Eric Scroggins

As California lawmakers in Sacramento move to tackle major issues affecting public education, the “impending teacher shortage” has become a new buzz issue. But it is still largely framed as something “yet to come” – a problem brewing in the future.

The urgent truth is that the shortage is already having an impact on California’s classrooms and some of its most vulnerable students, and we must act to prevent the crisis from worsening.

In San Jose Unified, many schools began the 2014-15 school year with substitute teachers leading classrooms. In Oakland, schools are still trying to fill open teaching positions – more than halfway through the school year.

The issue is not confined to urban areas, with school districts in rural communities from Stanislaus County to Kern County experiencing shortages as well.

Over the next 10 years, more than 100,000 California teachers are expected to retire, and too few new teachers have stepped up to replace them: According to data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, enrollment in our state’s teacher-preparation programs fell nearly 53% from 2008 to 2013 – one of the biggest declines in the nation. As we continue to work to reduce K-3 class sizes and as our state’s population grows, the number of teachers needed in California classrooms will continue to increase.

The time to respond is now. We applaud state Sen. Fran Pavley for introducing Senate Bill 62, which would require the state to take a hard look at the effectiveness of its student loan relief program for new teachers – a tool which has traditionally served as an incentive to recruit teachers to work in high-needs schools and underserved regions.

But more needs to be done to ensure that California is attracting strong candidates who will serve as quality teachers. As our lawmakers respond to this crisis, they have a significant opportunity to build a stronger and better educational system for California students by leveraging two of our state’s strengths: our diversity and our spirit of innovation.

Statewide, currently only 29% of educators identify as nonwhite, while the majority of California students are children of color. Addressing our state’s teacher shortage provides an opportunity to ensure that our educators and school leaders begin to more closely reflect our communities.

Some districts have taken the lead with robust diversity recruitment strategies – like Oakland Unified, which targets recruiting at historically black colleges and universities and those serving significant Hispanic populations. It also engages new local candidates who reflect student populations through its Teach Tomorrow in Oakland initiative.

At Teach For America, we’ve seen an intensive focus on recruiting people of color and those from low-income backgrounds result in an effective new pipeline for teacher diversity, with almost two out of three of the nearly 360 new California teachers recruited by Teach For America this year identifying as people of color.

Responding to the shortage also provides the opportunity to unleash our state’s innovative spirit. We must find new sources of quality teacher talent, and proven alternative pathways to the classroom are a critical strategy to do this. Programs like the Aspire Teacher Residency and High Tech High’s Teacher Intern Program have proven effective at drawing out and catalyzing new sources of committed teachers.

We’ve seen the same here at Teach For America, where only a quarter of the teachers we recruit to the field report having considered teaching prior to their engagement with us. These are new sources of teaching talent who remain committed to education for the long term, with nearly two out of three California teachers recruited by TFA remaining in education after their initial two-year commitment.

Alternative pathways can also open opportunities for mid-career professionals who cannot afford to spend several years obtaining a degree in teaching but nevertheless have relevant professional and educational experience in other fields. (Nearly a third of educators recruited by TFA nationally applied as graduate students or professionals.)

The teacher shortage is even more pronounced when it comes to teachers specializing in critical STEM disciplines, but innovative, alternative pathways have also proven critical for attracting educators with these backgrounds to the classroom. One out of every three California educators Teach For America has recruited and trained is teaching STEM subjects, for example. And, nationally, initiatives like 100Kin10 – an ambitious effort to recruit 100,000 new STEM educators by 2021 – are demonstrating that cross-sector collaboration will be key to engaging new talent pools in the profession, no matter the path they take to the classroom.

Innovating to address this shortage while building a teacher workforce that more closely reflects our state’s diversity will require cooperation from education stakeholders at every level – including the state Legislature, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, local districts and schools, traditional and alternative credentialing programs, and teacher unions.

As this legislative session moves forward, it is critical that our state’s policymakers not only support steps in the right direction like Sen. Pavley’s bill, but also start a meaningful dialogue about how to address our existing and impending teacher shortage crisis in a way that draws diverse new talent to the field and leverages our state’s spirit of innovation to expand proven alternative pathways to the classroom. Our kids deserve it.

•••

Eric Scroggins is Executive Director of  Teach For America – San Francisco Bay Area

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

SHARE ARTICLE

Join the conversation by going to Edsource's Twitter or Facebook pages. If you do not have a social media account, you can learn how to create a Twitter account here and a Facebook account here.

