Lack of teacher diversity in Minnesota is a crisis that contributes to the achievement gap for our students of color.
Ensuring recruitment and support for more people of color and American Indians into the teaching profession and to support the retention of those who already are in the profession is the ongoing purpose for the annual Conference for Current and Aspiring Educators of Color and American Indian Educators.
This conference is unique in the country and is now in its second year in Minnesota, and is full with over 300 people registered to attend, including nearly 80 percent who identify as persons of color or American Indian. Its theme is “Voices Heard: Transforming Education Equity.” The conference will be Aug. 9-11, 2017 at Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul Campus, (700 E. Seventh Street) and is organized by the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota (www.tocaimn.com). The program begins at 6 p.m., Wednesday with an opening program and reception and concludes Friday morning with a focus on youth voices and the donation of hundreds of backpacks and school supplies to local youth expected to be brought by conference participants. (Click here to see and use pictures from the summer 2016 conference.)
Thursday’s morning keynote features Dr. Angela Valenzuela, whose topic will be “Growing Our Own Teachers, the Fight for Ethnic Studies, and Engaged Policy.” Valenzuela is the director of the National Latino Education Research Agenda Project (NLERAP) that aims to create a teacher education pipeline for Latino/a youth, nationally. Valenzuela is a professor in the Education Policy and Planning Program at the Department of Educational Administration, University of Texas at Austin where she also serves as the director of the University of Texas Center for Education Policy.
A panel discussion Thursday afternoon will feature the finalists for Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2017 Adrian Davis (Roosevelt High School, Minneapolis Public Schools), Ali Alowonle (Excelsior Elementary, Minnetonka Public Schools), Ong Xiong (Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet, Saint Paul Public Schools) and Teresa Stadem (Richfield Career Education Program, Richfield Public Schools). The panelists will discuss their experiences and thoughts as teachers of color related to transforming education equity. Maria Le, 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year finalist from Roseville Area Schools, will moderate the discussion.
Minnesota law passed in 2016 stated that K-12 students shall have “equitable access to effective and diverse teachers.” However, while students of color and American Indian students represent 32 percent of the state’s school population, teachers of color and American Indian teachers represent only 4 percent of the 60,000 public school teachers in the state (approximately 900 are Asian, 600 are African American, 500 are Latino and 250 are American Indian). This demographic gap between students and teachers is much wider in the Twin Cities metro area and many Greater Minnesota communities. Yet each year approximately 4,500 program completers become licensed teachers in Minnesota, but less than 10 percent of candidates are of color.
The coalition proposes steps toward the goal of doubling the number of teachers of color and American Indian teachers statewide (currently approximately 2,500), and ensuring that at least 20 percent of the teacher preparation pipeline are people of color or American Indian by 2020.
This is the coalition’s third event, with the first being a conference in February 2016 at Minneapolis Community and Technical College that resulted in legislative bills and proposals, some of which were passed in the 2016 session and more passed in the 2017 session. The steadily growing coalition with over 1,000 members was formed in November 2015 by educators from various school districts, public and private colleges and universities. It now includes dozens of communities, districts, organizations, institutions and hundreds of individuals who are united to advocate for diversifying the teaching force in Minnesota to more closely reflect and relate to the increasingly diverse student population in the state.
Hosting the conference is the nationally recognized School of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University which prepares prospective teachers who can build on the talents and resiliency of diverse urban learners for success in school and life. In addition to six urban education licensure programs, Metropolitan State offers the only master of science in urban education program in Minnesota. Its student body and faculty are the most diverse of any teacher preparation program in Minnesota.