Credit: Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education
A fifth-grade teacher gives a lesson to her students through an iPad.

I was finishing up this commentary when I read the CNN story “I’m hanging by a thread: Why some teachers are quitting.

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

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  1. Chris Tasik 1 day ago1 day ago

    Tax season question: Can I deduct testing fees paid to Pearson on my California income tax?

  2. Andy 1 week ago1 week ago

    All of these reasons are driving people away and teachers out of education. However, you are missing the elephant in the room. Discipline/Consequences/Support/Respect are missing at every level, and the students and parents know it. Until this radically changes, there will be no change in public education. Conditions will get worse. No amount of money will fix the problem - ever. Money is just a band-aid. It will bring new teachers in for about 3 … Read More

    All of these reasons are driving people away and teachers out of education. However, you are missing the elephant in the room. Discipline/Consequences/Support/Respect are missing at every level, and the students and parents know it. Until this radically changes, there will be no change in public education. Conditions will get worse. No amount of money will fix the problem – ever. Money is just a band-aid. It will bring new teachers in for about 3 years, but they generally leave in 3-5 years.

    So, school districts cannot hire new teachers, and they cannot hold on to the ones they have. Now as the labor shortage gets worse, perspective teachers have even more options, many of which pay better, have less stress and offer real opportunities for promotion. And “school choice” will eventually come to fruition and only make public education have less dollars to run. Education is in trouble – it will get worse before it ever gets better.

    The times they are a changin’.

  3. Angela 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This is absolutely amazing and true! This article really resonated with me. I am currently in a similar position was you and have no desire to actually complete my credential with the last required test I have. You are spot on about induction. It is a complete waste of time. The money spent on inductions programs would be best allocated elsewhere. This is my third year in my current position as a special education teacher and … Read More

    This is absolutely amazing and true! This article really resonated with me. I am currently in a similar position was you and have no desire to actually complete my credential with the last required test I have. You are spot on about induction. It is a complete waste of time. The money spent on inductions programs would be best allocated elsewhere.

    This is my third year in my current position as a special education teacher and I plan to give my notice in two weeks and end my contract mid-year. I am miserable, I cry every single night, and dread what I will have to put up with the next day at work. Thank you for writing this. So relatable.

  4. Daisy 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Wow! Thank you so much for writing this article. It really spoke to me as well. I completely agree with everything you mentioned and glad I’m not alone on this. I just graduated with a multiple subject credential and I’m already starting to consider jobs outside of teaching. Thinking about having to complete the induction program and EdTPA is causing me so much stress. That on top of weekly PD and other meetings, no thank … Read More

    Wow! Thank you so much for writing this article. It really spoke to me as well. I completely agree with everything you mentioned and glad I’m not alone on this. I just graduated with a multiple subject credential and I’m already starting to consider jobs outside of teaching. Thinking about having to complete the induction program and EdTPA is causing me so much stress. That on top of weekly PD and other meetings, no thank you.

    Teaching has turned into a toxic environment that does not value work life balance. Thanks to videos on social media platforms of teachers resigning left and right, there will be no one left to teach in a few years. The CTC demands too much of us. On top of all the testing, mentoring, clinicals, induction programs, they feel the need to evaluate us 3 times a year only to get paid a starting salary of around $50k .. with a masters degree! Young teachers are quitting, old teachers are retiring, so California and the CTC better act fast. Listen to us. Pay us what we deserve. Eliminate unnecessary testing and induction.

  5. James Eastman 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This article really spoke to me. Having just completed my credential program which I paid for myself this last fall. The cost being around $10,000 not counting all the time and gas I used to get to my placement. I was unable to work since the amount of work and effort I was putting into the program and to my students. I can honestly say that all the extra exams given by the state are … Read More

    This article really spoke to me. Having just completed my credential program which I paid for myself this last fall. The cost being around $10,000 not counting all the time and gas I used to get to my placement.

    I was unable to work since the amount of work and effort I was putting into the program and to my students. I can honestly say that all the extra exams given by the state are insane. They want us to write page after page to support one lesson or a mini unit for the CALTPAs, which cost a total of $300 if you’re able to pass both of them on the first try. Just for one person who is only seeing mere minutes of us teaching through a video clips, gets to pass or fail us. Which is added a large amount of stress to the student teachers.

