Building and Sustaining Recruitment Pathways for Black and Latino Male Teachers
In the following article, David A. Fuentes and Amy Ginsberg of the College of Education at William Paterson, a member of AACTE’s Network Improvement Community (NIC) Black and Hispanic/Latino Male Teacher Initiative, take a deep dive into their efforts to increase dual enrollment opportunities as a preemptive recruitment strategy. They provide insight into how network improvement science can be used to identify levers within education preparation program systems that can improve recruitment and retention of diverse teacher candidates.
To learn more about NIC members’ initiatives to recruit and retain Black and Latina males, watch the Building Recruitment Pathways, a segment of AACTE’s new NIC video case studies series.
Building and Sustaining Recruitment Pathways for Black and Latino Male Teachers
In 2014, our College of Education at William Paterson University, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Minority Serving Institution (MSI), located in the greater New York City area, was selected as one of ten universities to participate in the AACTE Network Improvement Community (NIC), aimed at increasing the number of Black and Latino/Hispanic male teachers (BLMs). Since that time, we have been engaged in iterative cycles of plan-do-study-act (PDSA). This systematic research first led to our becoming NIC mindful and then to several structural changes in our College of Education that make our efforts aimed at teacher diversification more possible today in both theory and practice. We have uncovered, implemented, and tested the efficacy of several structural changes at our institution targeting key drivers, recruitment and retention, while implementing new structures based on network improvement science and our desire and commitment to diversify our teacher candidate pool.
Systems change: Structural reform and design changes at our EPP
The central premise of Network Improvement Science (NIS) is that the outcome of any system is a product of its design, and that if a change in outcome is desired, the design must also change. This tenet of NIS guided the systemic design changes at our College of Education needed to increase the recruitment of BLM teacher candidates into our licensure programs. Our efforts included: new program design, new course design, increased understanding of student challenges regarding progression into our major(s), targeted support based on the obstacles NIS uncovered and faced by our BLMs, development of several targeted recruitment efforts, and building and sustaining of partnerships with local K-12 schools, which included initially creating, and now expanding, dual enrollment programs and classes. Taken together these structural changes have served to establish pipeline pathways into our educator preparation program (EPP) from local area high schools.
Understanding Persistence of Black and Latino males at our EPP through Lived Experience
In our pursuit to understand more about BLM teacher candidates, current and future, and their experiences at our EPP, we conducted informal focus groups aimed at eliciting how and why these students persist. These discussions shed light on several areas and aspects of our EPP that required structural change based on our emerging understanding of the lived experiences of current BLM teacher candidates, as our exploratory data pointed to narratives of resilience and various EPP obstacles that threatened the persistence of our BLMs. Triangulating the BLM student experience data that came from our focus groups with the factbook data that told us a similar story in numbers, we were able to identify areas to be tested to understand more about their potential impact as determined by the PDSA testing cycle. This process revealed several areas within our EPP that we have targeted for improvement: basic skills assessment (i.e., Praxis CORE) test preparation, course development to address the 3.0 grade point average requirement, and alternate route program development that allow eligible students to work while pursuing licensure, were among the most salient. Looking closely at our EPP and state teacher licensure requirements and understanding how BLM teacher candidates successfully navigated these often-competing goals, which impediments posed the greatest barriers, and how they overcame them, we were able to target supports accordingly.
Dual Enrollment and the need to begin earlier
Recurring themes for our BLM teacher candidates illuminated the difficulties that state and professional accreditation requirements for licensure posed for many students who want to become teachers. Among the more salient obstacles identified was the basic skills assessment and 3.0 GPA requirement for program matriculation. Although the GPA obstacle proved easier to circumvent, both pointed to the need to begin earlier working towards meeting EPP requirements and creating EPP readiness for potential teacher candidates. To address GPA, we created University Core Curriculum (UCC) courses for our teacher licensure programs. Whereas previously, students took their first 60 credits across UCC areas and departments outside of the College of Education, we created new UCC courses that serve as pre-requisites for education programs to enable our students to be exposed early to education-oriented curriculum and College of Education faculty. The result was that the 3.0 GPA was met at a much higher rate than prior to these programmatic and course-based structural changes. Based in large part to the success of our UCC course development changes and the positive student outcomes associated with them for 0-60 credits candidates, we began to plan and design ways to offer the UCC content and basic skills assessment preparation earlier. By design, prior to the time when they would delay or stop an interested teacher candidate from pursuing teacher licensure, at 60 credits. These PDSA results led to our testing the efficacy of these changes in local area high schools. These efforts continue today and reinforce our desire to increase our dual enrollment offerings and partnerships to strategically build pipelines and sustain pathways to teacher education and into our College of Education, and to further efforts to diversify teacher candidates and teachers.
The expansion of Dual Enrollment and the building of teacher pathways and pipelines
Establishing partnerships with area high schools proved to be an important intentional effort aimed at recruitment and retention of BLM teacher candidates and prospective students and teachers. We began with one dual enrollment class offered by a faculty member and member of our NIC, embedded in an urban high school teacher academy with a student population that is 80 percent Black and Latino/a/x. After three years of successful cohorts of students progressing through the class with a 100 percent passing rate and 90 percent college entrance rate for graduating students, we saw great benefit in expanding our course offerings in dual enrollment and saw opportunities to articulate curriculum from our UCC courses and basic skills prep, years prior to when they would be needed within our high school partnerships. Our belief, by beginning to address EPP readiness and EPP requirements earlier, we would create a structural change that would enable pathways for matriculation and successful exit from our teacher licensure programs, was being validated by our PDSA data. Beginning earlier and creating structures that address EPP readiness for students sooner led us to begin offering our entire UCC suite of classes, four currently, in our local dual enrollment partner high schools, which began with one site and now has now expanded to include three. These partner schools have become a pipeline between our EPP and the high school community, and more importantly, have created pathways to college and into the teaching profession, as graduates who study elsewhere still bring with them the college credits, wisdom and knowledge gained during dual enrollment classes. The University has created structures whereby dual enrollment graduates can earn automatic university admission and has developed a streamlined admissions process for dual enrollment course completers. We also offer physical and virtual information sessions and campus tours that embed our dual enrollments students in our campus community and create a community that seeks to extend students’ self-efficacy and sense of belonging in college and at our EPP.
The benefits of expanded dual enrollment opportunities further our desire to diversify the teacher candidate pool at our College of Education and mark an important set of structural and pedagogical changes: the creation and implementation of an intentional design to introduce future teachers earlier to the content and knowledge needed to meet state and EPP requirements prior to when they are needed. Building on the knowledge that our NIC and NIS have generated at our EPP is a growing sense of urgency to begin sooner when it comes to preparing our students, particularly our BLM students, to pursue teacher licensure. Our NIC and our implementation of expanded dual enrollment efforts are further leading to an EPP epiphany. Our College of Education has a long history of support and encouragement of students with a high quality, rigorous curriculum; the shift is in who and when a student becomes one of ours. The answer needed, is, earlier than previously thought.
David A. Fuentes is associate professor, Department of Teacher Education Prek-12, William Paterson University. Amy Ginsberg is dean, College of Education, William Paterson University