The unintended consequences of race-conscious admission bans
NPR recently aired a segment on the effects of race-conscious admissions bans in medical schools. While these bans were intended to create “race-neutral” admissions processes focused only on merit, there have been a number of unintended consequences. According to the piece, bans on race-conscious admissions instituted by California, Washington, Florida, Texas, Michigan and Nebraska have led to a decrease in the number of African-American and Latino medical school graduates in those states.
This drop in minority doctors is troubling for many reasons. Although only a handful of states have these bans, those states are home to a disproportionate share of the country’s research-focused medical schools (medical schools attached to highly ranked research institutions). As a result, these bans affect not only who becomes a doctor in 10 years, but also who enters the pipeline for key research positions at places such as the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control and pharmaceutical companies.
Additionally, doctors of color are more likely to work in communities of color. Add that to the fact that some of these states have a very large minority populations, and the result is a dearth of doctors serving underserved communities.
The consequences of the race-conscious admissions ban in medical schools raise some interesting questions for the field of educator preparation. Will changes in admissions criteria for educator preparation programs result in a less diverse pool of teachers? Since some teachers go on to district administrator and leadership roles, will a less diverse teacher pool mean a decrease in diversity in other sectors of education? Are teachers of color more likely to work in schools with large percentages of students of color, and if so, what will changes in admissions criteria mean for those schools? Are teachers being prepared for schools with rapidly changing demographics? These questions are especially pressing as students of color now make up more than half of the student population in U.S. public schools.
As the member deans of Deans for Impact said in our statement on the proposed Title II regulations, it is vitally important to elevate expectations for the educator-preparation field as a whole. Yet as the experience of medical schools with “race-neutral” admissions processes demonstrates, the consequences of these policies can be dramatic – which is why our member deans also urge the U.S. Department of Education to use every tool available to it to increase the supply of highly effective teachers of color. This latter step will be critically important in creating a diverse pool of future teachers that mirrors shifts in the student population as a whole.
Here at Deans for Impact, we are working together to learn about innovative new approaches to teacher preparation that can help us prepare effective educators for all communities – while also helping us avoid the unintended consequences that can result from changes to a system.