Effects of Racial and Ethnic Matching of Teacher Candidates of Color With Mentors

Effects of Racial and Ethnic Matching of Teacher Candidates of Color With Mentors

Kevin Levay, Carrianne Scheib, Tabitha Grossman
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3848-0.ch006
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This chapter reviews the limitations of current teacher preparation programs to support the professional development and placement of teachers of color and their resulting underrepresentation relative to the racial makeup of the U.S. student population. The authors discuss how teacher residency programs can more effectively support the development and preparation of teachers of color through their most defining feature: the pairing of residents with mentor teachers for a rigorous year-long clinical experience. The authors examine how sharing a racial identity with mentors has statistically significant effects on mentors' perceptions of residents' preparedness to teach and residents' satisfaction with their programs. The authors highlight how teacher preparation programs, and residencies specifically, might better support the development and preparation of teachers of color through strategic design of teacher candidates' clinical experiences. They also posit ways in which preparation programs can disrupt ongoing racism and racial inequities in teacher preparation.
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Teacher preparation in the United States, as it currently exists, simply does not produce a teacher workforce that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the nation’s student population. Recent data show that while about half of all U.S. students are individuals of color, just 21% of teachers are people of color (U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017; 2019). This racial disproportionality permeates across states, as well, with people of color making up a larger proportion of students than teachers in every state (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). A relative lack of racial and ethnic diversity among teachers is a national issue (U.S. Department of Education, 2016) and historical trend partly stemming from teacher preparation programs that are not designed nor knowledgeable in recruiting, preparing, and retaining teachers of color (Sleeter, 2017). Teacher residencies, however, are uniquely designed (e.g., cohort model, mentorship, etc.) to strengthen the number and impact of teachers of color to address this racial disproportion in the U.S.

Whiteness and White Supremacy in Teacher Preparation

A large body of research drawing on Critical Race Theory (CRT) shows how teacher preparation programs function in ways that perpetuate White supremacy, marginalizing and failing to effectively support the development of teachers of color and helps to explain how the field and the experiences of teachers of color are racialized, particularly preservice teachers (Brown, 2014; Gay, 2002; Hayes and Juarez, 2011; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Larkin et al., 2016; Kohli, 2009; Rodriguez-Mojica et al., 2020; Sleeter, 2017). CRT is based upon the premise that race and racism are endemic in the United States and the U.S. education system (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Traditional teacher preparation, including faculty, course content, and partnerships with universities, remains centered in and reproduces Whiteness by adopting colorblindness in the recruitment, retention, and induction of teacher candidates (Brown, 2014; Gay, 2002; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Plachowski, 2019; Rodriguez-Mojica et al., 2020; Sleeter, 2017; Solórzano & Yasso, 2002). Ultimately, preparation programs largely perpetuate and operate in a culture of Whiteness; this structure is not responsive to the needs of all teacher candidates, thereby marginalizing and isolating teachers of color and perpetuating opportunity gaps for students of color (Brown, 2014; Sleeter, 2017). One implication of this premise is that the U.S. teacher education system must be redesigned to produce a more racially and ethnically diverse teacher workforce that can meet the academic and social-emotional needs of historically marginalized students (Sleeter, 2017).

Using CRT as a theoretical foundation, this study aims to disrupt Whiteness and colorblindness in teacher preparation by centering the experiences of teacher candidates of color and identifying how teacher preparation programs can better support teachers of color, Expanding upon research showing that teacher residency programs effectively recruit and prepare diverse teacher candidates (Carver-Thomas, 2018), that educator relationships with preservice teachers are critical for effective teacher preparation (Plachowski, 2019), and that racial and ethnic matching positively impacts students of color (Redding, 2019), this study explores the impact of sharing a racial or ethnic background with mentor teachers on the preparation and experiences of residents of color.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mentor Teacher: Teacher residency programs recruit, select, and train mentor teachers to work with residents for an entire school year. A mentor is provided a stipend and professional development opportunities and coaches the resident throughout the clinical experience, providing a gradual release of responsibility.

Teacher Residency Program: A teacher residency program is typically a partnership across a school district or charter management organization, an institute of higher education, and/or a nonprofit organization that aims to prepare teacher candidates, or residents, by applying the medical residency model to teacher preparation, namely, teacher residents would spend a year in a classroom with a mentor teacher while receiving aligned coursework. Only upon successful completion of the program, would they receive their licensure or certification to teach.

Training Site: An effective residency year equips residents with extensive learning and practicing opportunities in a training site where the school leadership understands and is committed to the vision, mission, and impact goals of the residency program. Training sites are selected because they provide residents an optimal, inclusive environment to support their learning. Ideal training sites are staffed with a cadre of outstanding teachers to act as mentors so that residencies can house cohorts of mentor-resident pairs in order to provide increased opportunities for instructional, emotional, social, and other professional support, particularly for residents from historically marginalized groups.

Racial/Ethnic Matching: For the purposes of this research, mentor and resident pairs were identified based upon sharing at least one racial or ethnic identity. Mentors and residents self-identified their racial and ethnic identities in the survey, and if they shared at least one of those identities, they were coded as matching. Mentors and residents may have self-identified as multiple races and/or ethnicity (e.g., Latinx and African American or Black).

High-Priority Resident Practices: Residency programs identify a narrow set of high-priority resident practices and then prepare residents to effectively enact those practices as a teacher of record. High- priority resident practices are identified in partnership with the local school community such that a residency graduate is prepared to teach effectively within that district and meet the needs of students from that community, particularly those from historically marginalized communities. Performance assessments within the residency are aligned to these practices to ensure graduates can effectively enact these practices.

Clinical Experience: Residents (or teacher candidates) enrolled in a residency program typically spend a full school-year apprenticeship observing and co-teaching in a mentor teacher’s classroom, while engaging in aligned coursework and receiving support, coaching, and training from other teacher educators, such as program staff, training site leaders, and course instructors.

Gradual Release of Responsibility: A program’s gradual release of teaching responsibility clearly outlines specific roles and expectations for residents and mentors to support residents in enacting, reflecting, and mastering priority practices. The gradual release aligns with the program’s coursework, matches the arc of the school year, increases in load and complexity over time, and culminates in lead teaching experiences where residents demonstrate mastery of priority practices.

Resident: A resident, or teacher candidate, is recruited, selected, and enrolls in a teacher residency program to engage in a full-year clinical experience, working alongside a mentor teacher while receiving aligned coursework. A resident becomes a graduate of the program by successfully passing all assessments and earning their licensure or certification by the end of the program.

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