The number of underprepared teachers working in California’s public school classrooms has more than doubled in just three years, a key indicator that the teacher shortage continues to worsen, according to a new report from the Learning Policy Institute.

For the 2015-16 school year, California issued 10,200 intern credentials, permits and waivers. These candidates had not yet completed, or sometimes even started, teaching preparation programs, according to the report, “Addressing California’s Growing Teacher Shortage: 2017 Update.”

In recent years, the state issued an increasing number of these temporary credentials from fewer than 5,000 in 2012-13, to just over 6,000 in 2013-14 and more than 7,600 in 2014-15.

These temporary credentials reflect a tiny fraction of the state’s more than 300,000 teachers.

“There are thousands of students today in classrooms with teachers who are wholly unprepared,” the report concludes.

The institute, a leading voice urging the state to confront the teacher shortage problem, said the state needed “to invest in rapidly building the supply of qualified teachers in the fields and locations where they are most needed.”

These shortages remain particularly troubling in special education, science and math, and bilingual education, the report said. Underprepared teachers are also more likely to be found in schools serving high percentages of English learners and low-income students, according to the report.

State law requires that districts hire teachers credentialed in the subject they are teaching. Only when there is an acute staffing need can districts hire teachers with intern credentials, permits and waivers.

Intern teachers credentials are typically for teachers who get limited training during the summer preceding the school year, and then begin teaching while they work to get their full credential by taking night and weekend classes. Permits are issued at the request of a school district in order to fill a temporary staffing vacancy or need typically by someone yet to start a teacher training program.

Meanwhile, a waiver is generally awarded to a teacher who has a credential in one subject, but is temporarily needed to teach in another subject that the person was not fully trained to teach.

“Substandard credentials are one of the best indicators of teacher shortages,” said researcher Desiree Carver-Thomas, the report’s coauthor. “Schools hire (underprepared teachers) when those who are ready just aren’t available.”

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The greatest growth in substandard credentials or permits was in emergency-style permits known as provisional intern and short-term staff permits, given to student teachers with the least amount of training, generally requiring only a bachelor’s degree. In 2015-16, California had more than 4,000 teachers with these types of permits, nearly five times as many as in 2012-13.

The Learning Policy Institute, a Palo Alto-based research and policy organization, has issued a series of reports and policy briefs for over a year chronicling school districts’ struggle to recruit and retain enough teachers to fill all vacancies.

“Substandard credentials are one of the best indicators of teacher shortages,” said a researcher at the Learning Policy Institute.

A recent survey of 211 districts across the state, conducted by the institute and the California School Boards Association, found that three-quarters of respondents said they had a significant shortage of qualified teachers for the 2016-17 school year.

Other key findings include:

  • The state is projected to need 20,000 new teachers next year, but is expected to issue only 11,500 teacher credentials;
  • The share of underprepared math and science teachers dramatically increased to 40 percent in 2015-16, double the rate of 2012-13;
  • More special education teachers are entering the classroom on substandard credentials or permits, with 64 percent of new special education teachers, or more than 4,000 teachers, entering as interns or with permits or waivers;
  • Enrollment in teacher preparation programs remains near historic lows, with the number of students in 2014-15 in college credentialing programs at one-quarter of what it was in 2001-02.

The report concluded that having fully prepared teachers for high-needs students, especially those in special education, can have a significantly positive effect on their education.

“Special education teachers with more extensive pedagogical training and practice teaching are better prepared to handle key teaching duties, such as planning lessons, managing the classroom environment, fulfilling professional duties, and using a variety of instructional methods,” the report said.

The report issued recommendations that the institute has previously championed, including an increase in state funding to create teacher residency programs, based on the medical school model of training residents; forgivable loan or scholarship programs that would require teaching students to commit to classrooms in high-demand subjects and regions; and a removal of the cap on pension earnings for retired teachers who return to the classroom during shortages.

State Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, introduced a bill last month that would give $20,000 grants to student teachers who commit to teach math, science, bilingual education or special education.

Other lawmakers are expected to introduce similar bills to tackle teacher shortages in coming months.

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  1. Soma Cassady 2 months ago2 months ago

    Every article I read about this neglects to mention that unless one has a wealthy partner, teaching in much of California will not allow you to afford to live here. The so called solutions that have been discussed, like building teacher dorms-really? Treating teachers like camp counselors instead of professionals is exactly the problem. I can’t afford to stay in the classroom. My teaching habit has become too expensive.

  2. Cy 7 months ago7 months ago

    Having just finished a credential program in early 2016, I can tell you why people aren't going into this profession. It's all the test hoops! We have so many tests: CBEST, CSET (3 subsections), 4 TPA's and then the dreaded RICA test. This last test is pretty much our final straw where most potential teachers give up. I have already taken this last test now twice and have missed that magic passing number by … Read More

    Having just finished a credential program in early 2016, I can tell you why people aren’t going into this profession. It’s all the test hoops! We have so many tests: CBEST, CSET (3 subsections), 4 TPA’s and then the dreaded RICA test. This last test is pretty much our final straw where most potential teachers give up. I have already taken this last test now twice and have missed that magic passing number by 7 points. The state charges for this test alone almost $200 a pop.

