IDRA Newsletter - May 2005
Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., and Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D.
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the number of Latino youth in the United States increases, there is a
critical shortage of teachers who are certified and qualified to teach
students, both in bilingual programs and in English as a second
language (ESL) programs. The National Center for Education Statistics
reports that one-third of teachers lack college preparation in the main
subject areas they teach, and even fewer have preparation in their
subject areas using ESL techniques.
As a result, less than half of the country’s 3.8
million children who are learning English are being served in bilingual
or ESL programs. And even fewer are enrolled in well-designed,
well-implemented programs taught by certified teachers who speak their
language. Not surprisingly, high poverty schools suffer the greatest
This action agenda offers insights and recommendations
gathered from IDRA’s and other’s research, project experience and best
practice regarding excellence in accelerated programs that prepare
teachers to serve a changing student body. This article addresses
changes needed at the institutional levels of K-12 and higher education
as well as ongoing professional development and evaluation to bring
positive practice to scale in high-needs communities.
An Action Agenda
quality of teachers placed in classrooms has a profound effect on the
economy and quality of life for all the nation’s citizens. Colleges and
universities have a pivotal role to play in the teacher preparation
process and in engaging their local communities in this agenda. The
most important action to be taken is to move the preparation of
teachers to the forefront of the professional and institutional agendas
in higher education.
Colleges and universities cannot act alone in solving
the shortage of qualified teachers. Communities, K-12 schools,
policymakers and others can take an active role that will result in
identifying and supporting excellent teacher preparation programs for
bilingual and bicultural teachers.
Colleges and universities also have a key role to play
as conveners for a broader dialogue among key stakeholders. Acting
together, they can create a critical mass of institutions committed to
excellence in education, within states and across regions, particularly
in Latino hyper-growth states where populations of English language
learners are doubling or tripling in numbers.
Ultimately, college presidents, deans of education,
faculty members and teachers themselves can outline agendas, define the
issues, engage in research to inform, and recommend policies internal
and external to their institutions, set priorities, create partnerships
beyond the campus boundaries, and call for action that will lead to
positive change. The following action steps are offered for discussion
and action that can help in creating a critical mass of colleges and
universities, schools, communities and opinion leaders committed to
quality bilingual teacher preparation.
Action Steps for Effective Bilingual Teacher Preparation
should adopt “Fitness to Teach” criteria for pre-identifying
candidates. Each prospective participant would submit letters of
recommendation from former employers and fill out a questionnaire that
shows their fitness to teach. The fitness-to-teach criteria address
personal qualities that are essential in a successful teacher.
Along with the “fitness to teach” criteria crafted by
IDRA, the research-based test from Dr. Haberman, distinguished
professor, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, determines if a
candidate has the ideology of a Star teacher described in his research.
They are as follows:
predicts the propensity to work with children who present learning and
behavioral problems on a daily basis without giving up on them for the
full 180 day work year.
- Organization and Planning refers to how and why Star teachers plan as well as their ability to manage complex classroom organizations.
- Values student learning predicts the degree to which the responses reflect a willingness to make student learning the teacher’s highest priority.
- Theory to Practice
predicts the respondent’s ability to see the practical implications of
generalizations as well as the concepts reflected by specific practices.
- At-Risk Students predicts the likelihood that the respondent will be able to connect with and teach students of all backgrounds and levels.
- Approach to Students predicts the way the respondent will attempt to relate to students and the likelihood this approach will be effective.
- Survive in Bureaucracy predicts the likelihood that the respondent will be able to function as a teacher in a large, depersonalized organization.
- Explains Teacher Success
deals with the criteria the respondent uses to determine teaching
success and whether these are relevant to teachers in poverty schools.
- Explains Student Success
deals with the criteria the respondent uses to determine students’
success and whether these are relevant to students in poverty schools.
- Fallibility refers to how the teacher plans to deal with mistakes in the classroom.
See the following web site for more information: Online Teacher Pre-screener http://www.habermanfoundation.org.
Colleges and universities should improve the transfer and recruitment process between institutions.
Since many teacher candidates begin in one institution and transfer,
articles of articulation between institutions that enable students to
move smoothly between institutions should be clear and strong.
