Teacher Education Preparation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Community-Based Examination

Teacher Education Preparation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Community-Based Examination

Patrice W. Glenn Jones, Elizabeth K. Davenport
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1181-7.ch007
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Teacher education preparation programs provide the nation with its teachers. Education major and teacher shortages have been recorded and demonstrate a potential deficit between the number of American students and certified teachers, particularly with regard to Black American students and teachers. A further deficiency is noted among Black American teacher candidates who attend historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Thus, this chapter (1) identifies the historical evolution of African American teachers, (2) examines the role of teacher education preparation programs at historically Black colleges and universities, and (3) highlights the significance of community-based strategies to improve student interest in HBCU teacher education preparation programs.
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For those who are not immediately familiar with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the communal culture dominant on many of their campuses, the legitimacy of these institutions often feels like a novelty worthy of distant study and cursory celebration, if only during the month of February. Otherwise, the germaneness of these institutions is questioned. Some assert that poor resources at HBCUs undermine the educational quality for students, while others contend that these institutions have outlived their usefulness in today's society (Fleming, 1985; Gamm, 2011). The relevance and viability of HBCUs are further queried when incidents of fiscal mismanagement and misbehavior adorn regional headlines. Ultimately, no educational institution –HBCU or traditionally White –is without incident, which is logical considering the flawed nature of human beings. However, for HBCU stakeholders, the implications of human error carry haughty outcomes that negatively impact the unstable reputations of and enrollment at these historic institutions. Devoid of scandal, enrollment at HBCUs, particularly among college of education majors, has suffered at the undergraduate level. These struggles coincide with national declines in teacher education preparation (TEP) enrollees. But for African Americans teacher candidates, whose role in educating African American students is critical, these decreases continue to negatively impact African American communities.

Defined by both their establishment dates—prior to 1964—and common purpose—to educate descendants of African slaves (i.e., African Americans) (U.S. Department of Education, 1991), HBCUs, for many African Americans, were the most consistent vehicles for equality in the pursuit of education. The first HBCU was established in 1837, primarily to provide elementary and secondary education to African Americans students, and by 1896, following the second Morrill Land Grant and in the same year of the Plessy v Ferguson ruling, over 50 HBCUs had been established. These institutions were primarily located in the southeast. By 1953, more than 75,000 African American students were enrolled in HBCUs (U.S. Department of Education, 1991).

From 1976 to 2017, African American student enrollment at HBCUs increased by 19 percent; however, during this period, the total number of American students enrolled in all degree-granting postsecondary institutions more than doubled (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018b). Though the population has grown significantly since 1976, the limited per capita change in the number of HBCU attendees was impacted by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which afforded African American students the opportunity to enroll in traditionally White institutions (TWIs). Without the restriction to enroll at HBCUS, many African Americans exercised their new right to enroll at TWIs. Though conceivably positive in the move toward equality, such rights have negatively impacted HBCUs. While the number has faced decline due to closing of institutions, there are currently 100 HBCUs.

HBCUs represent only 3% of all U.S. colleges and universities; however, these institutions account for nearly 17% of the African American bachelor’s degree recipients (Medina & Allen, 2017). Moreover, a significant percentage of African American professionals attended HBCUs: 40% of Congress members, 40% of engineers, 50% of lawyers, 50% of professors at TWIs, 50% of teachers, and 80% of judges (Medina & Allen, 2017). Thus, few deny the historical significance of these institutions in educating African American students and elevating African American communities. However, these numbers, particularly with regard to African American teachers, are dwindling, and the future of HBCUs threatens to present a drastically converse implication than the past.

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