    Of course you can take a course in passing this test, but it costs $400 plus. If you don’t pass after that then you have wasted even more money. The state did away with offering another way, take more methodology courses, to get your credential. Plus, even if you get the magic number and pass this dreaded test, you are only awarded a tier 1 (preliminary) credential and have to pray that you can either get into an induction program where a district can pay for your tier 2 (clear credential) classes or you again have to pay out-of-pocket. This ends up being in the thousands.

    That’s why you have your shortage. Most of us aren’t in teaching for the money and fame, but when you can’t get ANY JOBS because you can’t pass this last hoop, then you’re out!

  3. JC 8 months ago8 months ago

    We are attacking the solution, not the problem. The question should not be why we have so many under prepared teachers, rather why are we allowing all the experienced ones to "get away"? Some of the answers have been discussed, bashed and vilified over the last generation is enough to keep most people in their right mind away from this profession. The pressures from testing and the lack of administrative support is … Read More

    We are attacking the solution, not the problem. The question should not be why we have so many under prepared teachers, rather why are we allowing all the experienced ones to “get away”?
    Some of the answers have been discussed, bashed and vilified over the last generation is enough to keep most people in their right mind away from this profession. The pressures from testing and the lack of administrative support is at an all time high. America has become very efficient at two things, outsourcing and micromanagement.
    Take a deep look at our public schools, look at the practices, programs and policies instituted over the last 20 years (the classroom has become a sterile environment, to the point it is toxic if that is possible to imagine). The range of the classroom (student ability), the number in the classroom and ability to manage all is the trick. These classrooms have to meet standards on a test set by legislatures or some bureaucrats who most likely does not know what the student does or doesn’t know.
    This should be the job of the teacher of record.

  4. CarolineSF 8 months ago8 months ago

    Just repeating the obvious -- we've been bashing and blaming and vilifying teachers and their unions (uppity women!) for years now, and what a surprise that there's a teacher shortage. The bashing and blaming and vilifying originated with the right "dark money" sector, but neoliberals have enthusiastically joined in. To be specific, the entire "teacher accountability" thing is about rewarding and punishing teachers over their students' test scores. But because achievement correlates closely with demographics, … Read More

    Just repeating the obvious — we’ve been bashing and blaming and vilifying teachers and their unions (uppity women!) for years now, and what a surprise that there’s a teacher shortage. The bashing and blaming and vilifying originated with the right “dark money” sector, but neoliberals have enthusiastically joined in.

    To be specific, the entire “teacher accountability” thing is about rewarding and punishing teachers over their students’ test scores. But because achievement correlates closely with demographics, this winds up punishing teachers who work with the most at-risk, high-need students, and rewarding teachers who works with the children of the elite. (It’s the equivalent of punishing doctors for treating the highest-risk patients.) And there’s a whole culture built around this, which engages in ongoing teacher-bashing. (I think about neoliberal journalist Jonathan Alter in the far-right-funded movie “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” calling teachers’ unions a “menace.”)

    EdSource gives a forum to many of those voices. All of them help worsen the teacher shortage just a bit with every bash, harming kids and education as they do it, though of course it helps the funding roll in. Just something for those with a conscience to think about.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 8 months ago8 months ago

      Caroline: As a regular reader of EdSource, you know that we that we remain committed to include diverse points of view. That’s what we do to encourage vigorous debate on complex issues.

  5. Walt 8 months ago8 months ago

    Having been through teacher credentialing, much of which was nonsense, I believe that the influence of the credentialing industry needs to be completely rethought. A thorough, competent survey of teachers needs to be conducted, without dominance by the credentialing industry. On-the-job training in successful classrooms, coupled with subject matter competence, will prove superior to useless education classes and projects, in my opinion.

  6. yoni vallecillo 8 months ago8 months ago

    With so much at stake, who wants to become a teacher nowadays? Dealing with pressure from all sectors who constantly put teachers down. The ones wanting to do it nowadays, think it twice before you get committed to: Teaching 7 hours plus spending 2 plus hours after school of grading papers, planning activities. Taking papers home to grade before going to bed (2 hours of extra work) plus 6 plus hours on the … Read More

    With so much at stake, who wants to become a teacher nowadays?
    Dealing with pressure from all sectors who constantly put teachers down.
    The ones wanting to do it nowadays, think it twice before you get committed to:
    Teaching 7 hours plus spending 2 plus hours after school of grading papers, planning activities.
    Taking papers home to grade before going to bed (2 hours of extra work) plus 6 plus hours on the weekend.
    On top of that, the enormous paper work, email from parents and administration, the ridiculous evaluation systems, and constantly budget cuts to programs.
    In addition, be ready to be a counselor, security, psychologist, a nurse, a special-ed teacher, blah, blah, blah.
    And on top of all that, getting salary and pay cuts, benefits cut, and increase in insurance coverage. Ah, also you must go to university and obtain more credentials and more degrees due to shortage in other areas. This extra education comes out of your pockets. Include spending money out of your pocket for materials needed in the classroom, etc, etc, etc.