    Yet when we think about it, the process of how we become teachers should be good enough. Having gone through a credential program, I had professors and a subject specific supervisor not counting my Master teacher/ department at the school at which I was doing my student teaching. I had a total of 12 to 15 observations throughout the program where I created lesson plans and taught in front of my supervisor/ master teacher. And that’s not counting the countless discussions I’ve had about how to improve in my teaching with teachers and professors. Not counting all the years I spent learning my content area for my degree. Then when we are working in the field we have observations form other teachers, if not administration themselves. Are these not enough check and balances to become a teacher?

    How can we even be confident with colleges giving us recommendations for credentials if the state does not trust their programs and forces us to complete more remedial exams that don’t prove anything but cost us potential teachers more money?

    The state is only now allowing some testing to be skipped based on college class grades, which should had been the standard a decade ago And this change has been due to covid. There has been a teacher shortage for far longer than covid has been around. But all the state has done is add more hoops for teachers to jump through. Which is making it even harder for teacher to stay in the field and for new ones to get in.

    Out of the roughly 60 person in my credential program, I know about 20% are already looking into other career paths as there are too many hoops to jump through. I am a child of two teachers and I know the countless hours my parents have put into their classrooms. So I know the work load and really enjoy teaching as a whole. Just the amount of extra meaningless hoops have really started to dash my hopes in completing the process of becoming a fully credentialed teacher.

  6. Barb Miller 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Holy casual racism batman! Maybe this is why black men aren't interested in the profession. "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)." The assumption that black men are a strong draw for PE and coaching is like … Read More

    Holy casual racism batman! Maybe this is why black men aren’t interested in the profession. “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).” The assumption that black men are a strong draw for PE and coaching is like assuming a white woman would really love to teach sewing and cooking.

  7. ms d 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    And if there absolutely has to be tests, they need to be free. I paid $1000 + to Pearson for tests and TPAs.
    Then the districts are like, Why can’t we find any Black people to hire??!

  8. Lee Wygand 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Teaching is my second profession. I agree with enticing older people from private industry, as that’s what I did. However, we need to get rid of the Soc Security WEP as I will only receive about half my SS benefits earned from my first profession. I paid into SS (as well as my employer) and none of my benefits should be reduced due to becoming a teacher.

    Replies

    • Rod 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      Great observations. I’m retired now with many teaching awards, but “mandatory” training was truly a waste of time as were most meetings. Online sessions were useless, and added to the burden of the day. Yet someone got paid who wrote the software, and a specialist was hired to police the content. But no students benefited.

      I truly feel sorry for today’s teachers. It is a wonderful profession, but run by idiots.

  9. David Saba 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    So spot on – we produce 8,000 new teachers a year but CA law/rules make it so cumbersome we will work on other states for now. Hopefully the Legislature wakes up to the fact that they cannot continue to keep people out of the classroom.

  10. SS 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Thank you for talking about the induction program. I taught 10 years in other states and 3 years at a private school in CA, but since I have switched to teaching at a public school where I am in the induction program. I get an observation every other week then lose a prep period to talk about how the class went. It is tiring and insulting that the state thinks I have to be … Read More

    Thank you for talking about the induction program. I taught 10 years in other states and 3 years at a private school in CA, but since I have switched to teaching at a public school where I am in the induction program. I get an observation every other week then lose a prep period to talk about how the class went. It is tiring and insulting that the state thinks I have to be inducted after all these years of teaching.

    On top of that I am finishing the CLAD certification by taking the classes since nothing transfers. I am learning the same stuff again as I did in my master’s. This may be my last year of teaching – it is too much!

  11. Michael Sagehorn 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    One of the flaws in teacher retention is how both administrators and teachers themselves low-bar pre-service and in-service professional development. What other profession requires you to pass a test, test drive the profession (internship and/or student teaching) and throw you into a classroom with no support? Medical professionals, attorneys, accountants, and engineers, even clergy members have PD requirements that demand more mental investment. Improving content knowledge, instructional methods, and regular mentorship are all informal and … Read More

    One of the flaws in teacher retention is how both administrators and teachers themselves low-bar pre-service and in-service professional development. What other profession requires you to pass a test, test drive the profession (internship and/or student teaching) and throw you into a classroom with no support? Medical professionals, attorneys, accountants, and engineers, even clergy members have PD requirements that demand more mental investment.

    Improving content knowledge, instructional methods, and regular mentorship are all informal and frequently not demanded. Teachers whine and complain – “I’m not getting paid for this…..” need to reconsider their status as a salaried professional or a wage worker.

