Removing Barriers and Increasing Access to High-Quality Teacher Education
At the University of Houston College of Education, we are committed to ending inequities in education. We believe that every student deserves access to a high-quality teacher and that every aspiring teacher deserves access to and support from a high-quality preparation program. To that end, we work intentionally to elevate the quality of our teacher education program and to remove barriers so our teaching candidates graduate ready to teach on day one. We are proud to be located in the most diverse city in the country and strive to produce well-prepared teaching graduates who reflect the demographics of the students they will serve.
The overwhelming majority of our graduates go on to teach in the greater Houston region, where 52% of the public school students are Latino, 20% are White, 18% are Black, 7% are Asian, 2% are two or more races, and less than 1% are American Indian, Pacific Islander or other (Texas Education Agency, 2019-20). The 1,080 students in our teacher education program in fall 2020 reflect similar demographics: 54% Latino, 21% White, 8% Black, 12% Asian and 4% other. Nationwide, the teaching workforce is predominantly white (80%), while the student population is more diverse (49% white, 26% Latino, 15% Black, 5% Asian, and 4% other; U.S. Department of Education). As Houston's demographics foreshadow the future of the United States, the following cornerstones of our teacher preparation program at the University of Houston may serve as guideposts for other programs as we collectively strive to diversify the teaching profession and provide K - 12 students the high-quality education they deserve.
Strong Partnerships with Local School Districts: Our local districts are invaluable partners in the recruitment of students into our program. To that end, we involve district principals, HR officials, and mentor teachers in the design and continuous improvement of our program, giving them confidence to recommend our program to their students, the majority of whom are students of color. Ensuring a sustained, mutually beneficial partnership, we lead a consortium of 35 local school districts called the Houston Area Teacher Center, which involves regular meetings to discuss needs and areas for growth. Through HATC, we host a biannual student teacher conference and job fair to help prepare our students for the workforce and to connect our diverse pool of teaching candidates with districts.
Grow Your Own: To help grow the pipeline of well-prepared teachers of color, we established a grow-your-own program with the Houston Independent School District, the largest district in the state. HISD officials help recruit students to apply for the program, called Teach Forward Houston, during their senior year of high school. The district has provided funding to support the students' college education, covering any gap in financial aid, in exchange for the students' commitment to return to HISD to teach for three years after graduation. The program graduated its first class of 25 students in May 2020.
Financial Assistance: Proving financial support to aspiring teachers removes one of the largest barriers to attending a high-quality teacher education program. This helps students not only to afford college but also to graduate without worrying about repaying student loan debt on a teacher's salary. As previously mentioned, our grow-your-own program with HISD provides much-needed financial support to participants. In addition, we were selected to participate in the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation's Raising Texas Teachers program, which provides scholarships and professional development to roughly 15 students a year. The College of Education also offers dozens of smaller scholarships to students and has prioritized raising more donations for scholarships through an ambitious fundraising campaign.
Commitment to High Quality, Equity and Student Support: We have transformed our teacher education program over the last several years with a relentless commitment to high quality and continuous improvement. Our formula includes a yearlong student teaching residency, giving students significant real world experience, with dual support from a mentor teacher at the school and one of our instructors who serves as a "site coordinator" and provides on-site coaching. In addition, students are grouped in cohorts to help them form closer connections and to allow faculty to collaborate more effectively. To better prepare our teaching candidates to serve Houston's diverse student population, we've embedded a philosophy of equity into our program; all students also take a Social Education class, where they explore teaching and learning "through a social justice and culturally responsive lens." On the most recent survey of our teaching graduates (Texas Education Agency, 2017-18), 100% of respondents reported feeling prepared for their first year on the job.
With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating inequities in education, we are even more committed to removing barriers and increasing access to high-quality teacher education to support a diverse, well-prepared teaching workforce to teach the next generation of leaders.
Dr. Amber Thompson, Associate Chair of Teacher Education
Dr. Shea Culpepper, Director of Teacher Education
Contact: Ericka Mellon, Director of Communications, College of Education
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