How Does Location Impact Meaning and Opportunity? Rural Schools and the NCATE Diversity Standard
by Debra Miretzky & Sharon Stevens - 2012
Background/Context: While there is ample evidence that the K–12 student population is becoming increasingly diverse and the teacher workforce is not, very little literature addresses the specific problems rural teacher education programs may experience attempting to meet the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) diversity standard. A 2005 NCATE-sponsored survey found that an unknown number of respondents indicated difficulty in meeting the requirements of the standard and that “geographically isolated” programs were especially affected. The existing research that targets rural programs tends to describe specific practices. As NCATE and TEAC, the two major teacher education accreditation programs, move toward consolidation, revisiting the expectations regarding diversity is critical.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study was to explore rural SCDEs’ experiences with the diversity standard as well as the implications of these experiences, with the aim of reporting and suggesting possible strategies for enhancing the application of the standard at the institutional and agency levels. We hypothesized that rural schools experience difficulty with meeting aspects of the standard due to the potential limitations associated with the schools’ locations. Research questions focused on how rural programs define diversity, identification of obstacles, priorities for programs, and adaptations. One hundred and sixteen NCATE coordinators and/or deans participated in the study’s online survey.
Research Design: This research was an exploratory study that used qualitative and quantitative methods. The instrument included survey questions and items for open-ended responses.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Rural teacher education programs do experience difficulties with meeting the requirements of the NCATE diversity standard. Respondents singled out recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and candidates, inability to provide high-quality diversity experiences, and location as the biggest issues. Respondents perceived that NCATE focuses on race and ethnicity to the exclusion of other categories. In particular, respondents reported strong beliefs that SES and exceptionalities are more universal and more locally relevant and deserve to be recognized as critical priorities for educating candidates who could build on this competence in working with other diversities—a kind of “transferable skills” perspective. Programs would like to see recognition for “good faith” efforts and would value the opportunity to demonstrate the strengths and generalizability of their diversity programs. As NCATE and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) move toward consolidation, new frameworks for assessing these frameworks should be considered.
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