This is the third in a series of commentaries on the emerging teacher shortage in California.
Over the last decade, the California State University system prepared more of California’s teachers than all other institutions combined – and nearly 8 percent of the nation’s teachers. During this same period, the CSU system nearly doubled (to 1,500 per year) the number of math and science teachers it prepares, over half of whom work in schools in which the majority of children are from families in poverty.
In spite of these efforts, the state is facing a major teacher shortage. This school year, California’s school districts projected the need to hire 21,500 teachers. All credential programs in the state prepared 13,300 candidates the previous year, leaving a shortfall of over 8,000 newly trained teachers for available positions.
My CSU colleagues across the state and I have been concerned about an impending teacher shortage for several years, and we have been working with our school district partners to address the need for more teachers, counselors, and school leaders. The recent recession had a major impact on the number of students pursuing education careers. It was difficult to convince young people – and their parents – that teaching was a viable career when teachers were losing their jobs. The tide has changed and now we are working to increase the teaching pipeline. We know what to do and, at both the system level and on individual campuses, CSU is working with urgency to meet the workforce shortage.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White examined teacher shortages and potential campus responses with CSU’s campus presidents in December. In January, the deans of education developed a white paper with recommendations to address the teacher shortage at the system level. They include removing barriers that prevent credential candidates from entering or making it through our programs; exploring and implementing innovations to our programs to increase the numbers of teachers prepared; actively promoting teaching as a viable career; and dedicating more resources to teacher preparation programs.
Almost half of CSU teacher candidates are from low-income families, and financial assistance is key to obtaining a credential. Therefore we are emphasizing the importance of ensuring that our students have funding for their education.
Last fall, CSU launched a systemwide effort of outreach to students informing them of their eligibility for federal TEACH grants and helping them acquire these grants for their teacher preparation. We are also hoping that the Legislature will reinstate a portion of the APLE loan forgiveness program, which we found contributed markedly to potential candidates choosing a teaching career. Additional recommendations from the CSU Dean’s white paper on the teacher shortage include:
- Increase the number of credential candidates that can enroll at each campus, particularly those pursuing credentials in math, science and special education, which are all facing severe shortages,
- Provide funding to colleges and schools of education to hire sufficient tenure track faculty to meet the growing need,
- Operate state-supported programs and admit students year-round to support significant increases in enrollment.
At the individual campus level, outreach and recruitment of diverse students has been a high priority within teacher education programs on many campuses. At my campus, CSU Long Beach, we have worked with our high school and community college partners as well as with undergraduate colleagues to increase the number and diversity of candidates in our credential programs. We have done so in a number of ways that focus on:
- Assisting teaching candidates transferring from community colleges and enhancing teacher pathway advising with community college partners,
- Supporting mentoring of future teachers in tandem with student organizations, beginning at the undergraduate level and continuing through teacher credential programs,
- Developing and maintaining robust partnerships and excellent clinical practice opportunities for students considering teaching prior to and during credential programs,
- Mounting comprehensive recruitment efforts that are highly personalized and target undergraduates who have significant promise as teacher candidates.
Drawing on the power of our collective work, bolstered by state policy actions, CSU campuses and other colleges involved with teacher preparation can implement a range of efforts to address teacher shortages in a timely and efficient manner. To respond in an effective way demands the collective efforts of leaders at all levels of government and teacher preparation in the state.
Marquita Grenot-Scheyer is Dean of the College of Education at CSU Long Beach.
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