  1. Etienne 1 year ago1 year ago

    If there was true teacher shortage, there would be close to full employment for credentialed teachers looking for jobs. Truth is, any teacher job opening in my city gets many, many applicants -- and the teachers I know in different cities tell me the same. The author says 10,000 teachers a year will retire in the next 10 years. If we believe his statistics (without source), and the number of people enrolling in teaching … Read More

    If there was true teacher shortage, there would be close to full employment for credentialed teachers looking for jobs. Truth is, any teacher job opening in my city gets many, many applicants — and the teachers I know in different cities tell me the same.
    The author says 10,000 teachers a year will retire in the next 10 years. If we believe his statistics (without source), and the number of people enrolling in teaching programs dropped 53% since 2008, that still leaves well over 10,000 teacher credentials being earned every year. That means we are creating as many teachers as we are losing every year. (http://www.ctc.ca.gov/reports/TSR_2010_11_Full_Report_Final_15March2012.pdf ).

    There is no shortage. There are plenty of credentialed, unemployed teachers out there.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      The union policies seek loyalty, so starting teachers are underpaid and senior teachers overpaid to ensure loyalty. In most cases senior teachers are paid fairly, but since loyalty is the goal, those who are not good are overpaid. Then there isn't enough money to offer starting teachers and merit pay is opposed, and most young people would rather have a chance to earn a high income by working hard and pushing to … Read More

      The union policies seek loyalty, so starting teachers are underpaid and senior teachers overpaid to ensure loyalty. In most cases senior teachers are paid fairly, but since loyalty is the goal, those who are not good are overpaid. Then there isn’t enough money to offer starting teachers and merit pay is opposed, and most young people would rather have a chance to earn a high income by working hard and pushing to maximum effort than have no chance and be on a bureaucratic pay scale.

      There is a shortage of good teachers wanting to do this. The truth is in many suburban districts, they don’t get as many bad teachers because they really pressure them to quit then they’re an unemployed credentialed teacher. With the current system, you’d be insane to hire a teacher who is unemployed from another district based on just an interview.

  2. EB 1 year ago1 year ago

    I hold a preliminary multiple subject credential in S.D. county. I guess the teacher shortage has not reached this part of the state yet. I apply on edjoin for multiple jobs and receive no communication from the districts most of the time. It has been this way the last few years for me. I do not see how there is a shortage when there are certified teachers ready and willing to work, but get overlooked.

  3. John Dewey 1 year ago1 year ago

    That certainly isn't the case in Central Coast California. For any advertised teaching position, hundreds of applications flood in, including those from teachers in Kern County. Perhaps the teacher shortage elsewhere is caused by teachers flocking here? In any event, I've been trying for 3 years to get a full time teaching job. I actually believed the popular narrative that people in STEM careers who have retired and go into teaching as a … Read More

    That certainly isn’t the case in Central Coast California. For any advertised teaching position, hundreds of applications flood in, including those from teachers in Kern County. Perhaps the teacher shortage elsewhere is caused by teachers flocking here? In any event, I’ve been trying for 3 years to get a full time teaching job. I actually believed the popular narrative that people in STEM careers who have retired and go into teaching as a second career get jobs in teaching. Hasn’t proved true for me. To be fair, I realize it could be age discrimination.

  4. Gsolk 1 year ago1 year ago

    How ironic that the head of "Teach for Awhile", er I mean Teach for America should be writing this piece. His organization has helped the to devalue the public school teacher job by bringing people into classrooms for a year or two before they move on to their real careers -- unable to put up with the overcrowded classrooms, the over testing of kids, the misuse of standardized tests to judge teachers, and the … Read More

    How ironic that the head of “Teach for Awhile”, er I mean Teach for America should be writing this piece. His organization has helped the to devalue the public school teacher job by bringing people into classrooms for a year or two before they move on to their real careers — unable to put up with the overcrowded classrooms, the over testing of kids, the misuse of standardized tests to judge teachers, and the constant scapegoating of teachers in general. I dont blame TFA teachers for running to a different profession after a year or two. Until our society REALLY shows respect for teachers — by giving them support, sufficient supplies, small enough classrooms to really have time with their students — California and the nation will find that NO smart person will choose teaching for a career. And thats a sad thing to say for this 34 year teacher.

  5. Bill jones 1 year ago1 year ago

    A big plug for massive sums of unaccounted for taxpayer funds flowing into the pockets of TFA for diverse stem teacher recruitment. And taxpayers will never know how a penny of this money was spent.

    Big govt. dollars offered with no strings attached never attracts anything but shysters and crooks.

