I feel like a Hispanic or black teacher would be able to understand the different feelings a Hispanic or black student would be feeling at the time, the way a white teacher can’t. Like Miss S. and all the other teachers [I’ve had], they did a great job for teaching me but I don’t think they could understand being the odd one out — being the different one.Ben, a current TPP student, reflecting on the impact teachers of color can have on students – including other students like him who identify as Hispanic.
Why aren’t people of color entering or staying in the teaching profession, and what can be done about it? An overly white teaching workforce in the US is a longstanding problem (Carver-Thomas, 2018). Several decades of research has upturned numerous systemic factors along the K-16 pipeline that box people of color out of the teaching profession. Some examples include inequitable access to college and career readiness for students in under-resourced schools (Peske & Haycock, 2006; TNTP, 2018) or findings that students of color are less frequently counseled toward careers in education by school staff (Gordon, 2002). Meanwhile, the escalating number and cut scores of standardized assessments required to become credentialed teachers – which are disadvantage minority test takers (Shuls, 2018). Moreover, many people of color want to distance themselves from further harm from an oppressive and unjust system (Gist, White, & Bianco, 2018; Marrun, Plachowski, Mauldin, & Clark, 2021). These findings advance important aspects of an explanatory model for the canonized framing of the ‘teacher diversity problem’. However, a myopic focus on these problems can also “cyclically reproduce knowledge about underachievement” leading to “hopeless notions of certain young Americans” (Harper, 2015, p. 141).
Consider an alternative framing: What knowledge, experiences, self-identified strengths, and networks draw youth of color into the teaching profession? This question frames the current proposed project and represents an invitation to attend to the agency and community cultural wealth (CCW; Yosso, 2005) of youth of color (Milner & Howard, 2013). This framing orients us to view the teaching profession through the eyes of youth of color, and to map their vision of teaching to the ways they see themselves. If pipeline program designers better understand the decision-making processes of youth of color interested in education before high school, they can better attune their recruitment strategies to appeal to these students’ interests and perhaps increase student matriculation into credential-bearing programs. More importantly, they can better identify how whiteness is the ways their programs center the language, culture, and community of dominant groups, and identify places to instead center the CCW of students of color.
Researchers studying teacher education students have demonstrated that practice-based teacher education, which foregrounds learning through practice in authentic contexts, can support novices to develop these high leverage practices and gain efficacy as beginning practitioners (Anthony, Averill, & Drake, 2018; Dutro & Cartun, 2016; Kavanagh & Danielson, 2019; Kavanagh & Rainey, 2017). However, previous research has not integrated practice-based teacher education designs with youth in critical educator pipeline programs. Meanwhile, research on practice-based teacher education has been criticized for over-prioritizing skills-based teaching and backgrounding criticality, identity, and systemic injustice (Kennedy et al., 2016; Philip et al., 2018). Prior research on practice-based teacher education designs typically do not explore how these models can be combined with tenets of critical educator preparation: community role models, youth participatory action research, and critical literacies. Our current project is exploring these intersections of theory and design in order to understand how identity, criticality, and practice co-develop in youth of color interested in teaching.
Our current study is guided by four questions:
- How do students of color connect their knowledge, experiences, strengths, and goals to a potential career in teaching?
- How do students of color narrate their decision to apply for a teaching pathway program?
- What role do invested adults play in the career aspirations and schooling decisions of these youth?
- How can educators use practice-based teacher education models, such as mediated field experiences, to support youth of color to develop some core teaching practices of critical educators?
This project will contribute (1) an emergent evidence-based model that connects students’ community cultural wealth to their perspectives on the teaching profession, (2) an empirically-developed theory of how students’ identity and practice co-develop in a teacher pipeline program, and (3) composite counterstories that illustrate how students marshal their own CCW on their journey to become teachers. These contributions can support efforts of teacher education leaders to center the community cultural wealth of students of color in teacher credentialing programs as well as institutional partnerships and pipeline programs.
We are now seeking interested research assistants who would like to be part of the data collection and analysis team for Summer 2022 and Fall 2022. Find out more by reaching out to us by email!