Enrollment in teacher preparation programs plummets

(photo by cybrarian)

California is producing fewer credentialed teachers. Photo by cybrarian

Enrollments in teacher preparation programs in California are continuing to decline at a precipitous rate, according to new figures prepared for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

A report for the commission indicates that 26,446 students were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in 2011-12 – a 24 percent reduction from the previous year’s total of 34,838 students. That was by far the biggest decline recorded over the past decade, during which enrollments have steadily dropped. Enrollments have declined by 66 percent from a decade earlier, when 77,700 students were enrolled.

The declining enrollments are echoed by similarly declining numbers of teaching credentials. At the California State University system, which has traditionally produced about half of the teachers in the state, only 5,787 credentials were issued in 2011-12 to students in its teacher preparation programs, down from 13,933 in 2003-04, according to CSU figures.

It is impossible to know what precisely is causing the drop in numbers, but experts point to multiple factors.

One is that over the past five years, the teaching profession in California has been devastated by layoffs; some 26,000 teachers lost their jobs as a result of the state’s budget crisis. Except for openings in high-needs areas – special education, math and science, and English learners – it may be difficult for new teachers to find positions, especially in school districts or geographic areas of their choice.

Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University and chair of the California Teacher Credentialing Commission, said that the declining numbers in teacher preparation programs could just be a natural response to the terrible budget crisis of the last five years and the massive layoffs inflicted on teachers.

“The clear message to prospective employees is that with huge layoffs this is not the time to go into teaching,” she said.

In addition, working conditions for teachers continue to deteriorate. The latest national survey by MetLife found that teacher satisfaction levels have plummeted, perhaps not coincidentally at about the same rate as enrollments in teacher education programs in California. In 2008, 62 percent of teachers expressed satisfaction with their jobs, the highest level since 1984. By 2012, only 39 percent said they were satisfied – about the same level as in 1984.

Another possible cause has to do with the regimen of reforms that have put unprecedented pressures on teachers as a result of the negative sanctions of the No Child Left Behind law, along with the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program.  As described in a report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd,  teachers in California faced what it called “a new normal of rising expectations and reduced support.”

“Teachers start telling their cousins and nieces and nephews and younger brothers and sisters, ‘Don’t go into teaching,'” said Michael Fullan, a Canadian educator and organization expert who is working with a number of California school districts on what he calls “whole system reforms.”

“When you are allowing the teaching profession to decline, you get a self-perpetuating future that goes downwards because good people don’t go into it, and those who do go in don’t find it satisfying,” Fullan said.


Teacher Credentialing Commission chair Linda Darling-Hammond predicts a “bounce back” in enrollments. Credit: Stanford University

What is far from clear is the extent to which the drop in numbers presents a problem for the future of public education in the state. Darling-Hammond anticipates the state will see some “natural bounce back” as the economy improves, a projected enrollment increase occurs, and districts begin to hire more teachers.

“It will certainly be more attractive next year than this year,” she said.

At the same time, she acknowledged that “it may be that we will have something to worry about,” especially if other factors that make teaching unattractive to prospective candidates remain in place, including “teacher bashing,” which has characterized the testing and accountability reforms of recent years.

Beverly Young, CSU assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs and an ex officio member of the California Teacher Credentialing Commission, expressed far more concern.

“I think it is alarming,” she said. Especially if student enrollments grow in California as predicted, the state could easily face “very severe shortages” of teachers.

“It takes a long time for the pipeline to recover to get back to where we were (in terms of teacher production),” she said.

She expressed concerns that if California experienced a teacher shortage, it would revert to sending under-prepared teachers with emergency or interim credentials into the classroom. That, she said, would have an impact on the students who need the most qualified teachers, not the least.

“When we are in a shortage situation, in California we tend to send the least prepared teachers to the most under-served schools,” she said.

Douglas Mitchell, the interim dean of the UC Riverside School of Education, also predicts that school districts will face a “severe shortage” of qualified teachers.

“Prompt action is needed to prepare new teachers and avert a significant loss of educational quality,” he wrote in an opinion piece this summer in the San Jose Mercury News. If California doesn’t take active steps to recruit more candidates to the teaching profession, he said, “school districts will be compelled to staff their classrooms with hastily trained and marginally certified new teachers.”

Another unknown factor is how many teachers will retire in the coming decade. Retirements have slowed as a result of the economic downturn, and some older teachers, worried about the the state of their retirement investments, which may have taken a hit during the recession, have delayed retiring.  But as the economy picks up, more retirements will be inevitable. What is unclear is whether enrollments in schools of education will pick up fast enough to produce teachers fast enough to replace the wave of retirements that will inevitably come in over the next decade.

