Credit: Courtesy of Anthony Bernard
A bilingual teacher in Fresno Unified helps students with a lesson.

California has earmarked nearly $200 million over the last four years to address the state’s persistent teacher shortage, but it is not enough, according to new studies that are part of “Getting Down to Facts II,” a research project focused on a wide array of statewide education issues.

The teacher shortage has worsened in recent years as state funding for education improved and districts began lowering class sizes and bringing back programs like summer school and the arts, which were frequently eliminated during the recession, increasing the need for more teachers.

Declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs after the economic downturn and teacher attrition also have contributed to the shortage of educators. Teacher turnover currently accounts for 88 percent of the demand for new teachers, according to the research.

“The story is still bleak,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and the author of “Teacher Shortages in California: Evidence about Current Status, Sources, and Potential Solutions,” one of the research project’s 36 reports released this week. The reports were written by more than 100 authors, including many prominent researchers from California.

There has been a small uptick in enrollment in teacher preparation programs and in the number of licenses awarded to new teachers, but not enough to resolve the problem, Darling-Hammond said.

A 2016 survey of 211 school districts by the Learning Policy Institute revealed that nearly three-quarters could not find enough qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. Instead, schools hired thousands of underqualified teachers. In 2016-17, more than 12,000 provisional intern permits, limited assignment teaching permits, waivers and intern credentials were issued in California. About half of these went to math, science and special education teachers — subject areas with the most acute shortages, according to the research.

Teachers working with provisional intern permits and intern credentials have not completed the testing, coursework and student teaching required for a preliminary or clear credential. Limited assignment permits and waivers allow credentialed teachers to teach outside their subject areas to fill a staffing need.

State lawmakers approved a series of programs in recent years in an effort to increase the number of qualified teachers in California schools, including $45 million to help school staff become credentialed teachers; $10 million for new undergraduate programs for teacher education; $5 million to open the California Center on Teaching Careers, which promotes the teaching profession and recruits new teachers; $9 million for teacher and leader recruitment and retention and $5 million for the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program. 

A good portion of the $200 million in state funds allocated to fight the teacher shortage has yet to be spent. The 2018 state education budget includes $100 million for teacher residencies and local initiatives to increase the number of special education teachers, as well as $25 million for teacher residencies to increase the number of math, science and bilingual education teachers.

The Teacher Residency Grant program offers one-time competitive grants to begin or expand teacher residency programs in order to recruit and support the training of special education, bilingual education, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers. The state has allocated $50 million for special education and $25 million for bilingual education and STEM residencies.

The Local Solutions Grant Program will use $50 million to offer one-time competitive grants to school districts to identify and develop solutions to the shortage of special education teachers.

“We think the teacher residency program is a promising way to get teachers in the pipeline and keep them there,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, who authored the bill that created the residency program.

The California State Assembly Committee on Education continues to look at ways to improve teacher recruitment and retention, he said. “Everything is on the table and we should look at any of these recommendations,” McCarty said of the “Getting Down to Facts II” research. “We are always intrigued when people bring research and data-driven suggestions on how we can deal with teacher recruitment and retention.”

The authors of the two studies on teacher staffing say more needs to be done to end California’s teacher shortage. The number of qualified teachers could be increased if economic incentives were used to target teachers in high-needs fields and to increase the salaries of new teachers, according to “Teacher Staffing Challenges in California: Exploring the Factors that Influence Teacher Staffing and Distribution,” another study on the teacher shortage included in “Getting Down to Facts II.”

The researchers also recommended:

  • State lawmakers loosen restrictions requiring additional testing and coursework for teachers from other states who want to teach in California;
  • Schools start programs to recruit, train and support community members and district staff who want to become teachers in their communities and offer mentoring and support for new teachers;
  • School districts offer incentives like loan repayment, scholarships and hiring and retention bonuses to encourage more people to become teachers.

“One of the things we have not been able to achieve yet in California is a widespread forgivable loan or scholarship program,” Darling-Hammond said. “We really need to build a pipeline in a field with few people coming in.”

The cost of teacher preparation is cited as a “significant obstacle” for those who are considering teaching as a profession, according to the Learning Policy Institute study.

The recession also hurt the teaching profession. The California Teachers Association reported that about 100,000 teachers received “pink slips” between 2008 and 2012 as a warning they could be laid off, said the Learning Policy Institute study. Although most kept their jobs, the highly publicized annual ritual of sending layoff notices to teachers made many potential teachers afraid to join the profession, according to researchers.