  6. Bill jones 1 year ago1 year ago

    Eric Scroggins is a white non- Stem male pushing for greater diversity and for more STEM recruitment when he is the entitled best and brightest liberal arts major. Brutal truth Eric: talented STEM folks go where wages are highest and conditions are best. They found not work for your Walmart organization. Since when did STEM folks get the idea that checking their rationality at the door of a rotten school in return for … Read More

    Eric Scroggins is a white non- Stem male pushing for greater diversity and for more STEM recruitment when he is the entitled best and brightest liberal arts major.

    Brutal truth Eric: talented STEM folks go where wages are highest and conditions are best. They found not work for your Walmart organization. Since when did STEM folks get the idea that checking their rationality at the door of a rotten school in return for a healthy career ending does of self- sacrifice was a good idea?

    The military has never through its training encouraged self sacrifice. That action is called above and beyond the call of duty, is rare, and commands a medal for valor.

    TFA is old news. Want talented STEM teachers. Pay more, treat better, scold less, provide more bennies, and give more autonomy. TFA does none of that.

  7. Bill jones 1 year ago1 year ago

    TFA is an unaccountable teacher temp agency that to rates its best and brightest through schools fast enough to avoid any student achievement accountability trail. Many work in charters where student accountability data is not consistently vollected. After two years of running faster than the accountability axe can fall, these best and brightest move on to much higher paying jobs in the edu-ocracy. I am a math and physics expert and I … Read More

    TFA is an unaccountable teacher temp agency that to rates its best and brightest through schools fast enough to avoid any student achievement accountability trail. Many work in charters where student accountability data is not consistently vollected.

    After two years of running faster than the accountability axe can fall, these best and brightest move on to much higher paying jobs in the edu-ocracy.

    I am a math and physics expert and I can tell you this: the exceptional publics my children attended did not gave a single TFA. And the teachers were Union.

    TFA is pure unadulterated…….

  8. urbaneducator 2 years ago2 years ago

    Get real. These patchwork solutions aren't going to replace anything remotely close to 100,000 teachers. The simple reason for the teacher shortage is that teaching in California is an insufficiently attractive profession today to draw enough qualified applicants. With 300,000 teachers being laid off during the last recession, candidates can correctly conclude that teacher job security is not what its critics claim it to be. With per student funding still lagging below … Read More

    Get real. These patchwork solutions aren’t going to replace anything remotely close to 100,000 teachers.

    The simple reason for the teacher shortage is that teaching in California is an insufficiently attractive profession today to draw enough qualified applicants. With 300,000 teachers being laid off during the last recession, candidates can correctly conclude that teacher job security is not what its critics claim it to be. With per student funding still lagging below pre-recession levels and below even a state such as Mississippi, candidates can correctly conclude that being a teacher in many California districts means dipping into one’s own pocket to buy classroom supplies and in general trying to do more with less. With the business model for many charter school organizations being to pay teachers below-market wages while piling on the work, candidates can correctly conclude that teaching is not a career that will help them to achieve their financial goals. With district superintendents testifying publicly about how schools are full of bad teachers who are impossible to dismiss and the public believing it, candidates can correctly conclude that their bosses and the public may not be behind them.

    No money, no security, no respect, no support…for this they took out student loans? Instead of focusing efforts on dismantling teacher job protections, dismantling teacher unions, and dismantling public school systems, the reform movement should try to dismantle Proposition 13. When it passed, things really started to head south for public education in California.

    And by the way, TFA doesn’t help matters by maintaining that anyone with a BA and five weeks of training can be an effective teacher. That’s what the public hears from you and, in claiming so, you denigrate the profession.

  9. John Johnson 2 years ago2 years ago

    I can see why there is a shortage in California. You’d have to be crazy to want to teach in that state. I think I’d need to be paid really well to take a job where I get cussed out by teenagers and might get stabbed.

  10. George Rocheny 2 years ago2 years ago

    I am not 100% sold on the limited debt relief as a deterrent of becoming a California Educator. I could see it as an incentive, but its not even that great of one. I am a new educator working on my Internship, so I do not have much room to talk; but I will share with you all that my biggest deterrent at times was the process of becoming a teacher in California. First you … Read More

    I am not 100% sold on the limited debt relief as a deterrent of becoming a California Educator. I could see it as an incentive, but its not even that great of one. I am a new educator working on my Internship, so I do not have much room to talk; but I will share with you all that my biggest deterrent at times was the process of becoming a teacher in California. First you have to attend and complete a 4-year degree, which now-a-days is a 6-year degree. According to the latest NSCRC study, 54.1 percent of students who started school in 2006 graduated in 6 years. 16.1 percent were still enrolled in some institution somewhere. That leaves 29.8 percent who most likely dropped out (if I am reading the graph right).

