Fueling concerns about a teacher shortage that many educators have been worrying about for years, the number of credentials issued to new teachers trained in California has decreased for the 10th consecutive year, according to the latest figures from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
In the 2013-14 school year, the commission issued 11,497 new credentials to teachers trained in California, down from 16,401 in 2009-10. Boosting these numbers were 3,313 teachers who had been trained as teachers in other states or countries and applied for and received credentials in California.
At the same time, the number of teachers given short-term and provisional permits, and so- called “intern” credentials, rose sharply, even though they still comprise a very small proportion of California’s total teaching force.
A total of 5,744 temporary permits, waivers and intern credentials were issued in 2013-14, compared to the 282,495 teachers who were fully credentialed, according to commission figures, which were released last month in a report to the Legislature.
Even so, the increases were a troubling sign of “an inability of districts to find qualified staff,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University and the chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. She said the shortages of credentialed teachers are most severe in math and special education.
Darling-Hammond said there are signs of hope that the teacher supply will grow in the near future, as districts work to reduce class sizes and raise salaries. But she said the latest figures were a clear sign that “we’re not out of the woods. “
“Things are improving,” she said. “But we have a long way to go.”
“Limited-assignment teaching permits,” allowing fully credentialed teachers to teach classes for which they lack state authorization, rose to 1,729 in 2013-14, representing a 51 percent increase over the previous year.
So-called “provisional internship permits” and “short-term staff permits” increased by 36.7 percent in 2013-14 over the previous year, to a total of 1,166, according to the commission report.
A provisional internship permit is used to fill an anticipated need for which the district has not been able to find a fully qualified candidate. School districts can request short-term staff permits when they need to fill a teaching staff position immediately, for example if a teacher unexpectedly quits or becomes ill.
Other temporary credentials, known as intern credentials, are designed to provide alternative pathways into the teaching profession. They typically allow teachers to teach after about a few weeks of summer preparation as long as they enroll in a teacher preparation program during the school year, and work towards getting a preliminary credential. About 2,600 of those credentials were issued last year, an increase of 17.6 percent over the previous year.
Darling-Hammond and other education experts have repeatedly expressed concerns about the potential consequences of a teacher shortage that she said was due to several factors, including major layoffs during the recession, a culture of “teacher bashing” that she said has soured young people from seeking the career, and an increasing demand for teachers that has been met by a declining supply.
The shrinking numbers of teachers receiving credentials has been paralleled by a declining interest in teaching. Enrollments in teacher preparation programs have declined by 75 percent over the past decade – from 77,700 in 2001-02 to 19,933 in the 2012-13 school year, the last year for which figures are available,
Should these trends continue, Darling-Hammond said they could “absolutely” undermine the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, since the new reform heavily depends on well-prepared and qualified teachers.
“The Common Core is a huge change both in expectations of students’ performance and in the kinds of content kids will acquire,” she said. “It requires math teachers to understand mathematical thinking and problem-solving, so requires even better prepared math teachers.”
Although the number of provisional teaching permits increased in 2013-14 over the previous school year, they had been declining for several years prior to that, according to Josh Speaks, the legislative representative for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Speaks characterized the numbers of provisional permits as “fairly small.” In fact, the total number of all three of the temporary or provisional permits issued last year came to 2,895, out of a total teaching force of nearly 300,000.
The impact of the increase in provisional permits varies from district to district, with the highest percentages mostly in rural counties such as Mono, Lassen and Tuolumne.