Liv Ames / EdSource
Kindergarten teacher Jana Herrera at Booksin Elementary in San Jose discusses a story written by Casandra Lopez Monsivais.

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While the pandemic upended our lives, it also brought into focus the vital role teachers play in the day-to-day lives of our students and communities. As we prepare to welcome students back to classrooms this fall, we recognize the incredible contributions of our educators during an immensely challenging time.

At the same time, California is confronting a teacher shortage, a long-standing crisis for the profession and our public school students further exacerbated by the pandemic. Fewer teachers in the classroom will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable students who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and puts a strain on current teachers.

There are notable investments in teachers described in this year’s final state budget that acknowledge the need to solve this problem. Investing in a qualified workforce is one of the most important steps California can take to support our educators and meet the academic and social-emotional needs of our students.

California was just beginning to make progress in addressing the teacher shortage in 2019-20, but we still weren’t recruiting or producing enough teachers to fill our classrooms annually. Almost 18,000 new teacher credentials were issued in California in 2019-20, but not nearly enough to fill over 48,000 open teaching positions according to EdJoin, an education job site.

A March 4 report from the Learning Policy Institute underscores California’s critical teacher shortage problem by stating how the pandemic has led to a rising number of early retirements and resignations. And further complicating matters is California’s long-time substitute teacher shortage.

What’s more, there are troubling signs indicating waning interest in joining the profession as more seasoned teachers look to leave the field. In February, CalSTRS reported that teacher retirements have increased at rates not seen since the Great Recession. Not only did retirements increase during the Great Recession, but almost 30,000 teachers were laid off.

These trends tell us that, in the year ahead, we will need to recruit and retain even more teachers to accommodate our student and staffing needs. The encouraging news is that extensive research exists. The Learning Policy Institute’s work, for example, provides a road map for how to tackle the shortage. By following that road map, and by working collaboratively to scale successful programs and practices, we can make a difference. Strategies we need to expand include:

  • Increasing pathways into the profession with teacher residency programs that focus on mentorship and individualized hands-on support.
  • Harnessing the power of technology to offer cost-effective networking opportunities for aspiring and current teachers and professional development support. In our work at the California Center on Teaching Careers, we’ve placed over 1,528 aspiring and current teachers in classrooms across the state, and over 15,000 educators, school leaders and employers from across the world have connected through virtual job fairs.
  • Offering training resources such as micro-credentials for substitute teachers that will allow them to demonstrate specific skills and strategies, including the ability to use multiple learning platforms. This could be built off the work of the California County Superintendent’s Teacher Development’s Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee (CISC) which included collaboration with Tulare, Fresno, Orange, Riverside, Merced and Sonoma county offices of education started this year.
  • Expanding support for grow-your-own programs, where school districts can nurture future teachers, including providing guidance and toolkits with best practices for people at the district managing these programs.
  • Defining a clear path in the process to becoming a teacher that is easy for all to understand. This should include providing guidance counseling sessions to help aspiring teachers understand requirements and timelines.
  • Eliminating or reducing financial barriers into the profession through scholarships or subsidizing training program costs for aspiring teachers.
  • Addressing long-standing economic and professional barriers that keep many teachers from entering and remaining in the classroom. Recent flexibility in the tests required to earn a teaching credential is a start. Covering credentialing fees in the upcoming school year will also help.
  • Investing in intentional and sustained practices to increase teacher workforce diversity, like those outlined here.

This is a pivotal moment in our state’s ability to proactively meet the demand for passionate, qualified teachers. We cannot take our foot off the accelerator. How we tackle the teacher shortage now will make a difference in the success of California’s students for years to come.


Donna Glassman-Sommer is the executive director of the California Center on Teaching Careers based out of the Tulare County Office of Education. Marvin Lopez is the program coordinator of the center.

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  1. Robert Bartlett 1 year ago1 year ago

    I have been a credentialed (professional clear) teacher in the California public school system for the past eighteen years (believe it or not). I entered the profession through a district internship in 2003 - 2006. As you might guess, I've heard it all before, literally. In my opinion, the strategies in this article are based on the misguided notion that teacher training and teacher competency are the causes of the teacher shortage. There has never … Read More

    I have been a credentialed (professional clear) teacher in the California public school system for the past eighteen years (believe it or not). I entered the profession through a district internship in 2003 – 2006. As you might guess, I’ve heard it all before, literally.

    In my opinion, the strategies in this article are based on the misguided notion that teacher training and teacher competency are the causes of the teacher shortage. There has never been a shortage of appropriate workers, teacher-education programs, or teachers willing to remain in the schools. The shortages are the result of administrative malfeasance. None of the measures in this article will work until the churnover strategy of balancing the state school budget is addressed.

    Contemplate how the state budget would look if the turnover rate for teachers with a credential had been only ten percent over the past ten years rather than eighty percent. The balanced budget requires high rates of turnover and a teacher shortage. In addition, conditions that many teachers find intolerable, for instance the demand for full inclusion coupled with rising class sizes, can’t be alleviated with the balanced budget. Administrators are culpable because they develop skills in covering up these problems rather than giving real feedback to state lawmakers and the public. Voters are kept in the dark and even deliberately thrown off course.

    The teacher shortage is directly tied to California’s low ranking in per pupil funding.To stop the teacher shortage, California will have to overhaul its taxation and finance systems. I recommend tearing up the state constitution and starting over again. The families starting their own schools are catching on (in record numbers). I recommend it for every family. Children schooled by parents at home seems to be where Prop 13 and its school-finance offspring have been headed all along (i.e. anarchy). Children schooled at home – the pinnacle of Reaganomics.

  2. john 1 year ago1 year ago

    What exactly will be done to waive the CSET and CBEST? Hoping to graduate this fall and need info ASAP or I would need to postpone til next Spring.


    • Smita Patel 1 year ago1 year ago

      Hi John,
      We are still awaiting the trailer bill with more details, but you can find more information in this update by Diana Lambert.

  3. Mayra Guerra 1 year ago1 year ago

    Do you know when these changes take effect for the CSET and CBEST?