Allison Yin for EdSource
This story was updated on April 16 at 2 p.m.

Enrollments in teacher preparation programs in California are rising, but the numbers just aren’t high enough to put fully prepared teachers in classrooms to educate all 6 million of the state’s public school students, according to newly released figures. 

At a time of heightened teacher activism in California and nationally, most of the attention has been on working conditions and salaries for existing teachers, as well as support services for students, overshadowing the equally urgent need to prepare the next generation of teachers and to ensure that those entering the classrooms are fully prepared to teach.

Figures in a report this month to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the state agency charged with regulating teacher preparation and credentialing, tell a two-sided story.

“We have not turned the corner and we are not yet headed in the right direction in terms of getting qualified teachers into all classrooms,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute, a research and policy organization in Palo Alto. Darling-Hammond was recently named by Gov. Gavin Newsom to the State Board of Education and selected as its president. She had previously served for six years as chair of the credentialing commission. 

A bright spot, however, is that 23,832 prospective teachers were enrolled in teacher preparation programs in the 2016-17 school year, the last year for which figures are available. That was an increase of nearly 2,500 over the previous year and 4,000 more than in 2012-13. Figures for last year will become available this summer.

“After years of declining enrollments, which helped dig the hole we are in, it is a positive upward trend,” said Mary Vixie Sandy, executive director of the California Teacher Credentialing Commission. “Are we making the strides we would like yet? Not quite.”

The new figures on teaching credentials underscore the complexity of finding teachers to fill classrooms in California’s nearly 10,000 schools. The state  issued 16,518 new full teaching credentials 2017-18, only 6 more than the previous year. The numbers have been rising for several years, after plunging during the Great Recession, but have flattened out during the past two years.

Of the newly credentialed teachers, nearly 4,000 were already-qualified teachers who came from out-of-state.

But these newly credentialed teachers didn’t come close to meeting the need for teachers to fill California classrooms. Some 24,000 new teachers were needed in California classrooms in the 2017-18 school year, according to the Learning Policy Institute written as part of the Getting Down to Facts research initiative — but only about 16,000 received teaching credentials.

 

To fill the remaining spaces in individual school districts, nearly 5,000 classroom teachers were ones with so-called “intern credentials,” issued to teachers with only a few weeks of preparation before they are given their own classrooms while they work to get their full credentials.

Another nearly 6,000 were issued so-called “short-term staff permits” and “provisional internship permits.” The commission report said there have been “dramatic increases” in the number of these permits issued over the past five years.

The permits can be issued to meet an “acute staffing need” or an “anticipated staffing need.” To get the short-term staff permit, for example, no teacher training is needed, just course work in an undergraduate degree program in the subject they will be teaching.

And about 2,000 more were granted what are called “limited assignment” permits allowing them to teach outside their authorized subject areas.

“Half the people coming in are not yet prepared and most likely are teaching in the highest-need communities,” Darling-Hammond said, a reference to the fact that under-prepared teachers disproportionately work in high needs schools. A recent Learning Policy Report noted that “teachers on emergency-style permits are three times as likely to teach in California’s high-minority schools and twice as likely to teach in high-poverty schools as in more advantaged schools.”

Those teaching with less than full credentials represent less than 5 percent of the 306,000 teachers in California classrooms. But what worries educators is that the number of under-prepared teachers continues to increase at a substantial rate. The Commission noted that there was a decline of 0.3 percentage points in the number of fully credentialed teachers in the last school year.

“To me, that shows that there’s still a significant need out there for fully prepared teachers,” said Cynthia Grutzik, dean of the Graduate School of Education at San Francisco State and former president of the California Council on Teacher Preparation.

She noted that enrollments have increased in teacher preparation programs at San Francisco State and that the San Francisco Unified School District alone hired some 800 teachers this year. “So the demand is still there,” she said.  She also cautioned that numbers on statewide enrollments are only partially useful.

“Enrollments are trending up, but we need more fine-grained data to understand them,” she said. “To look at it statewide is tricky, because there are so many difference regionally  — San Francisco is different from Long Beach, San Bernardino is different from Humboldt.”

Despite increases in recent years, current enrollments in teacher preparation programs, however, are still much fewer than the 77,705 students who enrolled in teacher preparation programs in 2001-02.

“We need to see that number (of enrollments) increase by leaps and bounds and for the others (emergency and other temporary teaching permits) to decrease if we want to feel we are making significant progress in addressing the teacher shortage,” Sandy said.

