By Andrés Castro Samayoa, Marybeth Gasman, Alice Ginsberg, and Francisco Ramos
This fall, for the first time, students of color outnumbered their white counterparts in schools across the nation. In light of this shift, recent dialogues in the mainstream media have drawn attention to the rift between an increasingly racially diverse student body and the persistent homogeneity of those who educate them — white female teachers. In 2011-12, 82% of all public school teachers identified as white. Furthermore, there is little evidence to suggest that this representation will change soon since most of those (79%) who entered the teaching profession in the same year also identified as white.
A unique group of colleges and universities — collectively identified as Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) — have the potential to serve as the national stewards in future interventions and conversations about the teaching workforce’s demographics.
MSIs awarded 11,588 of the 108,054 bachelor’s degrees in education in 2011-12. Though claiming that 1 in 10 of all undergraduate education degrees hail from an MSI is a modest assertion, a closer look at the data will demonstrate that MSIs play a critical role in conferring education degrees to students of color. In effect, at the undergraduate level, MSIs account for:
• 53.5% of all degrees conferred to Hispanics;
• 53.8% awarded to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders;
• 31.4% to blacks and African-Americans; and
• 34.9% for Asian Americans.
Simply stated, MSIs play a substantial role in educating students of color with career aspirations in the K-12 sector. Notably, these education degrees are conferred by only 36% (n=192) of all MSIs. Hispanic-Serving Institutions, in particular, stand out as the largest producers of degrees — accounting for 6,230 of the 11,588 (51%) degrees awarded.
Supporting institutions that produce the majority of prospective educators of color is a critical issue if we truly want to address the diversity of our nation’s teachers. Additionally, it is easy to downplay the effectiveness and importance of MSIs by using narrowly defined metrics to “evaluate” them. Consider, for example, the National Council on Teacher Quality’s recent attempt to assess teacher education programs through questionable methodologies, faulty analysis, and irreproducible findings. Their work has generated damaging rankings for MSIs. Their metrics fail to account for the critical role that MSIs and their students play in addressing the rapidly changing demographics of this country’s K-12 student population. In this regard, MSIs’ teacher education programs are leading the way, and it is time for others to take note.
This post is part of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions’ Series on Teacher Education