Toward Diversity Standards in Teacher Preparation:
A Report from the USM Task Force on Diversity in Teacher Education

 

Introduction

Much has been written about the need to educate pre-service teachers around issues of diversity. This need is becoming increasingly urgent in light of current demographic trends; as the U.S. becomes more diverse, teachers and teacher candidates remain overwhelmingly white, female and middle-class (Bennett deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999; Gay, 1997; Sleeter, 1993). Teacher educators are faced with the task of diversifying the pool of teacher candidates while supporting all pre-service teachers to understand and surmount the myriad challenges they will face in assuring educational excellence and equity for all students. With the exception of the general guidelines developed by NCATE for units seeking accreditation, there are no national standards driving how teacher preparation units should go about this critical work (Jones & Black, 1995).

The following is a report on the work of the University System of Maryland Task Force on Diversity in Teacher Education. Convened in 1999, the Task Force is charged with the responsibility of providing leadership to Maryland schools, colleges and departments of education (SCDEs) on issues of diversity, multiculturalism, and urban education in teacher preparation. Comprised of Prek-16 teachers and State personnel, the Task Force has met regularly over the past three years to address diversity concerns in the areas of curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment, admissions, field experiences, mentoring, and faculty and student demographics for institutions of higher education (IHEs). The primary goal of the Task Force is the development of program standards for Maryland SCDEs that reflect national and state diversity requirements for teacher preparation. This report will discuss the Task Force draft recommendations and their implications for teacher educators.

History and Purpose of the USM Diversity Task Force

The State of Maryland has been grappling with how to address persistent educational inequalities and achievement discrepancies among public school students. In a state where Whites represented over 68% of the total population in 1996, minority enrollment in public schools was growing at a rate more than twice that of Whites as of the 1999-2000 academic year (MAEC citing MSDE, 2000). At this time, minorities represented more than 43% of the total number of public school students, and over 25% of all public school students qualified for free and reduced meals in the 1997-98 school year. And reflecting a national trend, the overwhelming majority of pre-service teachers in the State of Maryland are white and female (AACTE). Clearly, there is an established need to improve the quality of instruction for poor and minority students, as well as to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in the college pipeline and teaching profession.

The USM Task Force on Diversity in Teacher Education is responsible for carrying out the recommendations set forth in the document authored by the Council of Deans and Directors of Teacher Education titled "Partnerships for Teacher Education: Report of the University System of Maryland Teacher Education Task Force" (1998). The Partnerships document was developed in response to the proposals for teacher education set forth in the "Redesign", or the "Maryland Higher Education Commission Task Force Report on Teacher Education" (1995), the Maryland Partnership for Teaching and Learning (K-16) initiative, and the National Commission on Teaching for America's Future.

IHEs in the system were asked by the Regents and the Council of Deans and Directors to develop standards and performance assessments in mathematics, science, technology, diversity, professional development experiences, reading, inclusion, and communication skills. The Diversity Task Force, based at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was organized in response to this call. The Task Force participants include representatives from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), two public school systems, and five universities. As mentioned above, the Diversity Task Force was asked to address diversity, multiculturalism, and urban education issues for teacher educators in the areas of curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment, admissions, field experiences, mentoring, and faculty and student demographics for IHEs. One of the group's first tasks was to operationalize the terms "diversity and multiculturalism," our definitions of which follow:

Diversity: including, but not limited to, the characteristics of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, region, socioeconomic status, age and disability. Within the context of teacher preparation programs, addressing diversity refers to the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to teach diverse populations effectively and equitably.

Multiculturalism: Multiculturalism refers to culturally and linguistically diverse social settings. Teacher education within a multicultural society prepares pre- and in-service teachers to be socially active and to educate their students to live, learn, interact, and work creatively and responsibly in a diverse, interdependent, global world.

The term diversity is our guiding concept as it simultaneously frames concerns specific to multicultural and urban educational settings. Although "ability" is incorporated as an important dimension of diversity and appears in our definition above, a separate Task Force was assigned to deal with special needs students who fall under the category of "inclusion."

The Draft Standards for Diversity in Teacher Preparation developed by the Task Force address three general areas: Prek-12 and University Partnerships; Contextually Responsive Teaching; and Minority Recruitment and Retention of Minority Students and Faculty. Contextually responsive teaching is conceptualized broadly to refer to teaching in diverse settings. The outcomes and indicators of the Draft Standards reflect the NCATE 2000 diversity standards, the general INTASC (Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium) standards, as well as the guidelines and core competencies established by the Maryland State Education That is Multicultural Advisory Council. Furthermore, the work of the Task Force was informed by many sources, including the groundbreaking work on multicultural/diversity outcomes and performance assessments underway by Emporia State University's Teacher College.

Discussion of Research

Research suggests that to effectively prepare teacher candidates to work in diverse settings, teacher preparation programs must move beyond traditional multiculturalist approaches in education which tend to gloss over questions of privilege and oppression in favor of more benign analyses of diversity (Grant, 1994; Roman, 1993). Teacher candidates should have opportunities to reflect upon their relative statuses and their personal experiences within the racial, class, and gender hierarchies of the U.S., as well as a clear sense of their origins (Dilg, 1999). These social hierarchies inform broader schooling practices and policies (tracking, standardized assessment, etc.), which ultimately may work against the goal educational equality (Nieto, 2000). Understanding the systemic nature of educational inequalities is especially important for teachers from dominant ethnoracial and socioeconomic backgrounds, for whom the attendant privileges of culture, color, and class tend to be rendered invisible.

Providing a solid knowledge-base on the nature of cultural and linguistic discontinuities in schools is critical if new teachers are to develop appropriate strategies for identifying and surmounting the complex challenges they will face in real-life settings (Au & Kawakami, 1994; Garcia, 1996; Nieto 2000). Pre-service teachers must also realize how the ethnocultural backgrounds and identities of all members of the school community profoundly impact perceptions of education, as well as expectations and interpersonal relationships (Bennett deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999; Dilg, 1999). Still, teacher preparation programs cannot rely on theory and reflection alone. A strong theoretical foundation must be integrated with extended experiences in diverse educational settings so pre-service teachers can apply their knowledge of how dimensions of diversity (culture, language, etc.) influence day to day life in schools. Finally, building partnerships with diverse school populations, as well as cultivating a diverse teacher education faculty, are critical for the successful preparation of teachers and the on-going recruitment of new teachers of color (Boyer & Batiste, 1996; Haberman, 1996).

The USM Draft Standards for Diversity in Teacher Preparation represent an initial step toward providing SCDEs with concise guidelines for evaluating their curricula and programs in relation to issues of diversity, multiculturalism and urban education. This UMBC-sponsored web-site was developed to distribute our work to interested teacher educators, solicit feedback on the Draft Standards, and provide a means for visitors to submit and share their ideas for effective practices via the site's database. We hope that the Draft Standards will help forward the work of schools, colleges, and departments of education toward the goal of preparing new teachers who contribute to the educational achievement and equity of all students.

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Dr. Kendra Wallace
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
ACIV Building, Office 407
Phone: 410-455-6570
Email:kendraw@umbc.edu