In California, school campuses are more diverse than any in the U.S. Students of color now comprise three-quarters of the total student population. And while studies indicate the teaching workforce has also become more diverse, the pace of that change has not kept up in California. For some, the teaching workforce is even less diverse than 20 years ago.
Fullerton Secondary Teachers Organization (FSTO) is partnering with the National Education Association (NEA) to tackle this disparity by building a local program that will encourage minority students to both pursue and remain in a career in education.
According to a recent Learning Policy Institute study, students benefit academically when they see themselves reflected in the teaching population. Rates of truancy, dropout and expulsion decrease, while student success increases. NEA’s $500,000 grant to FSTO, building on an earlier $250,000 grant to launch the project, is intended to increase minority pursuit of a teaching credential by identifying and reducing impediments that prevent would-be educators from pursuing or remaining in the profession.
Grant writer and FSTO teacher Al Rabanera developed the program around three goals: recruiting diverse potential educators, recruiting aspiring teachers, and retaining early career educators.
Fullerton Joint Union High School District is part of a richly diverse community around the California State University Fullerton (CSUF) campus. Existing partnerships with CSUF provide an infrastructure, to which additional high schools will be recruited, to help build a sustainable teacher recruitment model. The program will include workshops and monthly meetings to help prospective educators build relationships with community partners, nonprofits, along with college and university contacts.
To build the site infrastructure, FSTO local members will help determine which school sites will participate in the “Future Teachers Club.” Administrators serving at sites where the programs will be launched will also play a support role to ensure that a diverse population of both educators and students are encouraged to take part.
In order to recruit aspiring teachers, the program will identify 50 current college students who will take part in a series of local, member-led, monthly educational workshops on best teaching practices. Students will be also be recruited for membership in the Student California Teachers Association. As many as 200 local union participants, including local CTA chapter Ethnic Minority Committee members, will act as trainers and work in concert with program leaders. In that capacity they will be encouraged to attend a host of educational conferences.
Once potential career educators are inspired and recruited, the profession must help remove obstacles to their success. The grant’s final focus is on keeping these new educators in the system through the creation of a 50-member union-led “New Educator Cohort.” The group will assist new members in their first challenging years in the classroom by helping strengthen their skills and providing meaningful training to help improve their professional practice.
Over the three-year cycle of the grant, FTSO’s successful implementation of the plan could help narrow the diversity gap while providing a road map for other districts facing similar diversity challenges to follow.