Filed under: Credentialing, Preparation, Teaching


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42 Responses to “Enrollment in teacher preparation programs plummets”

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  1. milo on Feb 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm02/8/2015 12:52 pm

    • 000

    CCTC & CDOE…. shame. I suppect that CDOE & CCTC crunched the numbers and realized that the percentage of new enrollments for teacher training programs would continue to deline for several more years. To save CDOE & CCTC jobs they double the BTSA time for new teachers making it even harder for new teachers to clear their credential. I would support the increase in time if CCTC dramatically reformed BTSA instead of assigning endless busy work ptojects that have little or no impact on the quailty of teaching. Not only is the new 2 year BTSA program time consuming and useless, it also makes it more difficult for teachers to apply for teaching jobs that will only accept cleared teaching credentials.
    Dear CCTC & CDOE,
    if you were a dept of visionaries you could help transform education. ..not just the typical & simple tweeks that require little thought or imagination. And trying to keep the CCTC & CDOE employment up by increasing BTSA to two year program was a rotten ideal….and shame on you.

    Less people will contine to enroll in teacher training programs because university tuition over the past 2 decades is a form of extortion. The stats used to show that college grads make double the income over HS only grads are old stats from the 1990s.

  2. Student Teacher on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:29 pm01/30/2015 3:29 pm

    • 000

    The reason credentialing programs are not producing teachers is because they are, for the most part, very bad. The schools they place the student teachers at use them so that the burnt out teachers can take breaks. In most cases these student teachers are left alone in the classrooms with no support or mentoring. One school even brags about how they love to use and abuse them. The student teachers receive absolutely no support from their Universities. California does nothing about it. because they now their in-service teachers are seriously underpaid and overworked. So…under these conditions would you want to be a CA teacher?

    Plus, the schools you go only have certain sites available to teach at – typically the worst schools. It’s really said because it is the kids that suffer.

    I volunteered and decided to be a teacher after being an executive for years. I quit – 1) because the credentialing program is a joke and does not produce highly qualified teachers 2) because these schools use student teachers blatantly 3) because the in-service teachers cannot mentor or teach you anything because they are so behind in professional development and technology it’s crazy (CA schools are 30 years behind the real world in technology), 4) In-service teachers so beat up by the administration that they have lost all of their passion leading to a negative, abusive cycle.

    Public schools in CA have lost sight big time of what the priority is – the kids! Ironically, I asked many teachers and administrators what their priority was — no surprise it was personal. Not one of them answered with the students as their priority. That speaks volumes as to how broken the system is.

  3. Marvin Gentz on Nov 12, 2014 at 8:07 pm11/12/2014 8:07 pm

    • 000

    I am totally surprised that you have not cited the massive radical republican war opposing public education and their support of privatization at all costs. Corporations have been so successful that they literally own our public universities. But then a corporate education is not worth anything anyhow.

  4. James Peek on Nov 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm11/3/2014 9:40 pm

    • 000

    Dissatisfaction in the US is rampant, regardless of your occupation. Most Americans feel constrained and demoralized. It is no coincidence that teachers are feeling the pinch as well. Only those on the inside track in Washington are increasingly making more and more money.

  5. John Morrison on May 5, 2014 at 7:01 pm05/5/2014 7:01 pm

    • 000

    The GOP is on a crusade to trash teaching as a career and to change our system of public schools into an inferior patchwork of charter schools. Now translate: this means declining salaries and diminished career prospects for teachers. But isn’t this the magic of the marketplace. May the idiotic American populace receive what it so richly deserves.

  6. scott on Sep 27, 2013 at 7:38 am09/27/2013 7:38 am

    • 000

    Why would anyone want to be a teacher in Indiana? Salaries frozen for 4 years. New teachers will come in with no chance of an increment or raise other than a “highly effective” rating, which depends on which kids you get. My highly effective rating adds up to a Huge $500.00. “Whoopie flipping do”! The school “Reformers”- n truth School deformers- are insisting that the business model be used. Fine: give me a stipend to get the things I need to be a great teacher. Why is education the only job where the worker is expected to outfit his work place by himself? The average teacher spends about $500.00 per year on his or her class room out of pocket.
    Education used to be a career. IT is being turned into a Temp job.
    If government would just govern, and let us teach, everything would be fine. Pay us professional salaries, and the best and brightest will come back.
    In spite of the crap sandwich handed us over the last few years, miracles are going on every day in our classrooms.


    • Dave on Sep 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm09/29/2013 6:24 pm

      • 000

      Here in my county in Florida, long term subs are being used instead of teachers…to save money. Folks are actually doing this for less than $25,000 a year (which is ten thousand below even our beginning salaries). My daughter moved to another state because she wanted to teach. She was summa cum laude and hold a Master’s.