    My solution is for every teacher to create an annual PD plan in the spring for the following year, share it with their admin leaders, and have the site pay any associated costs. Teachers should collaborate on their plans, perhaps attending together in department and age group teams.

  12. Virginia L Nelson 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    1. Focus elementary teacher training on the foundations of literacy aligned with the evidence based science of reading. You can’t remediate your way out of poor classroom instruction.
    2. Have community colleges develop paraeducator certification programs and pay them appropriately.

  13. Dan Ragland 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I retired in 2021 after teaching high school English in California for 32 years. I was also adjunct faculty at a community college for 13 of those years. I do not encourage anyone to go into teaching. It has only gotten worse since I began despite promises from teaching professors that it was going to get better. All the things the article covers are true and many more …

  14. Martin Blythe 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Judith, thank you for your kind words. If I may say so, it’s a testament to your own commitment to education and SPED in particular that you still read up on education now that you have retired. My best wishes to you.

  15. Cindy Lederer 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Hello Martin, I would like to address one of your statements....."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." I've seen first hand how having a non-highly qualified educator teaching a curriculum and standards that they know nothing about ruins the students experience of how interesting the subject can be. It … Read More

    Hello Martin, I would like to address one of your statements…..”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.”

    I’ve seen first hand how having a non-highly qualified educator teaching a curriculum and standards that they know nothing about ruins the students experience of how interesting the subject can be. It robs the students of a valuable lesson that they can take into adulthood. A non-highly qualified educator has tendency for a subject matter never moving forward. The subject lives in the perception solely of the untrained educator. Education needs to be careful when finding ways to make the pathways easier to become a teacher and how to keep them. Are we sacrificing the “highly qualified” teacher in the process?

    Yes, lets get creative. But let’s not forget that our students need to have a Highly Qualified educator in every subject matter.

    Replies

    • Seth 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      I agree. I do not want the bar of training and knowledge of teachers to be lowered. If we are to be expected to be professionals, then we must must expect teachers to prove their knowledge of subject matter and prove that they can actually teach students effectively. Is that too much to as ask from a professional teacher? In my almost 30 years of being in education, I remember when we had many low … Read More

      I agree. I do not want the bar of training and knowledge of teachers to be lowered. If we are to be expected to be professionals, then we must must expect teachers to prove their knowledge of subject matter and prove that they can actually teach students effectively. Is that too much to as ask from a professional teacher?

      In my almost 30 years of being in education, I remember when we had many low quality teachers being the norm and students not getting challenged or developing needed academic skills. I have seen firsthand the difference in the quality of teachers since 2004 when the requirements of teacher training was raised. I do not like the idea of lowering the training bar just to get a poor quality teacher in a classroom.

  16. Janene Whitney 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Agreed! The system if evaluating teachers is what is broken, and the assumption that already highly qualified teachers need to produce endless hours of proof that they are being constantly trained is driven by government that wants to look good to the voters---while teachers leave the profession. I am a highly qualified CA teacher, with multiple teaching awards. I moved out of state because I could not afford to buy a home in CA … Read More

    Agreed! The system if evaluating teachers is what is broken, and the assumption that already highly qualified teachers need to produce endless hours of proof that they are being constantly trained is driven by government that wants to look good to the voters—while teachers leave the profession.

    I am a highly qualified CA teacher, with multiple teaching awards. I moved out of state because I could not afford to buy a home in CA (perhaps we could give teachers home buying incentives?). When I got to WA State, they wanted me to practically take my entire teaching credential courses over again. No reasoning.

    What we need to do is train teams of expert evaluators. I am dual credentialed in English and Dance (former professional classical dancer also). One year, my evaluator in both those subjects, was a math teacher. He gave me a great rating in English, but never wrote why, and he took off points in Dance, because he said that all dancers should only step on the whole notes in the music. Meanwhile, he recommended tenure for an English teacher who only had her college prep students write one essay per year.

    Great teachers can spot another great teacher with one or two observations and an interview with questions like “Can you show me how many ways you have provided for a student to learn a particular skill or concept? How many assignments include the across- the-board skills such as researching and writing? Are you offering any project-based learning? Can you show me a portfolio of student work that accommodates various learners?”

    If great teams of evaluators, trained to evaluate within their expert subject areas, could do one observation a year and then view one portfolio of student work – not driven by thousands of templates the teacher must fill-in to justify that a committee worked on them – teachers would stay in the profession.

