
Cecelia Monto is dean of education, languages and social sciences at Chemeketa Community College and executive board member for the National Association of Community College Teacher Preparation Programs.
Aud, S., Hussar, W., Kena, G., Bianco, K., Frohlich, L., Kemp, J., & Tahan, K. (2011). The condition of education 2011 (NCES 2011-033). Washington, DC: U.S.Government Printing Office, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
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