  7. Current CA Teacher on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm09/26/2013 3:27 pm

    • 11100

    Incentives do need to be in place to attract more teachers to fill the current and future positions. However, I reject the notion that incentives should be aimed to attract “the best and the brightest”. The individuals who are, in fact, “the best and the brightest” could be and are in the teaching field. After all, who would voluntarily go back to school other than those who were good at it? We can’t solve all of society’s ills, but those who are dedicated to teaching sought the profession for the that purpose – clearly not the salary or the work hours. Education, teachers, and students must be fully supported for society to receive the full benefits.

    How can current and future teachers be better supported?

  8. LML on Sep 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm09/25/2013 4:07 pm

    • 000

    A friend of mine graduated with honors some decades ago from the sort of liberal-arts college that draws from the same applicant pool as Stanford. She majored in psychology. When she announced her intention to make a career teaching special ed, she reports, many of her peers and professors reacted with horror: why on earth would she want to waste her education in… um, education? I’m fairly certain that she’d have encountered the same reaction at any time in the intervening decades and at any of the colleges or universities of similar stature. She wasn’t deterred – it takes a good deal to deter her – but, if our brighter and more talented students are being advised that public-school teaching is (except for TFA) beneath their dignity, should we be surprised when they decide to do something else for a living, or when they prove all too ready to assume something between inferiority and utter incompetence of the teachers of other people’s children?


    • Paul on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:37 am09/26/2013 3:37 am

      • 000

      Well said, LML. And those peers and professors weren’t wrong, in an objective sense. One report I read recently attempted to calculate the Net Present Value of different professional programs. Teaching had the lowest NPV, by far.

      When you combine high formal (not academic) barriers to entry, a lack of professional authority, a lack of professional respect (e.g. from parents, administrators, and the general public), one-year temporary contracts (see SRI’s “Bumpy Path to a Profession”), and low compensation, the results are not surprising.

      • LML on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm09/26/2013 3:52 pm

        • 000

        As my phrase “beneath their dignity” should have indicated, I was driving at a different point: the decades-long attitude among our elites is that it is appropriate to regard anyone who enters K-12 education as a career, and in particular K-6 education, as ipso facto unfit for anything more intellectual, and that attitude itself is part of the problem. The attitude may well derive from observation, but it also drives observation: it is well known that what one is looking for is what one is likely to find.

        • Paul on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:59 am09/27/2013 12:59 am

          • 000

          Hello, LML.

          In a normative economic sense, becoming a California public school teacher IS beneath the dignity of anyone who has an alternative. We really must work to change the factors that I mentioned if we want to make teaching a profession of choice. Whether we are considering the needs of K-12 students or the needs of the adults who teach them, we need to make this a rational rather than sentimental matter.

          You allude to your friend’s perseverance. While circumstances probably weren’t perfect when she entered the teaching profession, decades ago, this is what she would encounter today:

          – Extreme competition for available job openings. In recent years, some school districts have reported receiving more than one hundred applications for a single elementary vacancy.

          – A starting salary in the range of $37,000 to $42,000. This is tens of thousands less than an educated woman could earn today in other professions.

          – Temporary contracts with different school districts, for the first several years. A temporary contract ends in June. Regardless of effort and performance, a temporary teacher has no rehire rights.

          – Annual layoffs for the next year or two, with a rehire decision in late August at best, or the need to apply to different school districts, at worst. Again, effort and performance are completely irrelevant; layoff notices are issued solely on the basis of seniority.

          – An uncapped workload, driven by rising class sizes and increasing heterogeneity (ever larger proportions of English Learners and Special Education students).

          – Very little authority over curriculum or evaluation, key elements of the profession.

          – A requirement to complete two years’ worth of additional study on personal time (and, in more and more localities, at personal expense) to convert the non-renewable, 5-year preliminary credential to a renewable, “clear” one.

          – A reduction in retirement benefits, under A.B. 340. For benchmark purposes, STRS is less generous than California’s other major public pension plans, PERS and UCRS.

          Perseverance can’t conjure teaching jobs when there are so few available, can’t trump one-year temporary contracts and seniority-based layoffs, and can’t restore a teacher’s sense of professional authority in the face of standardized testing, scripted curricula, and constant criticism in the popular media.

          • Andrew on Sep 29, 2013 at 10:04 am09/29/2013 10:04 am

            • 000

            You make a very well reasoned, convincing and informative case in your comments on this subject, Paul. Thank you. As you mention, one wonders where all the much vaunted potency of the state’s teachers unions has been, especially with the governor’s office and entire legislature locked in the control of Democrats supposedly sympathetic to the teachers’ unions.

