Supporting Teachers of Color: An Assessment of Teach Toledo
By Lynne Hamer, Ph.D.
In the last several years, teacher education initiatives across
the nation and locally have begun to get serious about
addressing the critical shortage of teachers of color. This
shortage creates inequities and problems not only for
students of color and white students, but for society as a
whole. The University of Toledo’s Teach Toledo
initiative is one such effort.
disclosure of bias: this writer has been involved in the
University of Toledo’s Teach Toledo initiative since
2015. In that year, two things happened: (1) Participants
in the forum Community Conversations for School Success
identified the shortage of teachers of color as a key
problem we needed to address as a community. (2) Eleven
faculty members of the Judith Herb College of Education (JHCOE)
began meeting to develop an initiative inspired by the
“Grow Your Own Teachers” approach pioneered in Chicago (see
With Teach Toledo
Cohort I students having completed their Associate of
Arts degrees and headed for campus to continue for their
Bachelor of Education degrees (see story in The
Sojourner’s Truth, May 8, 2019), the JHCOE has been
assessing what has been accomplished and what remains
challenging. Here is what we have found, with an invitation
for readers to share insights and suggestions for further
The purpose of the Teach Toledo initiative is to
recruit and retain a diverse cohort of students who have
lived experience in urban settings and who intend to earn
the B.Ed. degree necessary for Ohio teaching licensure.
Because the job market locally and nationally is strongest
for special education teachers, the initiative is built on
special education licensure; however, participants can
choose to pursue licensure in other areas.
The initiative thus has two goals: (1) recruiting diverse
citizens of urban Toledo into the teacher education
pipeline, and (2) preparing special education teachers with
an interest in teaching in urban schools.
In January, 2019 the JHCOE conducted a small study to assess
the initiative’s success in achieving its goals. The study
compared the Teach Toledo Cohort I, matriculating in
University College in fall 2017, with the cohort entering
the Judith Herb College of Education, and within that group
the smaller cohort of 12 students declaring their intention
to pursue the intervention specialist major, also
matriculating fall 2017.
The goal of the study was to evaluate Teach Toledo’s
level of success in recruiting and retaining a diverse
cohort in comparison to the regular cohort of students who
select to pursue education at the University of Toledo.
Although the sample is too small to generalize, it
provides a useful point of comparison for consideration.
As displayed in Table 1, the Teach Toledo Cohort I
was comparable in terms of gender diversity to the on-campus
cohort, with approximately three-fourths of both groups
identifying as female. However, in terms of ethnic identity,
the Teach Toledo Cohort I was significantly more
diverse than the on-campus cohort, with approximately
three-fourths of the Teach Toledo Cohort I
identifying as African American or Hispanic/Latino American
compared to 11 percent of the JHCOE cohort and zero percent
of the sub-cohort of those declaring intervention specialist
as their intended major.
This difference shows that the initiative was successful in
reaching its first goal. It did this by purposefully
recruiting for diversity, working primarily in central city
Toledo and primarily via the Toledo Public Schools. The
emphasis on teacher diversity in print materials and oral
presentation of the initiative, including framing it as an
effort to address the local and national shortage of
teachers of color, may also have been a factor.
Table 1: DEMOGRAPHICS of Initial Population (Fall 2017)
Teach Toledo cohort
16% Hispanic/Latino American
26% Euro/Anglo American
Whole college of education – undergraduate
6% Hispanic/Latino American
82% Euro/Anglo American
Intervention Specialist Major (Freshman)
Euro / Anglo American
Several students entered the Teach Toledo Cohort I
with strong high school GPAs and strong ACT scores.
However, taken as a group, students in the Teach Toledo
Cohort I entered college with a significantly lower
average high school GPA and significantly lower average ACT
score than did their peers matriculating directly into the
But GPA and ACT did not predict their achievement in
college. By the end of their first semester of college, on
average, the Teach Toledo Cohort I had approached
closing the academic gap with their on-campus peers. The
fall 2017 average term GPA for Teach Toledo students
was 2.739, only 0.155 points lower than the intervention
specialist cohort and only 0.345 points lower than the
entire JHCOE cohort.
Why did lower grades in high school become higher grades in
college? It was not because coursework was easier: the
course requirements for Teach Toledo were the same as
the requirements on campus. Rather, the academic
achievement of Teach Toledo students may have been
supported by several factors. First, Teach Toledo
students tend to be non-traditional students, returning to
school with a strong motivation to obtain the degree needed
for their chosen profession.
Second, the cohort model facilitated students’ receiving
information, clarification, encouragement, and occasionally
extended deadlines necessary for first-semester students to
succeed academically. In other words, the requirements were
equal, but the paths to meeting them were adapted according
to student needs.
Third, cohort members have reported the importance of
working together “like a family,” at all times of day and
night, often with children in tow. The importance of peer
support cannot be overestimated: it was essential.