Teacher programs have experienced a 70 percent decline in enrollment in the past decade, according to the studies. There has been a slight increase in enrollment in recent years, but there is concern that the University of California and California State University systems, which prepare nearly 60 percent of California teachers, no longer have the capacity to educate enough teachers to fill the needs of school districts, researchers say.

The worst teacher shortages are in special education, where two out of three teachers hired in 2016-17 had substandard credentials — intern credentials, permits and waivers. Nearly 8 in 10 California schools need special education teachers, according to Getting Down to Facts survey data.

“In special education, shortages are a five-alarm fire,” said Learning Policy Institute researchers in their report. “The most vulnerable students with the greatest needs, who require the most expert teachers, are those with the least qualified teachers.”

Special education students need teachers with sophisticated expertise that includes medical and psychological knowledge, Darling-Hammond said. Without this expertise it isn’t likely the students are getting instruction that is meaningful, she said.

Underprepared teachers are more likely to suspend or expel special education students or to use other exclusionary discipline, Darling-Hammond said.

“The lack of teachers adequately prepared on the behavioral and academic side can make for a torturous experience for the students,” she said.

The teacher shortage threatens education initiatives underway in the state, including new standards, curriculum, instruction and assessment, according to the project studies on the teacher shortage.

“When you have a huge shortage of math and science teachers, when about 40 percent of those coming in have not been prepared, it’s going to be very hard to meet the new standards without continued investments in that area,” Darling-Hammond said.

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  1. laim 1 week ago1 week ago

    But what is being done to rectify this?

  2. gmail sign up 1 week ago1 week ago

    There has been a small uptick in enrollment in teacher preparation programs and in the number of licenses awarded to new teachers, but not enough to resolve the problem

  3. 192.168.0.1 1 week ago1 week ago

    There has been a small uptick in enrollment in teacher preparation programs and in the number of licenses awarded to new teachers, but not enough to resolve the problem

  4. Osayowmanbor 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The multiple testing requirement is also a barrier. I could not pass my tests whilst working full time as an Special Day Class teacher and having anxiety. It was hard. They should allow people to use the option of taking a class to satisfy these test at community colleges. The 2 years I spent in the classroom I did more than some seasoned teachers, I have to divert my master's program into Ed leadership and … Read More

    The multiple testing requirement is also a barrier. I could not pass my tests whilst working full time as an Special Day Class teacher and having anxiety. It was hard. They should allow people to use the option of taking a class to satisfy these test at community colleges. The 2 years I spent in the classroom I did more than some seasoned teachers, I have to divert my master’s program into Ed leadership and left the classroom with all the training and knowledge I had gotten. Both classrooms I left till now did not get a permanent teacher. It was really sad.

  5. ebl 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Special education teachers regularly “escape” from special ed to another area of teaching that has less onerous (and ridiculous) paperwork and documentation demands. Perhaps Trump will accidentally end up doing something right if he devolves special ed to the state level. Then the whole issue of just how much has to be written down can be debated in Sacramento.

  6. Seasoned speech pathologist 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Despite having been licensed in five states – and worked in them – in the Northeast over a long career in public education, California turned me down for a license in 2012. When I asked the licensing person in Sacramento what I could do, she said to either take the national exam again or go back to Maryland and work fulltime for five years then apply again.

    Replies

    • Osayowmanbor 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      It is rather unfortunate that California feels superior to other states yet they spend the less per student than most states and have the highest number of failing students.
      Why can they use your experience to make up for the licensure requirement?
      Ridiculous!

  7. LEON AVRECH 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I am a retired middle school teacher and principal. Retired in 1999 after 37 years in middle school. I read your article in the San Jose Mercury News. I have a passion to help new teachers so that they succeed and do not quit. I wrote a book that will help new teachers. The book, "Think You Can Teach? A Survival Guide For New Middle School Teachers" is available on Amazon or from the publisher … Read More

    I am a retired middle school teacher and principal. Retired in 1999 after 37 years in middle school. I read your article in the San Jose Mercury News. I have a passion to help new teachers so that they succeed and do not quit. I wrote a book that will help new teachers. The book, “Think You Can Teach? A Survival Guide For New Middle School Teachers” is available on Amazon or from the publisher Xlibris. $10 for 37 years experience. Another answer to the teacher shortage is to allow retirees to return to the classroom without penalties from the State Teachers Retirement System.