During the administration of former Gov. Jerry Brown, the state began to invest considerable amounts of money in increasing the supply of teachers. These include $10 million to grow undergraduate teacher preparation programs, in contrast to the typical teacher preparation program which require a year or two of graduate work after a student had earned his or her bachelor’s degree.

The state also allocated another $45 million to give financial aid to so-called classified staff — teacher’s aides, librarians and other staff usually working in schools in some capacity — who wish to become teachers. “Some of these incentives are beginning to pay off,” Darling-Hammond said.

But she is also worried that the “market is not dramatically correcting itself” as far as generating the number of teachers needed in California.

“Given the huge demand for teachers and given that we are filling nearly half of our slots with students who are unprepared, we would have seen a much bigger jump if the market was correcting itself,” she said. “We will have to do much more to make sure teachers coming in are ready to teach on day one and are fully prepared.”

What are needed, she said, are state scholarship programs to cover tuition and other costs of enrolling in a teacher preparation program, as well as loan forgiveness programs for teachers who agree to teach in high needs schools and hard-to-fill subject areas. California once had programs like these, but they were all eliminated during various state budget crises over the past two decades.

Clarification: This story was updated to clarify that the 16,518 credentials issued refers only to preliminary and full credentials issued in 2017-18. It includes the nearly 5,000 teachers who entered the profession with an intern credential and then subsequently earned their full credential. It does not include the 3,589 intern credentials issued to new teachers.

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  1. Doug Nelson 1 week ago1 week ago

    My wife has 8 years of elementary teaching experience, full credential, graduate of CSUN, posted the 2nd highest scores in math and reading among 10 schools in her system, and not only can she not get a new position at a different school, but she hasn’t even been granted an interview!!!! So tell me, where exactly is the teacher shortage?? She has applied from Simi Valley to Temecula and in between and absolutely nada. It’s … Read More

    My wife has 8 years of elementary teaching experience, full credential, graduate of CSUN, posted the 2nd highest scores in math and reading among 10 schools in her system, and not only can she not get a new position at a different school, but she hasn’t even been granted an interview!!!! So tell me, where exactly is the teacher shortage?? She has applied from Simi Valley to Temecula and in between and absolutely nada. It’s a joke that this state is short on truly qualified teachers when one of the best can’t even get an interview!

  2. LaDwan Beard 4 months ago4 months ago

    It would be nice if fully credentialed teachers meant being able to teach a class of diverse students effectively, and not mean the ability to pass a group of tests that do not judge the ability a candidate has to teach and manage a classroom. Oh that’s right, the same way we test our students on information that has nothing to do with real life and obtaining a career.

  3. Dawn Vande Vegtr 4 months ago4 months ago

    I have a clear multiple subject and have not even gotten an interview in a San Diego district. Where are these teacher shortages ?

    Dawn

  4. Sharon Seibert 4 months ago4 months ago

    As a fully-credentialed teacher of English, Social Studies, and ESL with NCLB certificates, an M.Ed., and 40 years of teaching experience....I am finding teaching employment almost impossible to achieve now...other than that of substitute. Why? I cost twice as much as those "teachers" you described as not-yet-credentialed. Why don' I have tenure? I have voluntarily moved multiple times within California and overseas...and thus have a wide variety of teaching experiences from which to draw. … Read More

    As a fully-credentialed teacher of English, Social Studies, and ESL with NCLB certificates, an M.Ed., and 40 years of teaching experience….I am finding teaching employment almost impossible to achieve now…other than that of substitute. Why? I cost twice as much as those “teachers” you described as not-yet-credentialed. Why don’ I have tenure? I have voluntarily moved multiple times within California and overseas…and thus have a wide variety of teaching experiences from which to draw. How many other teachers like me are there out there? I am available!

  5. Benjamin 4 months ago4 months ago

    It’s also hard to keep the new teachers when the districts do not support new teachers and then induction does nothing but give new teachers just paperwork. I started a job after the school interviewed me a day before school started moved and got a 2 thousand dollar pay cut.

  6. Brian 4 months ago4 months ago

    Great article. It’s also worth investigating the teachers who have completed a credential program but have not attained a credential because of the rigorous exams.

