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Home Blogs It Takes A Village: Diversifying the Educator Pipeline With Historically Black Colleges & Universities

It Takes A Village: Diversifying the Educator Pipeline With Historically Black Colleges & Universities

Southeast | June 27, 2023

"The challenge of creating a robust pipeline for increasing minority teachers is not the challenge of a single institution. Clearly, this is a 'village' effort. REL Southeast's expertise and guidance with this initiative combine to make it the keystone in ensuring the stability of this critically important collaboration."

Dr. Donzell Lee, Interim President of Tougaloo College and REL Southeast Governing Board

Since 2017, the REL Southeast has been engaged in research-practice partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through the work of the Post-Secondary Success at HBCUs Partnerships The partnership has brought together HBCUs (and other educational stakeholders) within and across states to increase the use of research and culturally responsive, evidence-based strategies to enhance campus environments and improve student outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions and in post-secondary settings. Given the demographic make-up of the student populations at these institutions, HBCUs are uniquely situated to prepare teachers to help diversify the teacher workforce. Building upon our strategic, equity focused model for institutional partnering and the historical foundations of HBCUs, in this REL cycle through the newly named, Diversifying the Educator Pipeline with HBCUs Partnership we are now taking a closer look at how the partnership might help to inform and enhance the educator pipeline in K-12 settings.

Historically, the educator workforce does not mirror the ethnic or cultural diversity of our nation's students (REL Southwest, 2019). In 2019, it was reported that students of color made up almost half of the student population in public schools in the United States, while teachers of color make up only 19 percent of the teacher workforce (REL Northeast and Islands, 2021). Evidence suggests that students of color have improved outcomes when taught by and exposed to teachers of their same race, but not enough students have access to them. For example, Black students with at least one Black teacher in grades K-3 are 13 percent more likely to graduate and 19 percent more likely to enroll in college than their same-race-same-school peers (Chin et al., 2020; Gershenson et al., 2016; Gershenson et al., 2018; Lindsey & Hart, 2017; Starck et al., 2020). However, Black students made up about 15 percent of the public-school students in the U.S., while only 7 percent of teachers were Black (REL Northeast & Islands, 2021).

Researchers have used the concept of a "leaky pipeline" to describe the reduction of teacher workforce diversity across several key critical points, (a) postsecondary enrollment, (b) enrollment in education programs, (c) postsecondary completion, (d) entering the workforce, and (e) teacher retention (Wilson & Kelly, 2002). Using data from the United States Department of Education, Wilson and Kelly (2016) illustrated how the teacher workforce pipeline gradually loses people of color at these critical points. Ongoing efforts and an increased understanding of promising strategies to increase the diversity of the educator workforce at different critical points are needed. The purpose of Diversifying the Educator Pipeline with HBCUs Partnership is to work with HBCUs, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDOE), and districts in Mississippi through technical and research support activities to attract, recruit, prepare, develop, support, and retain culturally responsive and highly effective educators. Specifically, the goal of the partnership activities is to inform pre-service and in-service initiatives which span critical points of the pipeline to enhance and diversify the educator pipeline and workforce. For example, partnership members will engage in technical support and research activities that will inform initiatives being conducted at the institutional level at HBCUs, as well as the state and district levels.

Building on the Post-Secondary Success at HBCUs Model for Institutional Partnering

Partnering with six HBCUs in the southeastern region, the Post-Secondary Success at HBCUs Partnership focused on enhancing knowledge and use of culturally responsive, evidence-based strategies to inform institutional innovation and improvements, enhance teaching and learning, and improve student retention and graduation rates at partnering institutions. Based on the continuing needs of partnership members, as well as national interest in diversifying the teacher workforce, institutional partners identified efforts to recruit and retain effective, culturally responsive educators as a high leverage need in 2020. In turn, the partnership prioritized developing and implementing successful pipelines for undergraduate students at HBCUs into the education profession forming the Diversifying the Educator Pipeline with HBCUs Partnership.

Building on the Historical Mission of HBCUs

Partnering with university teacher preparation programs that primarily serve students of color has been proposed as a research-based recommendation for developing a teacher workforce that reflects diverse student populations (REL Southwest, 2019). HBCUs have a historical mission and commitment to serving students from under-represented groups and underserved populations, including under-represented racial/ethnic students, traditionally underprepared students, and students growing up in poverty and low-income households.

