Did any California legislators read this? In the Age of Covid, are they going to come up with more effective ways to find and keep teachers, or are they just going to continue fiddling by postponing testing mandates? Is the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing offering suggestions or are they just enforcers?
Let me tell you my story: I have taught off and on for 11 years. Right now, I teach special education English at a Los Angeles Unified high school in a low-income area with many English learners. This is my sixth year there, and I enjoy it.
In June 2022, my preliminary credential will expire, and I no longer have any plans to “clear” my credential through a mandatory two-year training course called Induction, because it would be on top of a full load of teaching. Induction programs can vary, but, in theory, they are supposed to provide support and mentoring for new teachers. Instead, they end up being a lot of unhelpful busywork.
I already tried and gave up. Twice. It entailed too many hours on Zoom, shooting videos of my classes for peer evaluation, and a lot of analysis matching teaching goals to standards. My colleagues in Induction were dropping like flies because they found they desperately needed that time in the evenings and weekends to prepare lessons and spend time with their own kids.
I see the staffing shortages around me, especially in my field of special education, and I know the students’ social and emotional needs, and so I offered to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to teach an extra year or two. I was curtly reminded that I would have to complete an Induction program.
I am not interested in doing that, so I will retire and find something else to do, thank you very much.
I do hope legislators will get real. Extend the five-year limit on preliminary credentials to 10 years or, better still, do away with it. It doesn’t work, so why keep it? Isn’t the state law requiring teacher evaluations enough? Maybe you’re thinking “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out”? Let’s flip this around then.
Imagine you wanted to drive more “qualified” teachers out of the profession. How would you do that? Well, you would try and stress them out even more, by eating into their family or personal time.
First, you would target the new teachers because they are always the most likely to quit. It’s a difficult profession, and statistics indicate that a third of them leave within three years. What would drive them out? Pile additional coursework on top of them when they are barely keeping their heads above water, especially in that first year. I am not talking about mentoring; that’s actually useful. I am talking about Induction. If new teachers don’t complete it within the 5 years, they’re out. It’s kind of insulting really, but we’re good at bullying in the education field. You must comply!
Second, current preliminary credentialing courses also require busywork. They limit the time spent in classrooms, and they drive students further into debt. Residencies are far superior to the traditional programs, and I am happy to see them being ramped up in parts of California.
On the other hand, if we truly want to destroy education, then we need to keep doing what we’re doing and make sure we insist on excessive measures of teacher performance, reading instruction and subject matter knowledge such as CalTPA, RICA and the CSET and all the other demeaning tests, and ensure there are no stipends, or not generous ones anyway.
Trust me on this; I did all the tests and I hated it. Offering stipends during credentialing and student teaching is the only effective way to entice prospective teachers into the profession in the first place and keep them there. If you want more Black men, for example, you are going to have to pay for them. Remove the labyrinth and offer them decent stipends and allow them to cross-teach other subjects besides special ed (coaching and physical education would be a strong draw), and don’t push them into disciplinary roles. Get creative!
Third, find ways to draw in older people who have worked in business and other trades, and definitely you must boost career and technical education Education needs more people with diverse life experiences and, ideally, larger-than-life personalities. I returned to teaching after a career in the entertainment industry. Older teachers are the rock on which younger teachers can build a foundation, so do everything you can to keep them. Current preliminary credential and Induction programs just drive them away.
Finally, why not use the American Rescue Plan to roll out an offer of sabbaticals? If used tactically, it may motivate more teachers to stay in the profession; it’s better than seeing them quit altogether, which seems more likely. Do teachers even know that sabbaticals exist, let alone that the ARP could pay for them?
Teacher turnover is high, and it is worsening. Morale is terrible. Why would anyone, young or old, consider teaching these days? If nothing more is done, we will see thousands of additional California teachers headed for the exits as we did during the “pink slip era” (2008-2012), and there will be no one in line to replace them. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing will only have to issue more emergency-style permits to compensate for the inevitable loss of teachers.
That deserves an F.
Martin Blythe teaches special education English at Canoga Park High School in Los Angeles and is a member of EdSource’s Teachers Advisory Group.
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.