    Replies

    • Deborah McCain 4 months ago4 months ago

      When my mother died in 2006, I left my teaching position to look after my father. He had already begun to demonstrate some elements of dementia, but heavenly days....in any event, I decided to return to teaching, and although I was "guaranteed" I could return to my former district, I found the gates shut and locked. I had been a thorn, and I admit it. But nevertheless, I pinned motivational sayings to … Read More

      When my mother died in 2006, I left my teaching position to look after my father. He had already begun to demonstrate some elements of dementia, but heavenly days….in any event, I decided to return to teaching, and although I was “guaranteed” I could return to my former district, I found the gates shut and locked. I had been a thorn, and I admit it. But nevertheless, I pinned motivational sayings to my home office wall, and continued to apply….and interview…with no results. The general result was either being ignored after an interview, having to listen to uninformed administrators on interview panels (I learned not to correct as NCLB was replaced by ESSA)…but…nothing. I followed Board Meetings to stay aware of a district’s developments so I would be informed during interviews (a really bad move). So, here I am, Medicare secure (yup….I am that old), double credentialed in the state of California English and Multiple Subjects, an MA in Educational Administration, graduate coursework in Ed Spec Mild/Moderate and Educational Multimedia….and yet?….nothing…so…should I continue to develop my gardens (a combination of the gardens of Thomas Jefferson and gardens patterned after the works of Shakespeare), study my French lessons (I am 7 months into learning now), and recognize there really isn’t a teacher shortage, there is a shortage of people who really want those who teach and learn as well.

      When my father died in 2016, I stepped up my applications but received few invitations to interview. I revamped my résumé, changed my “look” (I have a tendency to look rather “theatrical”. As I refuse to “check a box” on ethnicity (if you believe DNA spit results my mother’s family came from the Iberian Peninsula and Spain…with elements of Native American, and my father’s people came from England and Germany, so I find myself unable to “get in the door” with the ethnic check….there it is.

      So, for those of us who stand in the shadows, scream at our computer screens, and sigh at the form email advising us “regretfully, you will not be invited to interview….but best of luck”…I say…well, when I am proficient in French, there is always another language to learn (oh…I already speak Spanish).

      And by the way, I took and passed all of the tests out there, CBEST, MSAT, CSET, so, let’s face it, testing is a component of society, and while it doesn’t define us, it’s a reality. I used to tell my students sometimes testing provides us with opportunities to determine where we can improve… I recently heard that new administrators will have to take a proficiency test. Maybe that’s a good thing…or maybe not..time will tell, I suppose.

      As for me, I keep telling my husband “this is IT” i am done applying. but he knows me too well, and the spark in my eye flares when I read a job description for which I am not only qualified, but well-suited….so….I continue…maybe I really do need to write that tell all book…but then…what for? Would it help…or would I simply be sniping from the sidelines.
      Best of luck to those in the fray…and those of us in the wings. Never, ever give up.

  7. Patrick J Sayne 4 months ago4 months ago

    I entered the teaching profession in 1969. I currently supervise both intern and student teachers. The coursework required by the CTC seems to be unnecessarily complex and extremely repetitive. While there is certainly a need for new teachers to be prepared for the classrooms , it may not be necessary to bury them in repetitive paperwork of questionable worth. It seems to be designed by people with a bunch of theories but not much … Read More

    I entered the teaching profession in 1969. I currently supervise both intern and student teachers. The coursework required by the CTC seems to be unnecessarily complex and extremely repetitive. While there is certainly a need for new teachers to be prepared for the classrooms , it may not be necessary to bury them in repetitive paperwork of questionable worth. It seems to be designed by people with a bunch of theories but not much practical experience. If I had faced this system back in 1969 I probably would have kept by manufacturing job.

  8. Michael Kirst 4 months ago4 months ago

    This article omits over $100 million Governor Brown signed for teacher residencies with a focus on special education and STEM.

    Replies

    • Louis Freedberg 4 months ago4 months ago

      Thanks for pointing this out. We hadn't included it in the article because those funds were awarded for the current fiscal year, and so these would have had no impact on the 2016-17 teacher preparation enrollment figures cited by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, but may well in the future. According to the Department of Finance, the final FY19-20 budget included funds for teacher residencies -- "$75 million one-time Proposition 98 General … Read More

      Thanks for pointing this out. We hadn’t included it in the article because those funds were awarded for the current fiscal year, and so these would have had no impact on the 2016-17 teacher preparation enrollment figures cited by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, but may well in the future. According to the Department of Finance, the final FY19-20 budget included funds for teacher residencies — “$75 million one-time Proposition 98 General Fund to support locally sponsored, one-year intensive, mentored, clinical teacher preparation programs with $50 million aimed at preparing and retaining special education teachers and $25 million aimed at bilingual and STEM teachers.” In addition, the budget includes “$50 million one-time Proposition 98 General Fund to provide competitive grants to local educational agencies to develop and implement new, or expand existing, locally identified solutions that address a local need for special education teachers.”