    Once that 54.1 percent got through the hurdles and reached their goal of a four-year degree, they have to go back to school for another two year CA approved teacher preparation program – which will most likely take them 3-4 years. Upon completion of the Teacher Preparation program, the student/future educator now has 4-9 years of education, which in reality they would almost be finished with med school. Teacher programs are also difficult to work with. Most are not accommodating to the average adult life. On top of the teacher education program, you have to get a Certificate of Clearance from the CTC ($75), live scan fingerprinting for the CTC and every single job you apply for ($25-$75*x), take and pass the CBEST ($104 online), take and pass the CSET ($90-$100/subtest* however many times you have to take it), pass the RICA ($175), pay another credential fee for an internship ($35) or student teach for 4 months (no pay).

    Debt relief usually doesn’t cover these costs. Then, the new educator, making minimum pay, has to clear the credential. Then you have to go back to school to get your Level II credential. I feel like I am still missing a bunch of steps. This doesn’t take into consideration the planning and scheduling to do all of this, which equals time off work, away from families, etc.

    Lets not forget that by the time these students finish their degrees in 6 years, they are already in their late 20’s, so families have to be considered. At times I second-guessed myself and wondered if it was worth it. My situation is unlike most- I was full-time active duty military, had a steady income, and no obligations outside of work. I could focus my time on school, the course work, and I had paid vacation so I could take off to take tests and what not.

    I’ve also had the VA, Troops to Teachers, and several other programs support me. I am 100% for highly qualified teachers, and the teachers being the best of the best. I am not sure of a better way to get the best of the best, but there has to be one. Every time I thought I was done with one thing, I had to do another thing. If I didn’t have TTT, the VA, EnCorps, and the various other supports, there is no way I would be where I am now. Other students do not have those luxuries and supports, and most likely turn away.

    Replies

    • EB 1 year ago1 year ago

      That is exactly right! It is ridiculous! Just to clear the credential is like going back to college! I was a first year teacher with a wacky assignment trying to do BTSA with no support.

  11. Bill Younglove 2 years ago2 years ago

    Eric,
    Truthfully, those two out of three TFAers who “remain in education” beyond the two-year commitment actually remain in the classrooms? And how many of the Teach For Awhile candidates actually commit to a career in teaching?

  12. Jann Taylor 2 years ago2 years ago

    Andrew, your questions are right on. I think very few people, outside of teachers actually in today's classroom, understand the cost of burgeoning class sizes, cultural disrespect, lack of quality administrative leadership, long hours on weekends and evenings, low pay and rising costs of our portion of benefits--sometimes more than half our paycheck. Though I love the intellectual rigor of teaching and the joy of students and dialogue with them, I would not … Read More

    Andrew, your questions are right on. I think very few people, outside of teachers actually in today’s classroom, understand the cost of burgeoning class sizes, cultural disrespect, lack of quality administrative leadership, long hours on weekends and evenings, low pay and rising costs of our portion of benefits–sometimes more than half our paycheck. Though I love the intellectual rigor of teaching and the joy of students and dialogue with them, I would not recommend our beleaguered profession to any young people. Until our culture comes full circle and respects the work we do with our children, we do not deserve a quality teaching force. Show us the respect with thoughtful and intelligent leadership, manageable work load, benefits and pay commensurate with our education, and respect for the hard work we do with tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Jann, you lose a lot of pay when you back the bottom 5-10% of teachers. Instead of firing Mark Berndt you fight for him to get 40k right before he gets a 26 year prison sentence for molestation. There is a P.E. teacher in SF fired from a high school over a decade ago for a lapdancing incident who went to a middle school, had over 150 kids following him on Instagram and … Read More