            • Paul on Sep 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm09/29/2013 6:04 pm

              • 000

              Thank you, Andrew.

              It’s sad, even paradoxical, but the state teachers’ unions have affected the desirability of the profession. I feel that they have focused on protecting incumbent teachers instead of balancing the needs of older and younger workers. This has made underfunding of the education system — one of the root causes of the profession’s decline — a little harder to bear.

              The unions’ dogged insistence on longevity as the primary criterion for compensation, assignment, transfer, layoff and rehiring puts young teachers at a big disadvantage, economically as well as in terms of job satisfaction. If he or she is hired at all, a young teacher gets the most difficult job, with an expired one-year temporary contract or a pink slip as a thank-you.

              In fairness, the state unions have had to devote some time recently to securing baseline system funding. Although Proposition 30 doesn’t provide net new money, it does stave off additional cutbacks for the time being. (No one is talking about what will happen a few years from now, when Proposition 30’s temporary taxes expire. We’ll leave that incipient financial train wreck for another day.) Proposition 30 was a worthwhile political effort from the state teachers’ unions, and something that they shouldn’t have had to spend time on in the first place.

              I’ve seen good and bad local unions. The good ones attend to basic, unsexy issues like timely pay (California’s payroll laws do not cover public-sector workers, so it’s important to write such issues into contracts); work hour encroachment from meetings, new technology, and so on; school district accountability for class size reduction funds and other categorical funds (a thing of the past, as there are no more categorical programs, and as there are only flimsy programmatic accountability guidelines in their stead); and correct classification of teachers (no use of temporary or substitute teachers for ongoing vacancies).

              Without better funding, and measures to give teachers more professional authority/control over their own work, teaching will remain an unattractive profession. By starting to address the needs of young teachers, unions could certainly make a difference.

              As an aside, here are some startling reasons why so few people are embarking on teaching careers:

              “[T]his is a dramatic change from the situation up through the 1960s and mid 1970s, when the academic quality of the teacher corps was effectively ‘subsidized’ by discrimination, because women and minorities didn’t have as many opportunities outside the classroom. In addition, the difference in starting salaries between teaching and other professions wasn’t as large. In 1970 in New York City, for example, a starting lawyer going into a prestigious firm and a starting teacher going into public education had a differential in the entry salary of about $2,000. Today, including salary and bonus, that starting lawyer makes $160,000, while starting teachers in New York make roughly $45,000.”


              (Forgive me for citing McKinsey, which must be broadly affiliated with the “reform” education movement, but they are right in this case, and they were willing to admit unpleasant facts that others still haven’t admitted.)

  9. Jane on Sep 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm09/24/2013 9:00 pm

    • 000

    Who is taking into account social security penalties? Having supervised student teachers, most had previous careers and their social security benefits would be severely cut due to their becoming teachers and retiring under STRS benefits in CA.

    Also, if their spouse died, they might get NONE of the intended spousal benefits.

    This is reality. Now, the secret is out. Pressure your congressperson to vote for S.896 and HR. 1795 at the federal level to stop these punitive actions!

  10. Rene Diedrich on Sep 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm09/24/2013 3:12 pm

    • 000

    Teachers who bother to pay attention know their calling is a career no one deserves or wants. Universities know this is a dying department except perhaps curriculum writing , special education and the future of education law which will rob ably explode when the truth about reform is common knowledge. We warn students not to teach unless wit is for our enemy TFA to work off school debt and hop the fast track to more stable and rewarding employment. Unfortunately , students, who are from hoods probably do not recruited often even when they get full rides at UCLA or test off the charts on teats that actually mean something ( AP, ACT, SAT) .
    A big part of reform is keeping the working class working poor, however, Valerie Strauss has also pointed out there are rebellions brewing among interns as they confront the conditions on campus, see the mistreatment of intentionally fried veterans and grapple with a test regime that takes all the joy from teaching and conditions students to hate learning. As a teacher who cares about her students, I was truly flattered when students wanted to follow in my foot steps but as I realized where my feet and heart had carried me , my head began to wrap itself around the horrible truth Reform is about making schools into a lucrative business. The privatized true speak already labels students “assets” despite a propensity to heard them about like livestock. Teachers are “human capital”. In other words we can be traded down and exchanged often for newer, cheaper models, temps if you will. It is a lawless brand of outsourcing that fills up teacher jails in LA and rubber rooms in NYC. With union collusion, LAUSD, CPS, NYC ,DPS and Philly public schools have succumbed to charter, school closure, unprecedented cut of not just staff but of arts, remediation, adult education and even school nurses and psychiatric social workers.
    Why would I ever point any child towards the tyranny and terrible toll a teacher suffers when she answers that call today?

