Teacher preparation programs still have a way to go

Written by: Stephanie Perez-Carrillo
Date Posted: March 1, 2019

A new report finds that elementary teacher candidates of color fail their subject area licensing tests at disproportionately higher rates than their white peers. The report emphasizes the shortcomings of educator preparation programs in providing candidates the content knowledge they need for the exam and the classroom.

Among prospective elementary educators, only 38 percent of black teacher candidates and 57 percent of Hispanic teacher candidates passed the most widely used elementary content licensing test after multiple attempts, compared to 75 percent of white candidates. The report notes that if the pass rate for black and Hispanic teacher candidates were comparable to white candidates, the diversity of the new teaching pool would increase by half.

Passing the multi-faceted elementary content exam represents one challenge. But perhaps the biggest problem is that only a small percentage of teacher preparation programs require courses that ensure candidates gain foundational knowledge across several topics, including science and mathematics. In many instances the courses required are listed, but include a wide range of other course options, leaving it up to the candidate to decide what to take.

These two problems present a challenge for teachers of color desiring to enter and stay in the workforce. In Colorado, just 9 percent of public and private school teachers identified as either black, Hispanic or Asian compared to 88 percent who identified as white according to the teacher shortage report.

We know that teachers are one of the most important factors for student success. Research from the Institute of Labor Economics showsthat black students who had a black teacher between third and fifth grades, were significantly less likely to later drop out of high school. Both boys and girls were more likely to attend college according to the same study; yet Colorado’s teacher workforce does not currently reflect the student population it serves In 2017, 34 percent of Colorado students were Latino, while only 8 percent of teachers identified as Latino according to state education department data. Similarly, 5 percent of Colorado students were black, but only 2 percent of teachers identified as black. By comparison, 53 percent of students in the state were white, but white teachers represented 88 percent of the teacher workforce.

As the population of students of color increases, it is important for the state to realize its role in preparing teachers of color for the workforce. It is incumbent upon teacher preparation programs to change how they are preparing and training teachers of color. Having teachers of color in the classroom, who represent diverse cultures and backgrounds benefits all students, and it provides kids with the chance to see what’s possible as they consider their future careers

Stephanie Perez-Carrillo

About Stephanie Perez-Carrillo

Stephanie works as a Policy Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, she worked as a Public Policy Fellow at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado – where she found her love and passion for policy work. Before diving into the policy world, Stephanie served as a Teach for America Corps Member in South Carolina, teaching high school and middle school math. Early on while obtaining her degree in Marketing from Florida International University, she worked in health care as a Patient Advocate and Unit Secretary. When she is not working, you can typically find her at a coffee shop, hanging out with friends, or engaging in some type of outdoor activity.