      Jann, you lose a lot of pay when you back the bottom 5-10% of teachers. Instead of firing Mark Berndt you fight for him to get 40k right before he gets a 26 year prison sentence for molestation. There is a P.E. teacher in SF fired from a high school over a decade ago for a lapdancing incident who went to a middle school, had over 150 kids following him on Instagram and posted a like on a porn video which made all these kids see it, or at least see the link. I’ve seen him and been wary of him around my daughters for years. Predictably, the union took it upon themselves to treat him as a noble cause and he is now at another middle school, a disaster waiting to happen. When my son in 1st Grade had a teacher miss more than half the year for multiple reasons and she’d been pushed out of another school, the union took her up as a liberal noble cause and we didn’t get a perm replacement until 30 school days were left, and 22 of 22 parents wanted her gone. When we were told maybe this is a unique event (she was in her late ’50s) we asked if we could investigate the record at previous schools, and were told the union has a rule prohibiting that. The union calls due process what is in fact a system designed to make it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers. The union has used bribery to kill reform bills over 70% of Californians support, killed neighborhood schools destroying Washington and Lincoln and causing many to endure horrendous job-risking commutes and leave the district by moving or private, and has not responded to the fact that teachers have a higher absentee rate than the general population despite working 180 days vs. 250 for most of us. Proposals to either pay a bonus for high attendance instead of across the board pay increases or have layoffs, instead of go first to those with the least seniority, go to those who are not considered good or perhaps those who have called in sick the maximum number of days allowed for several years in a row have been dismissed by the union, which has not helped with any reforms.

      Higher pay should come, but with higher responsibility and merit pay, bonuses and attention to test scores, parent/student reviews, peer and principal review, and other factors. Before that, I will vote against pay increases. I won’t sign a blank check. The union has held obstinate. The union needs to start putting the interests of children ahead of their own interests, or I will continue to vote against this. Over 70% of voters deserve laws reflecting their beliefs, not backroom deals based on bribery, more politely referred to as campaign contributions.

  13. Heidi Holmblad 2 years ago2 years ago

    California has a shortage of many types of professionals in the schools. School psychologists are among the most sought-after in the pupil services realm. Many school psychology positions remained unfilled throughout this school year, and, like teachers, a number of school psychologists will be retiring in the coming years. Yet many California State University campuses are reducing, or even ending, their programs that would increase the number of these school mental health professionals. School psychology … Read More

    California has a shortage of many types of professionals in the schools. School psychologists are among the most sought-after in the pupil services realm. Many school psychology positions remained unfilled throughout this school year, and, like teachers, a number of school psychologists will be retiring in the coming years. Yet many California State University campuses are reducing, or even ending, their programs that would increase the number of these school mental health professionals. School psychology professors are not being replace as they retire — or are being replaced by adjuncts — leading to a loss in national accreditation and a marked reduction in the number of school psychology graduate students. Schools are hiring non-credentialed social workers and others with no understanding of school climate or experience with the state’s Education Code to fill the gap. CSU education and psychology departments should take a hard look at this profession — named No. 1 in social services this year by U.S. News — and increase the number of master’s level and specialists graduate school slots available for those who wish to provide services to all of California’s students.

  14. Lauralyn 2 years ago2 years ago

    The last of the Baby Boomers are within sight of retirement. So the teachers among them are going to leave a big hole unless we can find a way to fill it with the younger generations.

  15. Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

    Why is it that efforts to address the supposed coming teacher shortage do not focus on making teaching more humane, attractive and satisfying so that it essentially sells itself as a profession? Emphasis is on “recruitment” (i.e. doing a sales job on prospects) and “alternative pathways” (i.e. lowering standards of training for entry into the profession.) Is anyone being honest with the prospects? Is anyone telling them that California has the worst staffing ratios in the nation … Read More

    Why is it that efforts to address the supposed coming teacher shortage do not focus on making teaching more humane, attractive and satisfying so that it essentially sells itself as a profession?

    Emphasis is on “recruitment” (i.e. doing a sales job on prospects) and “alternative pathways” (i.e. lowering standards of training for entry into the profession.)

    Is anyone being honest with the prospects? Is anyone telling them that California has the worst staffing ratios in the nation for teachers, school administrators, counselors and others? That California’s student to teacher ratio for high schools is DOUBLE the national average? That CA per pupil spending ranges from near bottom to bottom of the nation?

    Is anyone telling the new teacher prospects that in the next California recession they are likely to be laid off (as in the last recession, 30,000 teachers) and jobless regardless of how capable they are, as a result of LIFO policies?

    Is it surprising that it is hard to find teachers willing to teach in the Bay Area when on the salaries offered the prospects cannot to afford to live anywhere that is convenient and safe?

    Is it surprising that it is hard to find highly qualified STEM grads willing to teach under such circumstances when statistics show that they do much better financially in other non-teaching STEM jobs?

    Are you going to tell them about California charter school teacher “churn and burn?”

    What are you going to tell them? Is it going to be the truth? The whole truth? Or are you just going to polish up your salesmanship?

