(CALMATTERS) – In 2021, the governor signed a new graduation requirement into law: Starting in the 2025-26 school year, high schools must offer ethnic studies courses, and the class of 2030 will be the first batch of students to graduate with that requirement. 

Putting aside the controversy about whether this should be required learning for high schoolers at all, schools across California still have a dilemma on their hands, reports Megan Tagami of CalMatters’ College Journalism Network: How should they prepare educators to teach this sensitive, often politically fraught, curriculum? 

If schools require a special credential, it might make it even more challenging to find qualified teachers for the subject. But if they don’t require one, low-quality classes might do more harm than good.

Currently, the state allows teachers with a social science credential to teach ethnic studies. And when ethnic studies is combined with other subjects, say reading or art, teachers from other subject areas are also eligible. Some say this approach makes it easier to recruit educators who are eager to teach the subject.

  • Tim Zalunardo, executive director of educational services at Santa Rosa City Schools: “It provides flexibility on both the students and on the school’s course offerings.”

But lawmakers and other educators argue that even if teachers have their hearts in the right places, it’s still not enough to give students the knowledge they need, Megan reports.

That’s why in February, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, introduced a bill that would require the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing to offer specific ethnic studies credentialing by 2025.

  • Carrillo: “The social science credential program does not cover ethnic studies sufficiently. We maintain that at the present time there is no existing credential that sufficiently covers the depth and breadth of the multidisciplinary nature of Ethnic Studies.”

In the meantime, California’s universities have developed various programs to prepare future teachers. Some place them into ethnic studies classrooms to gain firsthand experience, while others offer classes on ethnic studies teaching methods and curriculum.