There are just over 100 HBCUs in the United States—with the majority located in the Southeast—serving more than 300,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students (USDOE, 2017). The majority of HBCUs were founded as teachers' colleges and continue to be committed to increasing the number of Black teachers. Therefore, HBCUs are critical partners in ensuring that culturally and linguistically diverse students, particularly Black students, have access to effective teachers with both shared experiences and expertise in implementing evidence-based practices to support diverse learners (Walker, 2021; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 2009; Lawrence et al., 2020).

HBCUs in Mississippi, in collaboration with the REL Southeast, formed the Diversifying Educator Pipeline with HBCUs

The Diversifying the Educator Pipeline with HCBUs Partnership will begin by focusing on educator pipelines in Mississippi, where a number of state initiatives have been implemented to prepare a diverse teacher workforce. Among these initiatives are programs to "grow their own," partnering with higher education institutions to provide state-wide development opportunities to enhance the cultural competence of faculty and pre-service teachers, and leveraging local, regional, and national resources to support initiatives (Male Educators of Color Initiative) and continuous improvement (MDOE, 2019). There has been a particular focus on attracting, preparing, licensing, hiring, supporting, and retaining minority teachers (MDOE, 2019).

The Diversifying the Educator Pipeline with HBCUs Partnership consists of administrators and faculty from HBCUs and administrators and staff from state and local educational agencies, primarily located in Mississippi. Jackson State University (JSU), which is federally designated as Mississippi's urban university and has the largest HBCU-situated teacher education program in the state, serves as the primary institutional partner for training and coaching activities. In addition to pre-service institutional initiatives, JSU has worked closely with MDOE to leverage state initiatives to prepare teachers. MDOE Offices of Educator Talent Acquisition, Teaching and Leading, and Educator Preparation serve as supporting and/or affiliate partners. Partners from primary feeder districts (for example, Vicksburg-Warren School District and Jackson State Public Schools) also serve as supporting and/or affiliate partners. Working with partners at the state, district, HBCUs, and schools in Mississippi this partnership provides an opportunity to promote collaboration and coordination among these entities to increase the understanding of the needs, resources, and strategies to support HBCUs in further increasing student enrollment and completion of their teacher preparation programs. Ultimately, the partnerships are designed to leverage individual and collective efforts of these entities to enhance the teacher pipeline and diversify the educator workforce in Mississippi.

The partnership also offers an opportunity to collaborate the with the Region 7 Comprehensive Center, which has projects designed to support MDOE in ensuring equitable access to high-quality teachers and addressing disparities through the Mississippi Professional Growth System. Other partnering entities, such as the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students (NIHUS), which was co-founded by partners at Alcorn State University, will also remain a key partner for broader dissemination. NIHUS brings the expertise of HBCUs, Tribal Colleges, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other educational partners together under one banner and with a united purpose. With more than 50 active participants from California to New Hampshire and Louisiana to Minnesota, NIHUS includes historically-underserved students and their mentors drawn from the ranks of college presidents and administrators, pre-K through 12 educators, civil rights leaders, researchers, and nonprofit managers from across the nation all committed to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

What's to come?

In fall 2023, REL Southeast will convene partners for the first of a series of activities designed to increase their knowledge of initiatives being implemented at the state, district, and institutional levels to grow the teacher pipeline. Using resources developed across the REL program, participants will also learn about evidence-based strategies to inform their decision-making and the implementation of initiatives to grow the pipeline at different points of the process. The inclusion of stakeholders at varying levels (state, district, institutions) and "touch points" (that is, pre-service, in-service) for growing the teacher pipeline provides promise to increase the understanding and enhance the implementation of evidence-based strategies to diversify the teacher workforce at key points of the pipeline.

"When children are exposed to a diverse teaching workforce, that diverse representation can serve as a source of validation and a gateway to a world of possibilities thought to be beyond their reach because of who they uniquely are."

Ivan Banks, Ed.D. (COO) and Anthony Johnson, Ed.D. (CEO) Educational Development & Support Services, LLC

Ivan is also the Associate Provost and Dean of the School of Education at Alcorn State University, retired. Anthony is also the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morris Brown College, retired. Both are NIHUS Partners.


La’Tara Osborne-Lampkin

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