    One exception to that statement is that teachers also leave in masses because schools are afraid to enforce respectful behavior on campus. They are too afraid of being sued by parents. No matter how many threats a student makes, nor how many times they disrupt a class, these student will stay on campus.

    Our system does not allow us to listen to teachers who warn about danger. We see the results of this later in the news. That has to change within our government. Until then, who wants to prove they are a great teacher by doing months of paperwork and testing over and over? When will leaders address the real reasons why teachers leave, and then nurture their employees with something other than an SEL class that tells teachers to make sure to take care of themselves?

  17. Alyson Wylie 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This resonates! I finished all requirements during the “Pink Slip” era. I wasn’t able to secure a permanent job and ended up getting hired with a university. I passed every test but wasn’t able to complete the induction program before my hard earned credential expired. I watched several of my peers opt out of teaching after the intensive induction program, their family time eroded due to paperwork requirements.

  18. Sherry Smith 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I agree with Martin. I’m retired, but I served as a teacher and principal. The induction programs have devolved into a paper chase and busy, overstretched teachers are further burdened by these requirements. The induction programs need to be shortened and streamlined.

  19. Rachel Salau-Barce 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I luckily got out of BTSA, the Induction of my day. It it useless and is just a rehash of the fifth year, which is also a waste of time. What they really need to do is leave teachers alone to actually teach and to make students more responsible for their learning instead of throwing different teaching methods to compensate for students not doing their jobs. If you want people in business to become teachers, … Read More

    I luckily got out of BTSA, the Induction of my day. It it useless and is just a rehash of the fifth year, which is also a waste of time. What they really need to do is leave teachers alone to actually teach and to make students more responsible for their learning instead of throwing different teaching methods to compensate for students not doing their jobs. If you want people in business to become teachers, then don’t take away their Social Security that they worked so hard for, and change the laws that deal with teachers and Social Security. Stop cheating the teachers out of what is rightfully theirs.

  20. Julie Sheldon 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I agree with the author that teaching, especially in Special Ed, has become more challenging, and his ideas for offering financial incentives for defraying the cost of exams and attracting second career folks and people from underrepresented populations are good ones. But I absolutely disagree with him about the value of induction, especially in these challenging times. I have been the coordinator of an induction program for the past 10 years, and have seen firsthand … Read More

    I agree with the author that teaching, especially in Special Ed, has become more challenging, and his ideas for offering financial incentives for defraying the cost of exams and attracting second career folks and people from underrepresented populations are good ones.

    But I absolutely disagree with him about the value of induction, especially in these challenging times. I have been the coordinator of an induction program for the past 10 years, and have seen firsthand the benefit of an effective induction program for the support and retention of new teachers.

    Are there programs that still require an additional workload that is more busywork than support? Yes, but the vast majority of programs across the state are dedicated to creating an individualized program that supports new teachers in the first, most challenging years as educators. Many of the teachers who enter my program have heard horror stories about the workload involved in induction, but find that those stories are false and the time they spend with their mentor is invaluable. Many of the teachers in my induction program become mentors themselves to “pay forward” the gift of support they received.

    The state gathers data from teachers who have completed induction each year, and the percentage of teachers who stated that they want to stay in the profession was 93.6% in 2020-21, the year that was most challenging to be a new teacher because of Covid. Ninety eight percent of teachers who completed induction in my program reported that they wanted to stay in teaching, and I honestly can’t take credit for that.

    The success of induction relies on the skill of the mentor, and I’m privileged to work with the finest and most generous mentors in the state. So I say to the author who chooses to decry what he did not even experience – you should have participated in induction instead of doing your best to avoid it. You missed out on one of those most valuable and enriching experiences in education.

  21. Judith Dunn 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Martin, Thanks for the time you invested sharing your opinions regarding preliminary credentials. Your comment "This is my sixth year and I enjoy it " (teaching) speaks. Keep connecting with kids!! Don't quit. You are the "larger-than-life" person needed. I'm a retired SPED teacher. Your grasp of education is real! Keep talkin' Read More

    Martin,

    Thanks for the time you invested sharing your opinions regarding preliminary credentials.

    Your comment “This is my sixth year and I enjoy it ” (teaching) speaks. Keep connecting with kids!! Don’t quit. You are the “larger-than-life” person needed.

    I’m a retired SPED teacher. Your grasp of education is real! Keep talkin’