Tue Nam Ton/EdSource
At an Oakland Unified job fair, recruiter Cary Kaufman (left) speaks with job seeker and substitute teacher Ed Cannon.

Despite an improving economy and new efforts to recruit teachers, California’s teacher shortage is showing no signs of easing up.

In fact, shortages are becoming more severe in many communities.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Learning Policy Institute, based on a survey of 25 school districts of different sizes and in diverse locations in the state.

The districts are not intended to be representative of California’s nearly 1,000 school districts, but they provide a window into how some two dozen districts are dealing with a widespread problem.

Four-fifths of the districts report that the shortages continue compared to last year, and more than half said that there has been no change since then. One-third say the situation has gotten worse. Only 10 percent said that the situation has improved.

The shortages have become especially acute since the 2014-15 school year in areas such as math, science and special education. Other subject areas where districts struggle to find fully credentialed teachers are in bilingual and career technical education.

Over the past two years California has spent nearly $70 million on a range of initiatives to tackle the shortage, including a program that underwrites the cost of a teacher preparation program for classroom aides and other paraprofessionals already working in a district. That program encourages employees to earn a teaching credential. 

According to Leib Sutcher, Desiree Carver-Thomas and Linda Darling-Hammond, who wrote the report, “it will take three to five years before these efforts have a real impact.” Darling-Hammond, the president of the Learning Policy Institute, is also chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. 

Some of the state’s strategies include expanding so called blended teacher preparation programs, which allow undergraduates to get their teaching credential in four years, rather than the more typical pathway that takes five or even six years. In announcing the state’s biggest initiative so far to address the shortage, Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Legislature in January to approve spending $100 million in next year’s budget to recruit and prepare additional special ed teachers.

The need is clear. Three-quarters of the 25 districts surveyed said they were unable to fill all their vacant positions with fully credentialed teachers by the time school started this year. Two-thirds of the districts said they had to hire teachers on temporary permits and those who had received waivers from regular credentialing requirements.

The situation is not uniformly bleak. Two districts that reported the situation has improved are among the state’s largest — Fresno Unified and San Bernardino Unified. On the other hand, Los Angeles Unified, by far the state’s largest district, reported that its ability to fill positions has not changed since last year, and that 40 percent of its new hires were not fully certified.

Among those reporting that the situation has gotten worse is Oakland Unified and San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district. San Diego reported that about one-third of its new hires were not fully certified this year.

Districts in large urban, suburban and rural communities all report shortages. But rural districts are especially hard hit. The report notes that in some small rural districts all the new teachers hired this year were on emergency-style permits, like Soulsbyville Elementary School District, a district with 500 students in a remote Gold Country town.

Also disproportionately affected by the shortage are schools serving students from low-income families and students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to the report. That’s because teachers on “emergency style” credentials are three times as likely to teach in California’s high-minority schools and twice as likely to teach in high-poverty schools.

That, in turn, “exacerbates persistent achievement gaps between these students and their more affluent peers,” according to the report. Thus the shortages represent more than just a personnel challenge. They also have profound implications for not only individual children but for the state as a whole.

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  1. Adrian Sherwin 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The shortage persists because it's too hard to become a teacher. I recently quite teaching because I couldn't pass the RICA exam to be a SPED teacher. I had completed my credential program, taught as an intern for two years but because I can't receive my credential until I pass that pointless exam I am done as an educator. I always thought my employer would be the one who determined whether or … Read More

    The shortage persists because it’s too hard to become a teacher. I recently quite teaching because I couldn’t pass the RICA exam to be a SPED teacher. I had completed my credential program, taught as an intern for two years but because I can’t receive my credential until I pass that pointless exam I am done as an educator. I always thought my employer would be the one who determined whether or not I could teach, not Pearson!

  2. Jamie 1 month ago1 month ago

    I earned my Multiple Subject Credential in 2010. It was a bad time to graduate but I was hopeful. It’s 2018. From what I can see there still appears to have a large number of highly qualified applicants out there still trying to become teachers. That’s why I’m questioning whether there is a shortage in California as people say or only in tough/rural areas and special subjects which have always been scarce on applicants.

