from the field
by Patricia Lane
Preparing teacher candidates a BETR way

lack educator trends reveal there is a need for an increase in Black teachers. Black male teachers in Kern County account for 1.7 percent of the teaching population (as of 2020). The overall percentage of Black educators in Kern County is 5.6 percent.

The national percentage is approximately 7 percent. In addition, Black teachers are leaving the teaching profession at a startling rate. The teacher education department at California State University, Bakersfield, was privy that there needed to be a drastic, impactful change in teacher education preparation programs. CSU Bakersfield teacher education faculty strongly believe that all students need to experience multiple exposures to Black educators because diversity creates well-rounded individuals.

The Black Educator Teacher Residency Program, also known as BETR, was established in 2021. The intent of the program is to populate the California landscape with more educators of color. Since Black educators comprise such a small percentage of the teaching population, BETR strives to provide more Black educators to be positive role models for all students. The National Center for Education Statistics states that when students have teachers whose race reflects the students they serve, student achievement, attitude and motivation are positively impacted.

Residency programs vary from the traditional model, which is a capstone experience where students have less time to teach. Conversely, in the BETR residency, residents are provided the opportunity to co-teach with a mentor teacher for a full academic year. University and district leaders work collaboratively to establish criteria for joint selection of placement sites, mentors and residents. In the first semester of the program, BETR residents are assigned to an elementary school site (usually a primary setting) Monday through Wednesday for the duration of the school day. One day a week, residents are able to substitute teach and/or work on homework and lesson plans. Coursework is taken one day a week. In the second semester of the program, BETR residents are assigned to another school site (usually an intermediate school setting) Monday through Wednesday. One day a week for a couple of hours, residents are assigned to a junior high school placement so as to earn an add-on authorization to their multiple subjects credential. Additionally, one day a week, residents take university coursework. The final day of the week, residents are provided substitute teaching opportunities within the district where they are placed. Residents can also use the time to complete assignments and lesson plans.

Teacher in class with students behind her
The National Center for Education Statistics states that when students have teachers whose race reflects the students they serve, student achievement, attitude and motivation are positively impacted.
Credential program coursework is co-constructed and co-taught with university faculty and district leaders and is delivered in a cohort model. A cohort model means that the residents progress through the coursework and team meetings together. Credential program coursework is taught virtually in a synchronous setting to foster an environment of collaboration amongst the residents. The coursework and the resident program is based on best practices for Black students. Hence, the residents are taught through an Afro-centric curricular lens, which means that the curriculum considers the history, needs and values of Black individuals. Additionally, BETR residents are taught how to create an inclusive classroom environment for Black students as well as all students. Moreover, residents are taught how to be an educator who is social-justice oriented, social-emotionally focused and reflective.

The demographics of the program are not solely Black educators. In fact, the BETR residency is inclusive of Black educators and allies (those who support Black students). Residents must be accepted to the CSU Bakersfield teacher credentialing program prior to admittance to the BETR Residency program. Additionally, BETR residents must also complete the required state exams such as the CBEST and the CSET. Once residents are admitted to the program, they must complete the Reading Instruction Competency Assessment, maintain a satisfactory academic standing, and complete all coursework in a timely manner.

The BETR Residency has many benefits to districts as well as residents, including:

  1. The teacher residency programs provide financial support to residents that may be used for tuition and/or living expenses, and residency mentors are also financially compensated.
  2. Residents commit to teach in the district if they are offered a teaching position. Additionally, the residency model provides multiple layers of support from the district partner, the university and the community.
  3. Residents are engaged in explicit conversations on best practices for Black students.
  4. Residents are trained by university faculty in partnership with the partner district.
  5. Districts will experience a decrease in expenditures on hiring, training and providing professional development for new teachers.
  6. Residents will create stronger connections with the students and the families they serve.
  7. Districts and the universities will continue to develop highly educated teachers.

As the BETR Residency continues to grow in Kern County, it is also expanding to the Antelope Valley in the spring of 2023. The BETR Residency coordinators will continue to search for potential candidates. In addition, the faculty will work collaboratively to ensure Afrocentricity in the curriculum in order to bolster best practices for Black students. BETR also focuses on best practices to ensure that the BETR residents develop a strong identity of self as they navigate the public education sector.

BETR residents’ voices

The BETR residents stated that they discovered a lot of success in the program. For example, Dominique Lane stated that she is happy to be a BETR resident because she is a Black woman who is showing the future generation that if she can do amazing things, they can do it too. Marcus Epps stated that the BETR Residency has shown him that he can work with all types of students who come from various backgrounds. Cashmere Toney stated that he did not know he would be able to work with primary grade students prior to his BETR Residency experience. Payton Amick stated that the BETR Residency has provided students with a voice to be heard as well as to see themselves reflected in their education. Alyssa Diaz stated that the BETR Residency has meant a lot to her because it has allowed her to pursue her passion: teaching. Finally, Cayli Brown stated that the residency has allowed her to learn effective pedagogical practices from teachers who are in the field making a difference daily.
Patricia Lane, Ed.D. is a lecturer and the coordinator for BETR at California State University, Bakersfield, where she works in the teacher education department.