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Andrew: Even your own statement when read as a whole contradicts your conclusion: "Is anyone telling the new teacher prospects that in the next California recession they are likely to be laid off (as in the last recession, 30,000 teachers) and jobless regardless of how capable they are, as a result of LIFO policies?" If teachers are faced with massive layoffs it will be due to poor funding and a possible recession. Teacher seniority rules only determine … Read More

      Andrew:

      Even your own statement when read as a whole contradicts your conclusion: “Is anyone telling the new teacher prospects that in the next California recession they are likely to be laid off (as in the last recession, 30,000 teachers) and jobless regardless of how capable they are, as a result of LIFO policies?”

      If teachers are faced with massive layoffs it will be due to poor funding and a possible recession. Teacher seniority rules only determine the fairest way to do this as there is no demonstrable way to demonstrate who is more “capable.” The available research indicates that senior teachers on average are more effective than newer teachers. History indicates that when left to their own devices schools management cab be arbitrary and capricious in layoffs and capability will have nothing to do with it. Seniority in layoffs is the fairest method and the one most likely to leave the most effective teachers in the classroom.

      And prospective teachers read the newspaper or otherwise pay attention to the news. They understand the circumstances of teaching currently and it may well be more the public attacks on teachers as professionals and the rules that protect that professionalism–seniority, due process, etc,–that make new candidates hesitant more than economic factors. There’s a fine balance to be kept here. Obviously, though teachers have no vow of poverty to swear and salaries must be reasonable for a professional with a college education we aren’t looking for teachers who are primarily motivated by salary concerns. And, as you noted, the cost-of-living has to be taken into consideration. Though CA’s salaries are high on a fixed dollar basis they are the lowest of all major industrialized states on an adjusted basis.

      • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

        Seems a bit inconsistent, Gary . . . "there is no demonstrable way to demonstrate who is more “capable.” " "The available research indicates that senior teachers on average are more effective than newer teachers." As I understand your post, it is possible to somehow determine that senior teachers are more effective than newer teachers, but not possible to determine if a given teacher is more effective than another? If this is the case, then I assume that all … Read More

        Seems a bit inconsistent, Gary . . .

        “there is no demonstrable way to demonstrate who is more “capable.” ”

        “The available research indicates that senior teachers on average are more effective than newer teachers.”

        As I understand your post, it is possible to somehow determine that senior teachers are more effective than newer teachers, but not possible to determine if a given teacher is more effective than another?

        If this is the case, then I assume that all subjective and objective teacher assessments and evaluations are meaningless? Since they cannot measure capability? So we should stop even considering or assessing teacher capability because it cannot be quantified or utilized in a meaningful manner?

        So what exactly have California teachers unions really accomplished in a politically democratic state, other than protecting tenure and LIFO at great expense, which only benefit more senior teachers? Are the abysmal per-student funding and abysmal staffing ratios at least partly the fault of the politically powerful unions? Would truly effective unions manage to reverse these? Would the unions find their way to being more effective in securing adequate per student funding and in preventing mass layoffs if the senior union teachers had some skin in the fight? What does a newer teacher get that is meaningful to him or her for the $800 or so in union dues that comes out of his or her very modest salary?

        These newer teachers have to run a tough gauntlet. They are often loaded with student loans, having spent six or so years in college. Some would like to have a life and maybe start a family. Unlike other states that grant them a full license on completing training, California only grants them a preliminary credential and more work and expense is needed to get a clear credential, in addition to coming abreast of the challenges of teaching full time in an arena with horrible staffing ratios. They are dedicated to hard work and public service at very modest starting salaries in a state that has a high cost of living. Is it fair top these challenges by dumping them from employment en mass each time there is one of California’s cyclical recessions? When staffing ratios were poor even before the layoffs? An alternative to dumping all the junior teachers in a recession if stable funding cannot be legislated would be to temporarily lower the salaries of the most senior teachers, say from $90,000 to $75,000, so that the junior teachers could continue to draw their $40,000 or so and remain employed and housed and not have their cars repossessed.

        The prospects for a new teacher at present do not look very appealing, so far as I can see. Senior union teachers apparently consider them to be very second-class citizens, entitled to only half salaries despite doing the same work and first to be laid off no matter how effective. Some may be very appropriately hesitant to head down the road in question, where destructive layoffs of the best alternate with non-selective hiring binges. Is the appropriate response to all this simply to develop a better marketing and recruiting strategy?