In higher education jargon, the term “persistence” refers to
students continuing, semester after semester, toward
graduation. This is also referred to as “retention,” as in
the university’s retaining or keeping students enrolled.
Between their first and second semesters, students in
Teach Toledo persisted at a lower rate than did students
in the JHCOE in general and specifically in the intervention
specialist major. Only 74 percent of Teach Toledo
students persisted to a second semester, while 96% of JHCOE
freshmen persisted and 92 percent of intervention specialist
There were two primary reasons for non-persistence beyond
one semester: (1) For some students, life circumstances
(including housing, job requirements, relationships, and in
two cases tragedies) interfered with their ability to
complete requirements, and (2) For others, past attempts at
higher education had depleted their financial aid and they
did not have funding to continue.
However, beyond that first semester, Teach Toledo Cohort
I students persisted at a higher rate than did on campus
students to complete the Associate degree and transition
into the professional education program. Some scholars talk
about this as having “grit.”
By the numbers, Teach Toledo students persisted at a
higher rate than did the cohort of on-campus intervention
specialist majors (see table 2). Specifically, 42 percent of
Teach Toledo students persisted to register in spring
semester of their second year, whereas only 33 percent of
their on-campus intervention specialist peers did. Of those
Teach Toledo students who registered for spring
semester, all have completed or are expected to complete the
requirements for their Associate by August 2019.
It is important to note that the decline from 14 students
registered in spring 2018 to 8 registered in spring 2019 was
due in part to students being too advanced for the program:
Three students were no longer eligible for cohort classes in
spring 2019 because they had transferred credits into the
program that put them beyond the Associate degree
requirements at this point.
The other three who did not persist into spring 2019 can be
categorized as “stopping out” rather than “dropping out”:
They each had life or financial circumstances forcing them
to take a break from school. However, they are all in good
academic standing and thus have the option to continue.
Table 2: RETENTION Fall 2017-Spring 2019
Fall 2017 to Spring 2019 Retention
Teach Toledo cohort
Intervention Specialist Major (Freshman)
Teach Toledo Cohort I
shows the initiative to be successful in terms of recruiting
and retaining a more diverse cohort of preservice teachers
than the regular, on-campus program. Success in terms of
persistence to achieve the degree is due first and foremost
to the outstanding dedication and resolve of the students,
but a carefully designed initiative also helped: More data
are needed to make conclusive claims about key features of
the initiative leading to this success—and the JHCOE is
working on that data.
However, the success of cohort I indicates that the design
that prioritizes recruiting urban citizens and citizens of
color into teaching, combined with the cohort model that
provides social and academic support, is a promising
approach for addressing the local and national need to
educate a more diverse teaching force.
Is Teach Toledo a perfect program? Not at all. It is
an effort in progress—and as part 2 of this series
indicated, teacher education has a long way to go to reverse
past and present inequities. One area of improvement that
has become obvious is the need to provide more financial
support: The federal Pell grant and Ohio access grant
provide minimally sufficient funds for a fulltime student to
complete a four-year degree if the student has no setbacks.
However, most people have some missteps and need a financial
safety net to fall into. For students from wealthy
families, the family provides that net. For students whose
families lack wealth—and especially for students of color
whose ancestors contributed to the creation of others’
wealth in a system that denied them access to wealth
themselves—schools and society need to provide that net. As
it goes forward, the Teach Toledo initiative must
leverage financial support from institutions and the
community to support students’ financial needs.
Is the program designed perfectly? Again, no: It is a work
in progress. Strengths of the program include its
curriculum with African Civilization, African American
Culture, and Spanish as required courses. Weaknesses
include the need for more tutoring opportunities at times
and places accessible for working adults, especially for
challenging subjects including writing, Spanish, and math.
As it goes forward, the Teach Toledo initiative is
working with UT administration to provide this.
Does Teach Toledo have all the answers? Not at all.
Teach Toledo does have a large and diverse steering
committee including many community members and cohort I
students, and this is helping to make a good program.
However, the initiative welcomes input from all members of
the community as we work together to raise up the teachers
to teach the city’s children.
The author is coordinator of Teach Toledo, a collaboration
between the University of Toledo and Toledo Public Schools
designed to recruit and provide academic support for future
teachers of color. Please send comments on Teach Toledo’s
successes and challenges, and ideas for ongoing development
of the initiative. UT’s Teach Toledo is recruiting for
Cohort II, with May 31 being the deadline for application.
Requirements are a GED or a high school diploma, and all
ages are welcome. Classes will begin in August. Contact
Hamer at 419-283-8288 or
email@example.com, or go to the website
www.utoledo.edu/education/teachtoledo to apply
for admission on line. Dr. Hamer is happy to send readers
PDFs of the research referenced in this article; contact her
This article is part III of a three part series: Part I
reported the graduation of eight Teach Toledo students, and
part II reviewed research on the shortage of teachers of
color as a civil rights crisis.