Ultimately, if colleges and universities can work together to
strategically identify candidate pools and establish strong
cross-border and intra-state linkages, the quality of our teachers will
of higher education need to be committed to maintaining cutting edge,
relevant and recent content and pedagogy that reflects a multicultural
perspective and draws upon resources within communities. Being
mindful to individual student needs is foremost, while maintaining a
balance between depth and rigor, as well as length of preparation for
Field-Based Course Emphasis
preparation work should include a combination of university-based
courses, field-based courses and a teacher-enhancement program designed
to prepare participants to address school-specific issues and concerns
that impact the quality of education provided to all students,
particularly minority and low-income students. Field-based courses are
those courses in which the primary activity is performance of some
professional teacher activities by the university student who is
interacting with master teachers, as well as with university faculty
members in a school-related setting. These courses must include more
than observation within a classroom; they must include classroom
practice under the direction of a master teacher and team teaching with
a master teacher.
and universities must ensure that multi-level support systems are in
place to monitor and mentor quality teachers throughout and beyond the
certification process. Coursework should be specialized to
provide support for retention and excellence in the classroom. Special
needs, such as English proficiency and socio-cultural elements of the
U.S. system need to be addressed throughout coursework.
At the same time, schools of education can work toward
dispelling negative myths about teachers certified in other countries.
Some examples of this support are school-level new teacher support,
including mentoring and ongoing professional development interfaced
with existing school efforts, Pláticas for new teachers on
key educational topics, university supervision, tutoring and buddy
systems for course completion, academic advisement and test preparation
and English language development for foreign-educated professionals.
of higher education should place the teacher preparation agenda at the
center of their institutions within a common vision that includes a
well-integrated curriculum from multiple departments. Schools of
education should not bear the sole responsibility for teacher
preparation. The goal should be to move teacher education beyond a
single department and raise it to the center of concern for shared
accountability. Other key areas, such as arts and sciences can
contribute greatly to the preparation of teachers and engagement with
the broader community.
The commitment by presidents and boards must be in
place to create a vision of excellent bilingual and bicultural teacher
preparation that meaningfully engages communities and fosters
cross-institutional communications. This commitment ensures
sustainability and promotes positive bicultural and bilingual role
models reflected among the faculty.
K-12 Placements and Internships
should work with local schools and communities to identify placements
early by developing a personal relationship with the receiving K-12
school as well as at the district-level human resources and bilingual
education departments. Positive ongoing communication among
schools and universities helps to foster positive internship
experiences that set the stage for permanent placement afterwards.
Shared accountability in finding the right “match” between school and
candidate is key, as is incorporating the views of parents and
community to help select, support and place good teachers in high-need
areas. Efforts to promote partnership can help to avoid the blaming
syndrome that can aggravate teacher shortages and it can create a
win-win for schools, teachers and universities.
Engagement through Communication and Dissemination
should engage with other leaders to assess the effectiveness of their
teacher preparation programs, share this information broadly and help
shape public policy. The preparation of excellent teachers is
an agenda for the broader community where much information and
collective action is needed. Information is crucial for parents and
other community members to be meaningfully engaged with their schools
at all levels. Universities need to be visibly engaged and be vocal
spokespersons and leaders who promote community involvement in the
field of education.
An effective approach to replication and scale-up is
to establish partnerships with school districts; secure the
collaboration of other educational organizations and other institutions
of higher education; connect with community; and create efficient and
effective programs. College presidents are respected leaders in their
communities who can help build alliances, act as important framers of
academic as well as public policy, and serve as catalysts for positive
change within their local communities.
While this nation is facing some of the most
challenging changes to date, preparing teachers is an investment in
leadership for the future. We must learn how to partner better, and
recognize and act upon the individual strengths of schools,
communities, state departments of education, universities, intermediate
service providers, employers in the preparation of teachers, and
teachers themselves. Creating and sustaining stronger programs of
continuing education, recruitment and support for teachers will help to
attract and keep leaders committed to joint action that ensures access
and excellence in education for all children.
Cantú, L. “Binational Collaboration Prepares New Teachers,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, February 2002).
Cortez, A. “Teacher Shortages – Implications for Reform and Achievement for All Students,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, August 2001).
Haberman, M. “Star Teacher: On-Line Prescreener,” http://www.habermanfoundation.org.
Montemayor, A.M. “Retaining an Ethnically Diverse Teaching Force,” Teacher Education and Practice: The Journal of the Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (1990-91) 6(2), pp. 53-62.
Rodríguez, R.G. “The Power of Partnerships: How Alianza is Reshaping Bilingual Teacher Preparation,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, May 2003).
Solís, A. “The Role of Mentoring in Teacher Quality and Retention,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, June-July 2004).
G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., is the director of the IDRA Division of Community
and Public Engagement. Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D., is the director of
the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to them via e-mail at