  11. Andrew on Sep 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm09/24/2013 2:18 pm

    • 000

    Since I am an attorney (with a teacher spouse), I can make an observation that applies to my profession and may apply to others . . . Those of us who are highly experienced attorneys are doing very well, but initial entry into the profession has become very brutal, extremely high unemployment, long hours, little appreciation and low wages for a long time. Hence, law schools are in crisis. Their dilemma is to find prospects who are smart enough to become new lawyers who are dumb enough to become new lawyers, loaded with student loans. Not an easy task.

  12. Andrew on Sep 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm09/24/2013 1:14 pm

    • 000

    I’m always impressed with the astuteness and tone of the comments on edsource, and often enlightened. A couple of months ago the AP reported that the US as a whole mints 239,000 new teachers a year and that they vie for only 98,000 annual teaching job openings. Some states such as Illinois reputedly produce ten new teachers for each opening. If this is the case, I’d expect that California districts will renew out-of-state recruiting efforts to deal with any shortage, as well as accelerating teacher-lite training programs. Creating available and stable long term employment and favorable working conditions for highly qualified California program grads does not appear to be high on the list of responses to the looming shortage.


    • navigio on Sep 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm09/24/2013 1:39 pm

      • -11-100

      FWIW, according to the report, in 11-12 about 20% of the credentials issued in CA were to teachers who did their preparation program outside of CA.

  13. LocoMotiv on Sep 24, 2013 at 11:54 am09/24/2013 11:54 am

    • 000

    The system lost the young and most enthusiastic teachers that were laid off over the last five years. With few exceptions, they will not return to an industry that treated them so callously for such low remuneration.


    • Denton Richard on Sep 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm09/24/2013 1:07 pm

      • 000

      If you think the current high school students haven’t noticed how poorly their teachers have been treated, you are living a fantasy. I know several college and high schools kids who were thinking of going into education who changed their minds after seeing the chaos and disrespect (not to mention the harsh pay cuts in some places) that have been directed at their teachers. If you think you can abuse people and have more sign up for abuse, you are in need of mental healthcare.

      • Dave on Sep 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm09/29/2013 6:19 pm

        • 000

        There is no surprise here. Teachers have never been treated very well, but the amount of bashing which has been added to all the other negatives has been the bitter icing on the low salary, benefits cake. Add the rising cost of college, and the continued incompetence of administrators, particularly at the school level…and folks decide to do something else. Such a shame, because the idealism and creativity is still there, but teaching has become so difficult and so degrading.

  14. el on Sep 24, 2013 at 8:50 am09/24/2013 8:50 am

    • 000

    Frankly, given how many layoffs have been issued in the last few years, they should be surprised that *any* teachers are in the pipeline. The market signal has certainly been that no new teachers are needed. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the signal has been heeded.


    • RelDog on Sep 24, 2013 at 9:42 am09/24/2013 9:42 am

      • 000


  15. Ann on Sep 24, 2013 at 8:23 am09/24/2013 8:23 am

    • 000

    Wouldn’t it be great if this were due to raising the standards for admission into these programs. Imagine if our teachers came from the top of their class(or even the top half!)what a difference that would make. All those who love to point to Finland seem to forget they only accept the best students into their teaching programs.


    • David B. Cohen on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:32 am09/24/2013 10:32 am

      • 000

      Finland also pays teachers a salary that’s competitive with other professionals, and covers the cost of teacher preparation for multiple years. Finnish teachers and schools have greater autonomy and responsibility, without the testing/labeling and one-way version of accountability. If you want to attract “the best” you have to START by creating conditions that will attract them.

      • Carol Brydolf on Sep 24, 2013 at 11:45 am09/24/2013 11:45 am

        • 000

        I totally agree!

      • Manuel on Sep 25, 2013 at 11:05 pm09/25/2013 11:05 pm

        • 000

        Mr. Cohen, are you aware that Finland’s compulsory education ends at 9th grade and that they have no more than 600,000 students in those grades distributed over roughly 3,000 schools? What do you think that student-to-teacher ratio is on those schools? I’ve read elsewhere that they have about double the number of teachers that New York City has, but have not been able to confirm that.

    • Beverly Young on Sep 24, 2013 at 11:08 am09/24/2013 11:08 am

      • 000

      Ann–actually, the California State University only allows candidates to enter teaching preparation programs who DO come from the top half of their graduating undergraduate class, and with a GPA of 2.75 as a minimum.

