4a.1. What proficiencies related to diversity are candidates expected to develop and demonstrate?
Standard 4A Exhibit 2 lists the proficiencies related to diversity that candidates are expected to demonstrate. Common across all of the College’s programs is the core value of “Inclusiveness and Equity.” This core value is integrated in multiple ways across the unit, including in our commitment to multicultural education and to the Alaska context, where approximately 25% of Alaska students are of Alaska Native heritage. The unit is dedicated to creating and maintaining an environment where candidates learn about issues related to diversity through their program coursework and their field experiences. Faculty members integrate culturally responsive teaching standards in their courses, and demonstrate best practices in creating fair and just instructional settings for all students. For the last 5 years, the unit has participated in the Alaska Educators Innovation Network that links faculty, candidates, and students (primarily Caucasian and Alaska Native), across the state. Additionally, AEIN has provided a rich assortment of professional development opportunities for faculty that have focused on multicultural education.
The State of Alaska Beginning Teacher Standards require all initial teacher preparation candidates to meet Standard III: Diversity. This standard includes a demonstration that candidates a) make connections with local cultures and with the cultural characteristics of the students; b) use resources about the community and Alaska; c) recognize and minimize bias in materials and practice; and d) use instructional strategies and resources appropriate to the special needs of the student. Initial candidates seeking a beginning teaching certificate demonstrate that they meet this standard in their practice during their internships. Initial candidates in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education programs also demonstrate their understanding about issues related to diversity through their School/Community Studies, which build knowledge about demographic analysis and its impact on school communities, including the intern’s classroom within that school community. Individual Case Study profiles are designed to help candidates understand that each student is unique and that diversity has multiple dimensions. Candidates in initial and advanced special education programs also have many opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of issues related to diversity. These programs use the Council of Exceptional Children (CEC) framework for internship and exit portfolio requirements. CEC standards address issues related to diversity, as demonstrated by the exceptional child, with specific attention to the development and characteristics of exceptional learners, individual learning differences, instructional strategies and planning, learning environments and social interactions, language development, assessment, and collaboration.
Advanced programs and those for other school professionals in the unit expect that candidates will be familiar and conversant with relevant law and public policies that relate to diversity. These programs also expect candidates to have knowledge about, and experience with, diverse populations. Reflective essays and discussions across all programs are used as a way for candidates to think about their own biases and belief systems and to increase sensitivity to and understanding for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class, disability, sexual orientation, and/or language.
4a.2. What required coursework and experiences enable teacher candidates and candidates for other school professional roles to develop:
- awareness of the importance of diversity in teaching and learning; and
- the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to adapt instruction and/or services for diverse populations, including linguistically and culturally diverse students and students with exceptionalities?
Field experiences are a cornerstone across unit programs towards the development of knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions that support learning for all students. The University of Alaska Anchorage is an urban institution situated in the midtown area of Alaska’s largest city, and 2008-09 saw 74% of the unit’s initial candidates complete their field experiences in the Anchorage School District (ASD). ASD is a multilingual environment, with over 90 languages represented, and with increasingly diverse ethnic and racial demographics. In October 2008, for example, Caucasians represented approximately 50% of the student population; African Americans or Black 6%; Alaska Native or American Indian 9%; Asian or Pacific Islander 12%; Hispanic 10% and Multi-Ethnic 13%. Initial programs leading to a beginning teacher certificate require a year-long internship that begins and ends in accordance with the public school calendar and it is unit practice to place interns in schools that reflect the overall ethnic diversity of the district demographics. Interns are supervised by members of the clinical faculty who are experienced teachers and have been successful in teaching all students. Intern supervision includes biweekly visits and a minimum of 4 formal evaluations. Thus candidates have many opportunities to observe, teach, reflect on and discuss dispositions and practice related to successful teaching and learning for all students.
Likewise, advanced programs and those for other school professionals also require field experiences. About 46% of the advanced program candidates in 2008-09 were assigned to the ASD to complete their required fieldwork. Those advanced programs that are only offered by distance placed approximately 27% of their candidates in rural and remote Alaska, where Alaska Natives comprise the majority of the student population. Additionally, in both the initial and advanced programs, interns have opportunities at various points during the field experiences (usually through seminars) to meet as a larger group and discuss their contexts, their personal beliefs about people who differ from themselves, and their understanding, sensitivity and responses to all students.