  3. Susan Langer 2 months ago2 months ago

    As a principal of special ed, in Sonoma, I am losing teachers due to housing shortages, low pay, and an excessive amount of lawsuits. We also can’t hire SLPs and School Psychs

  4. Joyce 3 months ago3 months ago

    Most of the shortages are due to the cost of living versus a living wage. Teachers have to pay for three-quarters of their credentialing. If a teacher puts most of their pay into more self-education and supplies for their classroom (like I did), there isn’t any pay left to live on. That’s why I moved to Georgia.

  5. Ernesto Barrera 3 months ago3 months ago

    The problem is a serious lack of proper pay for these professionals.
    A teacher can have a Master’s degree and more than 10-15 years experience and still be paid under $60k in many districts.
    Name any profession where someone with those credentials makes less than $100K?
    We can not expect our best and brightest to take on one the toughest jobs out there and not make a decent living in their careers.

  6. FloydThursby 3 months ago3 months ago

    You need to have a pay structure that pays for productivity. Let a starting teacher make 100k if they're staying long hours, tutoring the kids, and have test scores higher than all their colleagues, but let a 60-year old make 60k if they are doing a lousy job, have the lowest test scores, or let them be fired. The whole pay structure needs to be more dynamic, similar to the private sector/CEO situation … Read More

    You need to have a pay structure that pays for productivity. Let a starting teacher make 100k if they’re staying long hours, tutoring the kids, and have test scores higher than all their colleagues, but let a 60-year old make 60k if they are doing a lousy job, have the lowest test scores, or let them be fired.
    The whole pay structure needs to be more dynamic, similar to the private sector/CEO situation you mention. Part of the problem with supplies is that the across the board increases are pushed to beyond affordability and there is therefore no flexibility in budgets. They say it’s 99% salary, 1% supplies, set in stone. Let 1% not go to teacher salaries across the board when we get it once every 5 years so it’s 2% for supplies, then another 1% so we can afford tutors. We should try to hold back on increases across the board and increase merit bonuses so the ambitious can make a lot, supply budgets and 1-on-1 tutoring budgets. Yes, some teachers earning 50k who should earn way more, but what we don’t talk about is there are plenty of teachers on 90k who are worth 50-60k and are taking the max 9 sick days a year every year even if not sick and are going through the motions. Let’s be dynamic.

  7. Kim 3 months ago3 months ago

    If that $70 million had been spent to pay teachers a salary they could live on, you wouldn’t have a shortage.

  8. Alden 3 months ago3 months ago

    It confounds me that teachers, and the profession of teaching is so necessary to an ordered and civilized society, yet so disregarded. There isn't a CEO in the world who is tacitly expected to routinely reach into their own pocket to purchase dry erase markers, paper, books, glue sticks, etc. for their company/employees. Further, the lack of viable, on-campus support with low-performing students, and more recently, aberrant/violent student behavior is profoundly troubling. I would take a … Read More

    It confounds me that teachers, and the profession of teaching is so necessary to an ordered and civilized society, yet so disregarded.
    There isn’t a CEO in the world who is tacitly expected to routinely reach into their own pocket to purchase dry erase markers, paper, books, glue sticks, etc. for their company/employees.
    Further, the lack of viable, on-campus support with low-performing students, and more recently, aberrant/violent student behavior is profoundly troubling.
    I would take a bullet for my students, but why should I have to? And why aren’t the names of the teachers that have died for their students well and widely known? Sigh.

  9. Ellen 3 months ago3 months ago

    These edu "deformers" can't connect dots. Remember the demonization of teachers just a few short years ago including the Vergara case, value added and more? You can go to school for half the time and be a registered nurse and pull in over 100,000 a year so why would anyone become a teacher? I love teaching but have found myself now priced out of Los Angeles. It appears as though I will be making … Read More

    These edu “deformers” can’t connect dots. Remember the demonization of teachers just a few short years ago including the Vergara case, value added and more? You can go to school for half the time and be a registered nurse and pull in over 100,000 a year so why would anyone become a teacher? I love teaching but have found myself now priced out of Los Angeles. It appears as though I will be making a 50 mile commute in just a few short months. The thought it depressing. But at the same time our unions and pensions are under attack.

