From Teacher Diversity to Teacher Residencies, It All Matters At DSU
Blog post by Shelley Rouser, Department Of Education Chair, Delaware State University, and Crystal Timmons, Director of Office of Clinical and Field Experiences, Delaware State University
Delaware State University (DSU) is one of the most diverse higher education institutions in America. We know a thing or two about diversity, and so do our students.
As we, members of the Education Department at DSU, train next generation of teachers, it is clear to see they tend to thrive in diverse settings. They also know to expect to enter into a teaching workforce that isn’t very diverse.
There are about 138,000 students in 220 schools in Delaware—56% of them are of color. The state employees about 9,600 teachers teach in Delaware schools—but only 17% of them identify as teachers of color.
This is partly why we are excited to be at the table with other Delaware higher-eds, K-12 districts, Rodel, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Together, our goals include dramatically increasing the number of qualified and diverse teachers in Delaware schools.
Why do we need more teachers of color? Students are constantly, unconsciously asking questions about the world around them, including: Why they do not see themselves reflected in the profession? We know because we have seen it occur first hand in the classroom. There are other forces at work.
There is a famous photo of a 5-year-old African-American boy from Philadelphia who visited the White House with his family in 2009. The boy told President Obama, “I want to know if my hair is just like yours.” Obama obliged, and let the boy pat his head in the now-iconic moment.
Students want to see those models in society. How are we alike? Can I be a teacher just as you are? If DSU and our various partners succeed, we can break down more of those barriers as a society, and our little people will start to see themselves at the front of the classroom.
Recent data also tell us that we are not doing a good job of retaining the teachers of color we do have. After 2 years of teaching, teachers of color leave the field. Delaware only retains 50% of teachers of color in the same school after two years and 70% in the state, which is 10% lower than non-teachers of color.
There are many variables to unpack, but DSU is eager to dig in and work on strategies to improve teacher placement policies, and how we are supporting new teachers.
To that end, DSU is proud to begin our teacher residency program—a natural evolution of our teacher prep offerings. Residencies offer a deeper experience for teachers-in-training. The yearlong experience (as opposed to joining a classroom for the spring semester) helps build confidence. A big part of learning becoming a teacher is setting up that solid foundation that’s set from the beginning of the school year.
Together, we have decades of experience in the classroom, as well as amazing mentors along the way. Working with partners throughout Delaware, we know DSU can make a difference in the lives of all students and give new teachers the same strong start and support we experienced.