Some 200 soon-to-be teachers will graduate from San Diego State University Sunday. While they’re prepared to tackle problems in the classroom, they won’t make the pool of teachers more diverse for local school districts.
In 2014, San Diego Unified School District convened a task force to recruit more teachers — in particular, teachers that look like its students. Nearly 80 percent of the district’s children are students of color. The group found local universities weren’t producing a workforce diverse enough to reflect student diversity.
This year, 45 percent of SDSU’s teaching credential candidates are not white. That’s similar to its graduating class in 2014.
Nadine Bezuk, director of teacher education at SDSU, said the teacher layoffs during the recession made it difficult to recruit from all backgrounds and compounded the lack of diversity.
“We’re trying to get the word out that the days of the pink slip are long gone,” Bezuk said. “Schools are very excited to have our students in their classrooms learning with their teachers, and then hopefully being hired by those districts.”
The university’s credential candidates are more diverse than those statewide. Last year, 35 percent of California teaching credential candidates were students of color. Data from 2014 shows SDSU’s students were also more diverse than those in credential programs at National University, UC San Diego and the University of San Diego.
“I think we can still do better,” Bezuk said.
Next year her department will roll out a program that guarantees jobs in the Sweetwater Unified High School District to Sweetwater students who earn credentials. It builds on an existing program that guarantees Sweetwater students admission to SDSU if they meet certain benchmarks. Bezuk said a similar program is in the works with San Diego Unified.
For its part, San Diego Unified is looking to expand programs in some of its high schools that funnel students into teaching careers.
Acacia Thede, head of human resources for the district, said she’s traveled to universities in other states, including Georgia, to recruit diverse candidates and found the job fairs were poorly attended. She said because the national candidate pool also lacks diversity, the best solution is to build local pipelines beginning in high school.
Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego, hosted a teacher diversity summit last week and has introduced legislation that would help fund such initiatives. Earlier this year, California lawmakers also introduced bills to fund recruitment efforts, mentor people thinking about becoming teachers, and reinstate a loan forgiveness program for teachers who take jobs in low-income and rural schools.