      • Eric Premack on Sep 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm09/24/2013 12:11 pm

        • 000

        Is policy of allowing up to 15 percent who don’t meet the 2.75 requirement still in place?

        • Beverly Young on Sep 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm09/24/2013 12:39 pm

          • 000

          The “exceptional admit” policy, which allows candidates who have compelling potential for success as a teacher, demonstrated differently than through the minimal acceptance criteria, is still in place. However we find that it is actually rarely used—average entering GPAs at CSU programs of teacher preparation is now not only over 3.0, but often the highest average among all programs.

      • Shelley on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:30 am10/29/2013 9:30 am

        • 000

        Beverly, a 2.75 GPA is a very low requirement. No other graduate or professional school would accept someone with a 2.75.

    • Gary Ravani on Sep 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm09/24/2013 1:20 pm

      • 000

      Here is a quote from the ETS study “How Teachers Compare: “On average, teachers perform as well as other college-educated adults across all three literacy scales. Teachers with four-year degrees perform similarly to others with four-year degrees, and teachers with graduate studies or degrees perform
      at a comparable level to other adults with graduate studies
      or degrees.”

      This is based on the NALS, National Adult Literacy Survey looking at “literacy” across prose, document, and quantitative scales.

      In another study looking at SAT scores ETS finds for candidates applying for credentials in academic areas that: “These individuals have academic skills, at least as measured by college admission tests, that generally are as strong as, and in several cases stronger than, those of their college graduate peers.”

      CA faces significant problems with the low recruitment rates for new teachers. The discussion is not advanced by repeating urban myths about the academic quality of teachers. Myths repeated often enough become part of the “conventional wisdom,” which typically is not.The genesis of the myth can be traced to an anecdotal survey given by the administrators of the SAT (or perhaps the ACT) some years ago when test takers were asked to identify their career ambitions. Many low scorers identified teaching. What isn’t often stated is the follow-up study that demonstrated that few of those low score individuals actually completed college or entered teacher credential programs. Some states allow(ed) four year BA degrees in Education. In CA every credential candidate is required to have a regular four year BA Degree. Changes are in the works as new legislation allows credential programs to extend beyond the one year limit formerly imposed. How this will affect teaching programs in the future remains to be seen.

      • Paul on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm09/24/2013 10:59 pm

        • 000

        The ETS found definite differences in academic achievement measures (college GPA, standardized test scores), depending on a teacher’s specialization. Elementary teachers, to pick just one group, had inferior results. Gary Ravani must be talking about a different ETS report. The one I’ve cited in the past is purely statistical, not anecdotal. Its only shortcoming is that it is national in scope, and not specific to California. (The ETS, which owns all SAT and GRE scores, and teacher certification test scores for many states, happens not to own current teacher certification test scores in California.)

        Teachers with graduate degrees are in the minority (slightly over 40%, per EdData) in California. As with GPA and standardized test scores, advanced degree attainment varies by teaching specialty. Moreover, masters’ degrees held by teachers are almost always in education rather than in subject matter fields. Admission, residency (in the sense of being attached to a physical university campus for a definite period of time), credit, and thesis requirements for education degrees are quite variable.

        We can of course debate about whether college GPA, standardized test scores, and advanced degrees reflect academic ability, and about whether a teacher’s academic ability — however measured — affects the academic achievement of his or her students.

        It is worth noting that the educational landscape is changing in important ways: larger proportions of English Learners, larger proportions of Special Education students, a new Common Core curriculum that emphasizes sense-making over procedure, and a more highly-organized economy with fewer high-wage, low-skills jobs. Past assertions that teacher academic quality is irrelevant might not hold in future.

        Beverly Young’s comment about GPA echos a bulletin recently published on the CTC’s home page. Let us be clear, though: the CSU system and several large, career-oriented private universities account for almost all of the teaching credentials in California. Save for CSU campuses with a normal school/teachers’ college heritage, these are non-selective, second-tier academic institutions. Except in the case of a truly outstanding candidate, a 3.0 GPA from CSU Monterey Bay is not the same as a 3.0 GPA from Stanford.

        Again, we can debate about whether increased selectivity in teacher preparation programs would affect academic outcomes for public school students. Historically, politicians, regulators, and program sponsors have preferred to create formal, rather than academic, barriers to entry.

