The demise of bilingual education in California could mean a better bilingual program for Denver Public Schools.
DPS recently placed ads in several major newspapers in California, hoping to lure qualified bilingual teachers away from the Golden State. California voters last month all but did away with bilingual education, leaving thousands of certified bilingual teachers ripe for the picking.
Ads were placed recently in newspapers in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. So far, between 50 to 100 teachers from California have inquired about working in Denver, said Nic Garcia, a DPS human-resources manager.
“We’ve done some creative things,” Garcia said. “We’re not sitting around.”
Trained teachers who speak English and Spanish and who can pass the district’s Spanish Language Proficiency Exam are difficult to find, Garcia said. Last year, of the approximately 4,000 teachers in DPS, about 550 were bilingual teachers.
More bilingual teachers are needed, though, as the number of students who speak little or no English in Denver schools continues to grow, DPS officials said. About 14,000 of the district’s 68,000 students speak little or no English. The majority of those students speak mainly Spanish.
“I believe we will get some of the applicants from California,” Garcia said.
Recruiting bilingual teachers away from California is just one way the district is trying to beef up its bilingual staff. DPS sent a recruiter to Spain this summer to look for teachers who would be interested in coming to Colorado. And the district is recruiting nationwide for bilingual teachers, heavily targeting New Mexico and Texas.
Today, DPS is seeking a waiver from the State Board of Education to allow the district to hire teachers who are fluent in two languages and train them on the job for two years while they earn their teaching requirements.
Part of the problem, DPS officials said, is that few bilingual teachers are produced in state. Only about 50 or 60 bilingual certified teachers come from in-state colleges and universities each year, according to figures given to DPS by the Colorado Department of Education.
DPS was found last year by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to have violated federal law by failing to adequately educate students with limited English skills.
Among the violations were that some bilingual teachers in DPS were not actually qualified speakers of Spanish and that while some made the effort to qualify, others did not.