WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 12, 2015) — Last week, the U.S. Department of Education concluded its request for public comments on proposed regulations for teacher preparation programs. SEARAC submitted recommendations for teacher preparation programs to better meet the needs of our diverse students, especially Southeast Asian American (SEAA) students.
Our nation needs to recognize that student demographics are changing. For the first time in United States history, the majority of students in public schools are students of color. In addition, 4.5 million students nationwide participate in English Language Learner programs, including significant numbers of SEAA students. Sixty-four percent of Asian American students speak a language other than English at home, and 17 percent of Asian American students “speak English with difficulty,” a rate comparable to their Hispanic peers[i].
Across the country, our teacher preparation programs are not producing a workforce that is responsive to our changing student demographics. While 3 percent of U.S. students are Asian American or Pacific Islander, only 1 percent of teachers are Asian American. As long as the diversity of the teacher workforce does not match the diversity of the students, teacher preparation programs must address cultural competency in a more intentional and explicit manner. Every teacher preparation program should prepare teachers to work in educational settings that include English language learners, students with disabilities, and students of color.
Our recommendations include:
• Requiring “cultural competency” training in all teacher preparation programs;
• Expanding stakeholder meetings for assessing and reporting on each program to include advocates for students of color, civil rights organizations, and Native American tribes;
• Reporting the effectiveness of individual teacher preparation programs within a state rather than reporting a combined rating for all teacher preparation programs; and
• Including outcomes of enrolled teacher-candidates by demographic data within teacher preparation program reports.
These are changes that would further strengthen teacher preparation programs to ensure that all students, especially our most vulnerable students, have access to highly qualified and prepared teachers throughout their education careers. SEARAC hopes the U.S. Department of Education will incorporate our recommendations, as teachers remain the single most important school-based influence determining the academic success of a student.
To address the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, it is essential that our teachers are culturally competent. Policymakers must also be intentional in reaching out to advocates and community members with limited English proficiency, who are often underrepresented in decision-making meetings, to participate in stakeholder meetings about teacher preparation programs.
Every child deserves a highly qualified and highly effective teacher, and we look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education and other public education stakeholders towards achieving that goal.
Read SEARAC’s complete public comment here.