Teacher Preparation Programs
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Developments requires all teachers advancing to the professional tier of state licensure to complete 3 credits each in Alaska studies and multicultural education/cross-cultural communication from a menu of approved courses. Courses that fulfill these requirements are a part of the curricula of the early childhood, elementary, and secondary programs, and they complement the college’s commitment to diversity and to the Alaska context. Other required courses for candidates seeking a beginning teaching certificate address exceptionalities and teaching in inclusive classrooms; language and literacy development, including bilingualism, dialect, and English language learning; and methodology classes that include differentiated instruction and the use of assessment to inform instruction for all students (Std4a.Exh1). Assessments of candidates’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions may include, but is not limited to, projects, presentations, standards-based assessments, and exams.
Programs for Other School Professionals
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development requires other school professionals to complete 3 credits each in Alaska studies and multicultural/cross-cultural communication prior to receiving state licensure. Candidates enrolled in the unit’s educational leadership programs have completed these requirements as part of their existing state certifications in teaching or counseling prior to program admission. Candidates in the counselor education program must take a course in counseling diverse populations, which fulfills the state’s requirement for multicultural/cross-cultural communication, and, if they have no prior state certifications, any course from the state’s approved list of Alaska studies courses. Candidates in programs for other school professionals are practicing professionals who often are employed in classroom, counseling, special education, and/or administrative settings. Course content (Std4a.Exh1) in these programs focuses, guides, and enhances candidates’ experiences with diverse student learners through research, theory, understanding, and reflection with the goal of strengthening practice. In addition to the field experiences required, these programs also embed discussions and assignments that focus explicitly on the developing knowledge and skills that will enable candidates to provide excellent instruction and services for the increasingly diverse student populations of our P-12 schools. In fact, because of the rich professional experiences that candidates bring to these programs, the theme of diversity is raised repeatedly in discussions across coursework, regardless of other course foci.
4a.3. What key assessments provide evidence about candidates' proficiencies related to diversity? How are candidates performing on these assessments?
Key assessments and scoring guides regarding candidates’ proficiencies in the area of diversity are displayed in Standard 4A Exhibit 3 for initial and advanced programs. All candidates completing initial programs must meet the State of Alaska Beginning Teacher Standards, one of which explicitly addresses diversity. The Continuous Assessment of Progress used by initial programs to assess the internship experiences is based on Alaska’s standards, and interns must demonstrate that they meet the diversity standard to pass the internship. Data from the initial teacher preparation programs demonstrate that candidates are highly proficient regarding issues related to diversity during their year-long internships. These interns must also complete other key assessments that focus on issues related to diversity and that are program-specific, including such assessments as case studies, school/community studies, work samples, and classroom guidance plans. Successful completion of these key assessments is required for program completion, and candidates’ performances tend to be excellent as summarized in Exhibit 4a.4. For example, 100% of the candidates in the MAT in English/Language Arts achieved an average score of 3 (exceeds criteria) for their 2006-07 case studies. Likewise, 92% of the candidates in the MAT in Mathematics achieved a score of “satisfactory” for their 2006-08 case studies. Ninety-one percent of Early Childhood Education candidates met or exceeded expectations on their 2007-2008 work sample analysis, and an Elementary Education Program Exit Survey conducted in 2007-2008 found 80% agreeing that they were prepared for practice with regard to diverse students, and only 20% somewhat disagreeing.
Similarly, candidates in advanced programs and programs for other school professionals must demonstrate proficiencies related to diversity to successfully complete their programs. This is achieved through performance on position papers, quizzes, projects, portfolios and/or internship assessments related to diversity as shown in Standard 4A Exhibits 3 and 4. During 2005-08, 94% of Early Childhood Special Education candidates, for example, achieved a grade of ‘A’ on their position papers. Data also show that 33 students in the Counseling program during 2007-2009 achieved a rating of 4.90 out of 5.00 on “sensitive to cultural differences,” an indicator that is assessed during internship.
Survey data collected by the unit from candidates exiting the programs demonstrate they are well prepared to support students fairly and that they believe in the idea that all students can learn. The Educational Leadership Program, for example, has data demonstrating that 71% of candidates exiting the program either agree or strongly agree that the program helped them to be responsive to cultural differences. Also, aggregated data across both pre-service and advanced programs found that 67% of all candidates agree or strongly agree that their programs prepared them to be responsive to cultural differences. Thus these data provide evidence that the preponderance of candidates perceive that they are being adequately prepared in the area of diversity. At the same time, these data are invaluable to the unit’s programs, as we plan how to better address a goal of 100% attainment.