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Maher: Duncan Discredits Himself on Ed School Diversity

This is a guest post from Michael Maher [@mj_maher], who works at the NC State College of Education:

ScreenHunter_02 May. 06 17.27Last week at the Education Writers Association (EWA) National Seminar Secretary Arne Duncan stated “Schools of Education show little interest in increasing diversity among teachers.” 

Once again, Mr. Duncan shows either his disdain for teacher preparation programs, his ignorance of the field of teacher preparation, or both.  Is this just another example of the secretary making a bold, albeit factually inaccurate, statement or is there something more?  Perhaps if Mr. Duncan spent a little more time talking with those of us who dedicate our lives to the work of preparing teachers, he might truly begin to understand where our interests lie.

There is no doubt that we need to increase the diversity of America’s teaching force.  Since colleges of education continue to prepare the majority of America’s teachers it is incumbent on us to increase the number of diverse candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs.  The secretary needs to remember, however, that we can’t MAKE people become teachers; they have options.  Lack of diversity is not just an education issue. 

Based on the most recent census approximately 78% of Americans are white and on National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data approximately 60% of college undergraduates are white.

Teacher preparation programs are notably less diverse than college students in general, but closely reflect national demographics at 82% white.  What is missing here is the fact that teaching is not unlike any of the other “service” professions.  In fact, in some instances teacher education is more diverse.  Of American physicians only 6% come from underrepresented minority groups, 86% of dentists are white, approximately 90% of nurses are white (and only 5% male), and 88% of attorneys are white.  This is clearly not only an “education” problem; it appears to be a “professions” problem.

Colleges of education do view this as a serious issue and most work extremely hard to increase the diversity of their candidate pool.  Here at NC State, like many teacher preparation programs, we have developed systematic efforts to increase the diversity of our candidates including specific recruitment events, scholarships, workshops, and a recruiter.  As part of our NCATE accreditation we address a diversity standard and for the UNC General Administration we work toward specific enrollment targets by subject while addressing diversity issues.  This constitutes a deliberate, concentrated effort to address a very real issue.

I think it would do the Secretary well to conduct just a little more investigation before engaging in his empty, and inaccurate, rhetoric.  It’s statements like this, particularly from public officials in positions of authority, that make the work of recruiting diverse candidates that much more difficult.


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I think it might be more of a "highly-skilled professions" problem than a "professions" problem.

There's also some relevant survey data here:


It includes the fun fact that alternative certification routes are significantly less white than traditional routes (70% vs 87%).

Sure, I could see the argument that it's more of a "highly-skilled" professions. Yes, Alternative Programs do tend to be more diverse, our own program is as well, but as I argue here http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/09/alt-cert-vs-traditional-teacher-prep-its-not-that-simple.html teacher from this particular pathway tend to be less effective.

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