Educator Training

Academic Aptitude and Diversity in Teacher Training Programs Not Conflicting Aims

A new study has found no basis to the idea that drawing top students into teacher education programs will damage program diversity. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), academic aptitude and diversity along ethnic and racial lines are not "conflicting goals," even as 10 colleges and universities have dropped admissions tests for their teacher preparation programs in hopes of increasing the number of Black and Hispanic/Latinx teacher candidates.

The NCTQ reviewed 1,256 elementary teacher prep programs in preparation for the "Program Diversity and Admissions 2021" report, finding that 198 met dual goals: They both drove greater teacher diversity in their communities and maintained "adequate" admission standards.

As the report noted, a diverse teacher workforce benefited all students, especially students of color. According to research cited in the report, "same-race" teachers had a positive effect on student achievement, increased the likelihood of graduating high school and attending college and led to lifelong benefits for students. Similarly, teachers who began as strong students themselves were more likely to be better teachers. As a result, NCTQ asserted, "greater selectivity in admissions to preparation programs provides students with access to the highest quality teachers, helps to raise the status of the teaching profession and supports the push for higher teacher salaries."

The analysis calculated the diversity of each teacher prep program by comparing the diversity of the teacher candidates enrolled in the program with two factors: the diversity of the state teacher workforce and the local community where the program was located. A fifth of programs (261) earned an A or A+ on the program diversity standard. A quarter of programs (317) earned a D or F grade.

Interestingly, rural institutions earned the largest share of A/A+ grades (34%), compared to city institutions (24%) and town (23%); just 8% of suburban institutions garnered a top grade.

While the NCTQ research found that two-thirds of programs reported a more diverse enrollment than the current teacher workforce in their states, the state teacher workforces were generally "far whiter" than the populations of the surrounding communities; 22% of programs matched the diversity found in the community where program graduates were most likely going to teach.

The report offered a number of recommendations on recruiting for a more diverse cohort of teachers:

  • Setting ambitious but achievable diversity goals for enrollment that faculty "own";

  • Teaming up with diverse districts for "grow your own" programs to encourage students of color to join the teaching profession;

  • Partnering with community colleges;

  • Recruiting teacher prospects as early as possible (including in high school); and

  • Providing financial support to encourage enrollment and promote persistence through graduation.

"We know that both teacher diversity and maintaining high academic standards for entry into teacher preparation are critical," said Kate Walsh, NCTQ president, in a statement. "Rather than lower admissions standards in a misplaced belief that it will lead to more diverse enrollment, teacher prep programs have to be intentional and strategic in their efforts to recruit and support aspiring teachers of color, and we are excited to highlight programs that are doing just that."

The full report and an executive summary are openly available on the NCTQ website. A PDF version of the report is also available.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.