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          Andrew, not just inconsistent, but absurd. All the time and costs associated with professional development, which btw, often comes straight out of instructional time, and we are to believe it doesn't make one iota of demonstrable difference? After all, layoffs wouldn't be fair to the teachers ...violin solo... nevermind the students. It may be difficult to compare the qualities that different teachers have, but everyone knows who are the rotten apples at a school...they … Read More

          Andrew, not just inconsistent, but absurd. All the time and costs associated with professional development, which btw, often comes straight out of instructional time, and we are to believe it doesn’t make one iota of demonstrable difference? After all, layoffs wouldn’t be fair to the teachers …violin solo… nevermind the students. It may be difficult to compare the qualities that different teachers have, but everyone knows who are the rotten apples at a school…they keep employed by moving from one school to another rather than moving out of the profession. No demonstrable way? No, just no way that Gary would agree with. How about asking parents and students for feedback on teachers as part of the annual survey? Or counting the number of days some teachers can’t be bothered to show up at work. No that wouldn’t be fair. In case of emergency it isn’t women and children first, it’s teachers.

        • Tom 2 years ago2 years ago

          Andrew - don't know how long you have been following Edsource, but just to get to know Gary, he has said he was a teacher for many years, and a little web research shows he is from the Santa Rosa area and has been a past president of the local teachers union. He is not objective about teacher issues discussed by Edsource, but instead just presents the talking points of his masters at CTA. … Read More

          Andrew – don’t know how long you have been following Edsource, but just to get to know Gary, he has said he was a teacher for many years, and a little web research shows he is from the Santa Rosa area and has been a past president of the local teachers union. He is not objective about teacher issues discussed by Edsource, but instead just presents the talking points of his masters at CTA. Pretty intellectually lazy actually. It is the CTA, by the way, who are guilty of refusing to impose meaningful teacher evaluations and thus lost out on million of dollars of Race to the Top Funds from the Feds, and that is a fact. As far as I can tell, Gary has never been in the private sector so has no clue about the magic of accountability to improve performance, or the lack of it that erodes performance. Not taking a swipe at teachers, it is just in the human nature. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it! There is plenty of evidence that things need to change before public schools get better.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Tom, I'm going to partially defend Gary here, much to his consternation, no doubt. If by meaningful teacher evaluations you mean student standardized test-based teacher evaluations it's a bad idea. God knows this subject has been talked to death with little resolution. Two facts stand out among the debris of that debate: 1. the tests are not reliable indicators of achievement or teacher quality given many factors not the least of which is the out-of-school … Read More

            Tom, I’m going to partially defend Gary here, much to his consternation, no doubt. If by meaningful teacher evaluations you mean student standardized test-based teacher evaluations it’s a bad idea. God knows this subject has been talked to death with little resolution. Two facts stand out among the debris of that debate: 1. the tests are not reliable indicators of achievement or teacher quality given many factors not the least of which is the out-of-school factors and 2. test-bases evaluations will supercharge teaching to the test to the detriment of real learning. I know Gary has expressed support for peer review, though I cannot vouch for his sincerity in that regard. The point is that teachers need more stringent job performance evaluations, just not ones based upon test scores. The problem at present is that the CTA pays lip service to meaningful evaluations but fights any and all.

        • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

          Andrew, for the record, the maximum salary of teachers at LAUSD in the "step" table is $73,900/year (that's for a "C-basis teachers," there are two other "basis," but those scales are for teachers doing administrative work permitting them to work more than the 204 paid days of the regular school year). After that, there can be an increase every 5 years, topping out at $80,074 after 20 years plus the time that it takes to … Read More

          Andrew, for the record, the maximum salary of teachers at LAUSD in the “step” table is $73,900/year (that’s for a “C-basis teachers,” there are two other “basis,” but those scales are for teachers doing administrative work permitting them to work more than the 204 paid days of the regular school year). After that, there can be an increase every 5 years, topping out at $80,074 after 20 years plus the time that it takes to make it to the top of the scale. (You can find the tables at http://achieve.lausd.net/Page/4140)

          What I’d like to know is how many districts pay their teacher the average salary of $90k/year that you cite. Could you make that information available?

          Also, doing away with LIFO is a no-no. Why? Because to keep so-called better effective teachers raises too many issues on how teachers are rated. To date, I have not seen any reasonable method of rating teachers as most of the proposed methods are fraught with political booby traps. In my opinion, the only way to determine the effectiveness of teachers is through observations by competent administrators plus possibly a peer committee. The reason we have the system we have is because it is a compromise reached after the at-will model of many years ago collided with evolution on the way teachers are regarded by the public. From what I’ve seen, the system would work if administrators were to be given the time to supervise teachers and write them up as necessary. But local administrators, regardless of their quality, have too much on their plate and they simply don’t have the time to do the job right and fall back on simply passing the problem teachers around.

          Anyway, I agree that the best way to recruit teachers is to pay them a proper salary and let administrators do their jobs instead of being loaded with all kinds of jobs that should be done by assistants.