    Replies

    • Paul 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      Raising the cap on post-retirement service would exacerbate the teacher shortage by taking jobs away from newcomers, thereby discouraging young people from entering the profession. In California, retired teachers are legally entitled to the daily equivalent of their final salary, even for day-to-day substitute work. For regular, full-year contracts -- if the cap were lifted and retirees could accept -- every retiree at the bottom right of the salary scale would displace two new teachers at … Read More

      Raising the cap on post-retirement service would exacerbate the teacher shortage by taking jobs away from newcomers, thereby discouraging young people from entering the profession.

      In California, retired teachers are legally entitled to the daily equivalent of their final salary, even for day-to-day substitute work. For regular, full-year contracts — if the cap were lifted and retirees could accept — every retiree at the bottom right of the salary scale would displace two new teachers at the top left. Fewer positions would be funded, class sizes would rise, and unlike newcomers, who might stay for many years, retirees would leave after only a few years.

      I will look up your book in local libraries (and recommend it for purchase if they don’t have it). I trust that it’s not another guide from someone who taught before Proposition 13, or in a fancy district like Menlo Park, and then became a principal, ascended to nirvana at the district office, or cashed in on the conference and workshop circuit.

  8. el 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I read the full Teacher Shortages in California: Status, Sources, and Potential Solutions report and found it thoughtfully written and researched; well worth my time. Both it and the article highlighted the churn that we artificially created in the 2008-2012 cycle where teachers were laid off due to funding cutbacks and new teachers were not hired or not retained. I don't think that can be stated often enough, that these kinds of funding cuts and … Read More

    I read the full Teacher Shortages in California: Status, Sources, and Potential Solutions report and found it thoughtfully written and researched; well worth my time. Both it and the article highlighted the churn that we artificially created in the 2008-2012 cycle where teachers were laid off due to funding cutbacks and new teachers were not hired or not retained. I don’t think that can be stated often enough, that these kinds of funding cuts and funding uncertainty are hideously expensive and create costs and repercussions for years to come. The more the Legislature can do to keep education funding stable, predictable, and adequate, the better and more efficiently we can use the resources we have.

    (Here is my regular reminder to anyone reading this that the increased contributions for CalSTRS and CalPERS plus minimum wage increases are all unfunded mandates that are squeezing schools hard and will only squeeze harder, even if there aren’t actual cuts to funding.)

    The statistics and discussion of how the testing pipeline may be inappropriately removing teacher candidates was illuminating, and may I highlight the common sense finding that “Controlling for other factors, teachers in districts with higher salary schedules are significantly less likely to leave their schools than those in districts with lower salary schedules.” I think having the various emergency and temporary permits available can be useful, and I have seen it used to hire in extremely capable and high value early career teachers, but the cautionary tale that those teachers have very high turnover in general is important – it should be obvious that such teachers need and benefit from extra support.

    I love the idea of a resident teacher program expanding, where teacher-candidates get a tuition waiver and a stipend for working alongside an experienced teacher.

    In Special Education, what I hear at the teacher and local level is that a reason teachers burn out is in part because of the way the regulations and process are set up; they end up feeling like much of their time is spent with the hassle of the paperwork instead of actually helping the kids. I’ve seen valued teachers leave special education for a regular teaching assignment when they had a chance. I don’t know if there are any reports out there looking at the 2018 processes in their totality and reevaluating if they are actively serving the needs of the kids or if we might be able to do this in a better way.

    One thing that was missing a little, although hinted at, from the report was really looking at the situation from the point of view of the potential teacher candidate. “Surplus teachers” sounds benign but there’s a real human cost to having spent time and money training for a job where there are no openings, especially if that job is low paying and has become low security. So what do we offer that makes our teaching jobs attractive to top quality applicants? That’s on us to answer. The market is telling us, “not enough.”

    As with all jobs, not everyone who is technically qualified is going to be someone who will actually be good at the particular job on offer, and as employers it benefits us to have unused labor available. The more we can do to figure out plausible career paths for people to slide in and out of teaching, the more plausible it will be that good people will be in that status. That has to be balanced against incentives meant for retention. Incentives like loan forgiveness that require n years of teaching are worthless, though, if candidates don’t believe they can count on a job that will allow them to teach for those n years.

    Finally, I do think retired teachers can potentially provide some of this temporary extra capacity, especially in positions like mentoring young teachers and positions where a school has demand for only 1-2 periods rather than a full time slot. Teaching full time is a physically and emotionally demanding job. Allowing districts flexibility to access these teachers can be of great benefit.