        Of all the requirements applicable to teacher candidates, only one emphasizes academic knowledge. At that, the CSET provides a binary, pass-fail result and focuses on the K-12 curriculum, omitting meta-knowledge that might be desirable in people charged with teaching that curriculum.* Much more time, money and political attention have been devoted to the CBEST (basic knowledge test), the U.S. constitution course/exam requirement, pedagogy course requirements (which programs are now free to double, thanks to S.B. 5, to which Gary Ravani alludes and which the Governor recently signed), the Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA), Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA), and the whole idea of formal teacher credentialing. To those who insist that teacher academic achievement is irrelevant, is there empirical evidence that the elements of our elaborate formal teacher certification system affect student achievement?

        The gist of past discussions here is that the teacher workforce is ‘acceptable’ as it is. I join Ann, David and Carol — and distance myself from our state’s miserly voters — in suggesting ‘best’ as a worthwhile goal.

        * Witness, for example, the CTC’s recent decision to delete history of mathematics from the specification for the CST-Math.

        • Gary Ravani on Sep 25, 2013 at 6:07 pm09/25/2013 6:07 pm

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          The ETS report is “How Teachers Compare.” ETS. How Teachers Compare. Cut. Paste. Click. Simple really.

          Here are more quotes from another ETS study: Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teaching Pool:

          “The study used SAT and ACT scores to compare teachers with other college graduates. Many of the claims that teachers were drawn from the lower end of the academic distribution were derived from the fact that year after year, high school seniors who indicated that they intended to major in education scored lower, on average, on college admissions tests of verbal
          and quantitative ability than peers who were also college-bound.7 However, when the research focused on people who made an actual step toward pursuing teaching by taking a Praxis II test, it became clear
          that teacher academic ability varied widely by the
          type of licensure sought. Candidates seeking licenses
          in academic subject areas had higher average college admissions test scores than candidates pursuing general fields like elementary education.8 The report’s data contradicted previous research by suggesting that teachers in academic subject areas had academic abilities that were equal to or higher than those of the general college graduate population.
          The researchers also investigated how teacher testing influenced other characteristics of the prospective teaching pool. They found that scores on licensure tests were positively associated with average SAT and ACT scores of prospective teachers, but, at the same time, limited the overall supply of teachers. The potential pool started out as a homogeneous population, composed primarily of White female students. Differences in passing rates on teacher tests further decreased the racial diversity of the pool. The fact that college GPA data were highly correlated with the SAT and ACT scores suggested that the study’s findings reflected general academic ability, rather than simply students’ performances on standardized tests.
          The final question that the earlier research explored was the potential impact of increasing the passing scores of licensure tests on the teaching
          pool. Modeling the impact of different passing score requirements demonstrated that making it tougher to pass Praxis tests would increase mean SAT scores of those passing the tests, while dramatically decreasing the diversity and supply of new teachers.”

          It is beginning to appear the the myth about low teacher academic ability is a “faith based” issue. You can keep trotting out studies by people who actually deal in testing teachers to little avail. I guess that’s why the stories about the “Grassy Knoll” are still with us.

          The study also talks about students intending to “major in education.” This is not currently possible in CA. Teachers here need a regular BA and I am not aware of an education BA in the state. Typically credentials are a fifth year of education at the post graduate level. At some colleges it can be a two year program resulting in an MA.

          The study also asserts that elementary level credentialed teachers have lower SATs than content area (presumably secondary) teachers. It does not say how elementary teachers compare to other non teaching students. Obviously, elementary credentials are multiple subject, requiring a different academic perspective and skill set than a single subject credential.

          A point made by the study, which is one that should not be overlooked, is that the higher the bar is raised for various qualifying tests for teaching the less diversity we tend to get in the teaching corps. There are a lot of very clever people with the ability to ace all kinds of tests and many of them have hearts of steel-wool. A test score, by itself, is a poor indicator of who belongs with children in a classroom. The obsession with test scores in all areas of education has not served the nation, the schools, or the children well.

          • TheMorrigan on Sep 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm09/25/2013 8:55 pm

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            It appears, with this topic, I agree with you, Gary. I have always found that there is the foul taint of elitism and wishful thinking with “the best and the brightest” arguments. In my humble experience, I’ve come to realize that great teachers come from all over–and so do bad ones.

          • Paul on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:25 am09/26/2013 3:25 am

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            Re: “Cut. Paste. Click. Simple really.” and “Grassy Knoll”, I cannot help but perceive rudeness in your remarks, Gary. Because the union leaders I met were so arrogant [and so ineffective — considering that teachers are the only American professionals routinely expected to perform unpaid work, and that they earn less than transit bus drivers, nurses, police offers, and firefighters, none of whom require the same level of education], for many years I exercised my right not to join, and to receive a rebate of dues used for purposes other than representation. I was the only teacher in two of my districts ever to have done so! How you talk to people affects their willingness to support your cause.