          And I agree with The Morrigan: this commentary is a fluff piece for TFA. Why should it be otherwise when its source is considered?

          • Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

            Corruption and nepotism present a real problem with LIFO in some more rural settings. There are a lot of rural regions of the state which have no economic drivers. In such places, everyone aspires to be a public employee of some sort, including many who truly lack the qualifications. You end up with someone who was related to or had connections to someone who was on a school board or in administration … Read More

            Corruption and nepotism present a real problem with LIFO in some more rural settings.

            There are a lot of rural regions of the state which have no economic drivers. In such places, everyone aspires to be a public employee of some sort, including many who truly lack the qualifications. You end up with someone who was related to or had connections to someone who was on a school board or in administration twenty years ago and got a coveted teaching position solely on the basis of influence or connection. Such teachers often have abysmal qualifications and skills. You reach a point where the connection or influence that got and kept the teacher hired for some years are gone, corrected, but the teacher is stuck there for life due to LIFO. The kids suffer as a result. There is no practical and economical way to get rid of the teacher in question in such a setting with the present rules and the teacher hangs onto the position for dear life, knowing that nobody else would consider hiring him or her to teach based on real qualifications. I understand this may not be as much of a problem in some urban settings or in regions that have real economies, so that teaching is viewed more as a calling and less as a way to make a living.

            I agree that LAUSD salaries are inadequate, especially considering the cost of living in the LA region, and the same applies to many other districts as well. In rural regions, a problem that arises relates to what I mention above. The lemon teacher who was initially hired and retained as a result of corruption gets to teach for life, rises to the top of the salary scale despite the worst of skills, and hogs funding that could hire a couple of newer much better teachers.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Manuel, you say LIFO is a compromise. Between what and what? At-will termination without cause and due process and life long employment???... Well, LIFO doesn't seem like much of a compromise. Only part of a handful of teachers, less than the number of fingers in that hand, out of hundreds of thousands are fired yearly. Moreover, the Vergara defendants claimed that LIFO is reasonable if administrators just due their jobs, not what you are … Read More

            Manuel, you say LIFO is a compromise. Between what and what? At-will termination without cause and due process and life long employment???… Well, LIFO doesn’t seem like much of a compromise. Only part of a handful of teachers, less than the number of fingers in that hand, out of hundreds of thousands are fired yearly. Moreover, the Vergara defendants claimed that LIFO is reasonable if administrators just due their jobs, not what you are saying which is that they can’t be reasonably expected to due their jobs under the circumstances. if decades long under funding of California school is reason why LIFO doesn’t work, then we either need to change the law or the funding and we have going from last to more like the middle of the pack. Yet, the problem of teacher quality remains.

            So what are we to do? You say it is “Passing the problem teachers around” in order to maintain what you consider the most fair system, LIFO, out of the current possibilities. The question is this: Fair to whom? Certainly not the students who have to put up with the problem teachers passed around. The fact is the current laws prioritize the needs of the teachers over the needs of the students. That’s because teachers have unions, dues and deep pockets to lobby day after day, year after year in Sacramento and DC for their rights, salaries and benefits as well as other unrelated issues while students have… well, not much except the occasional under-resourced community group or the occasional multi-millionaire. I’m all in favor of due process and a fair process, but as you admit, Manuel, LIFO doesn’t work under the current system and public education wasn’t set up as a job program, but as an educational institution. Worse come to worse, I’d rather the teacher deal with unfairness than students. The teachers could proactively find solutions if they were willing to do so. The students can’t do anything.

        • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

          Andrew: Sorry this response is "late," I've been indisposed lately. As to your questions about the relative strengths of senior teachers compares to the less experienced and then rating teacher effectiveness one by one the answer is: sample size. It is possible for researchers to look at hundreds, thousands even, of teachers by years of experience and make a reasonable projection relates to effectiveness. At the school level, however, with few teachers to "sample" research (try National Research Council) … Read More

          Andrew:

          Sorry this response is “late,” I’ve been indisposed lately.

          As to your questions about the relative strengths of senior teachers compares to the less experienced and then rating teacher effectiveness one by one the answer is: sample size.

          It is possible for researchers to look at hundreds, thousands even, of teachers by years of experience and make a reasonable projection relates to effectiveness.

          At the school level, however, with few teachers to “sample” research (try National Research Council) finds there are far too many variables the create “noise” that makes such judgements invalid and unreliable.

  16. TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

    Ultimately, this piece has very little to say about what to do to solve the teacher shortage problem. It is mostly a puff piece for TFA.