    Replies

  10. Ed Stein 3 months ago3 months ago

    But what happened to all millions and millions in funds from property taxes? You know what happened, bureaucracy and over regulation ate it up before teachers got to see a penny.

  11. el 3 months ago3 months ago

    1. Problems seem to be most acute in places where schools are not able to pay teachers enough to meet their living expenses. In urban areas, houses are frequently more than 10x a teacher annual salary; in rural areas, the same because there is a lack of affordable, attractive housing because most parcels are ranches. 2. Our boom and bust cycle with teachers makes this happen every time. We train teachers, put them in a classroom, … Read More

    1. Problems seem to be most acute in places where schools are not able to pay teachers enough to meet their living expenses. In urban areas, houses are frequently more than 10x a teacher annual salary; in rural areas, the same because there is a lack of affordable, attractive housing because most parcels are ranches.

    2. Our boom and bust cycle with teachers makes this happen every time. We train teachers, put them in a classroom, lay them off due to budget issues, they find other work, and golly gee what a surprise that they are no longer available to teach and the kids graduating a couple years behind them don’t want to have the same thing happen to them. Whatever can we do about this? If only these best and brightest young people would sacrifice themselves on our altar and work for peanuts only when we felt like paying them every other year. These kids today.

    3. The emergency credentials are used as a proxy for the crisis, but it’s not an especially good one. Maybe it gives you a sense of the number of people available for work, but I’ve been on interview committees who actively chose a candidate that would need a temporary or emergency credential over someone who didn’t. It’s not necessarily the case as implied that those candidates are scraped from the bottom of the bin – sometimes it is just that they are being snapped up early because they were actively recruited.

    If we aren’t going to pay teachers well, we can at least offer the security of knowing that their jobs won’t go away capriciously. If we can’t do either, and we require specialized training in advance, we shouldn’t be surprised that we are having trouble filling these jobs.

  12. Michael 3 months ago3 months ago

    Given the salaries as well as the scaling back of health benefits and the recent move to address pensions (i.e. cut them way back to the point where we will likely not get much more of a benefit than Social Security even though we contribute 10.25 percent of our check as opposed to 6.2 for those doing Social Security) why is anyone surprised? Add that to the stress of test scores, school violence (evidently … Read More

    Given the salaries as well as the scaling back of health benefits and the recent move to address pensions (i.e. cut them way back to the point where we will likely not get much more of a benefit than Social Security even though we contribute 10.25 percent of our check as opposed to 6.2 for those doing Social Security) why is anyone surprised? Add that to the stress of test scores, school violence (evidently part of our job now is to take bullets for our students), and the general attitude towards the profession it likely (and sadly) won’t change.

  13. ann 3 months ago3 months ago

    "The districts are not intended to be representative of California’s nearly 1,000 school districts, but they provide a window into how some two dozen districts are dealing with a widespread problem." What does this mean? Dimes to dollars the shortages occur most in districts with high housing costs or very rural locations. Too bad this study doesn't address the quality of training in teacher preparation programs in California known to be inadequate at … Read More

    “The districts are not intended to be representative of California’s nearly 1,000 school districts, but they provide a window into how some two dozen districts are dealing with a widespread problem.” What does this mean? Dimes to dollars the shortages occur most in districts with high housing costs or very rural locations. Too bad this study doesn’t address the quality of training in teacher preparation programs in California known to be inadequate at best. Most of the best charters prefer to hire those not having been in one of these programs. http://hechingered.org/content/research-suggests-poor-quality-of-teacher-training-programs-in-u-s-compared-to-other-countries_6420/
    http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/teacher-prep-inadequate-says-study.shtml
    https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/americas-teacher-training-programs-arent-good-enough/276993/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/education/21teaching.html