            Whether intentionally or not, you have included a quote from the 1999 ETS report that corroborates my claim. “[I]t became clear that teacher academic ability varied widely by the type of licensure sought. Candidates seeking licenses in academic subject areas had higher average college admissions test scores than candidates pursuing general fields like elementary education.” Later, you muddle the issue by positing that elementary teachers require “a different academic perspective and skill set.” SAT scores, GRE scores, and college GPA are intended as measures of GENERAL academic ability. Are you saying that elementary teachers need less academic ability? What of Special Education teachers, another group with low scores? I’ll grant that it’s not a problem that Physical Education teachers have the lowest scores.

            The ETS report that I have been citing is eight years newer than yours, and still finds that certain groups of teachers exhibit lower academic achievement than others. Here is a direct, inbound link to the relevant charts:


            My post argues AGAINST formal barriers to entry, such as more tests specific to the teaching profession. Researchers have found that teacher tests weed out low-performing candidates, but also weed out or discourage some high-performing candidates. Your point about diversity is also well taken, although it’s not clear that eliminating all teacher testing and returning subject matter preparation to the universities (the way things worked in California until 40 years ago) would increase diversity. If anything, California’s public universities have lost ground in terms of diversity since Proposition 209 passed.

            As teacher tests go, I think that the CSET is appropriate. It verifies K-12 content knowledge and allows candidates to enter the profession on the basis of prior knowledge, rather than forcing everyone to complete a CTC-approved subject matter program. Today, subject matter programs are offered on a very limited basis, and only by CSU. Without the CSET, there would certainly be no second-career teachers, as an adult who already had a bachelor’s degree wouldn’t be willing to return for an additional 32 units of undergraduate coursework, plus 31 units in a teacher preparation program.

            I AM arguing for increased academic selectivity/rigor. The 2.75 GPA doesn’t cut it. Preparing so many of our teachers in second-tier universities doesn’t cut it. The pseudo-academic nature of the TPA (there isn’t even a place for footnotes/citations!) doesn’t cut it. A 42-unit weekend master’s degree in education doesn’t cut it.

            As a side note, the state came very close to restoring the undergraduate major in education. That was half of the original text of Senate Bill 5. That part went unopposed by the CTC, but seems to be absent from the text that the Governor signed. The CTC was more concerned about the part that lifted the one-year/31-unit ceiling on teacher preparation. If you ask me, letting teacher preparation programs decide to keep candidates for up to two years of pedagogy coursework — and charge candidates for up to two years of graduate tuition — will do more to limit diversity and reduce enrollment than upping admission requirements ever could.

            • Gary Ravani on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm09/26/2013 1:36 pm

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              It seems obvious that ETS was describing candidates for education undergraduate majors, not available in CA. I think if you study AB5 you will find it allows education related course leading to a credential can now be taken as an undergraduate and/or as part of a post graduate program. And it is not a meditate, it is permissive. It will be like the programs offering a two-year/MA +credential now. Candidates will have an option as to which program they enter. As a part of the general increase in college attendance in the state I’m not certain what part AB 5 may play in decreasing diversity.

              It remains true that, outside of some right-wing op-eds dressed up as research, that there is little evidence to support the concept that teachers as a class have any issues with academic qualifications. Continued exhortations to “raise bars” and increase “rigor” in various contexts have just become a part of the empty rhetoric of self-styled reformers and, basically, “signifying nothing” educationally, but do often distract from issues of importance.

              Elementary teacher in self-contained classes and with multiple subjects credentials do often have differing perspectives and skill sets than (many) single-subject teachers. In my experience, this is likely a good thing.

              I am not trying to get you to support my “cause.” Trust me.

  16. Paul Muench on Sep 24, 2013 at 4:50 am09/24/2013 4:50 am

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    For LCFF I believe the goal for K-3 classrooms is 24 stidents per teacher by the time of full implementation. Are there any requirements about how that must be achieved over time?


    • navigio on Sep 24, 2013 at 7:57 am09/24/2013 7:57 am

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      We discussed this once before and the consensus seemed to be that the because the law says the districts/schools must ‘make progress’ toward that goal, the measure could be an incremental lowering of class sizes commensurate with the increment of funding that the program generated (eg 1/8th per year or so). I dont know whether any subsequent legislation has tried to clarify that more.
      However, I expect this requirement to be negotiated away for any districts that are in danger of not meeting it. From what I understand, if a single school fails to meet this mark, the entire district loses its funds for this program. And the law allows doing away with the 24 student requirement (but still receiving the funds) if the local bargaining unit agrees.

      • Paul Muench on Sep 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm09/24/2013 1:35 pm

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        Thank you for the info! That last part is definitely in the spirit of local control.

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