Education Beat Podcast — A home that smooths the college path for former prisoners — Listen Now!

Credentialing

Nearly 1 out of 5 classes in California taught by underprepared teachers

By

Most California teachers have the appropriate credentials and training to teach the subjects and students in their classes, but many do not, according to new statewide data on teacher assignments released Thursday.

While 83% of K-12 classes in the 2020-21 school year were taught by teachers credentialed to teach that course, 17% were taught by teachers who were not.  

Teachers are required to have either a multiple-subject, single-subject or special education credential to teach, depending on the grade level and coursework, but an ongoing statewide teacher shortage has meant that most school districts have had to rely on teachers who are not fully prepared to teach at least some classes on their schedule. Often that has meant teachers working with various emergency-style permits or waivers. 

Map shows the percentage of classes taught by teachers with full credentials labeled by the state as clear.



“There is no question that well-qualified teachers are among the most important contributors to a student’s educational experience,” said State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond. “California is committed to ensuring that every student has teachers who are well-prepared to teach challenging content to diverse learners in effective ways and are fully supported in their work. With this data, we can focus on measures to assist our educator workforce as they strive to provide high-quality teaching to all students, especially our most vulnerable students.” 

The new Teacher Assignment Monitoring Outcome data is the state’s newest tool in its battle to end a long and enduring teacher shortage. It is expected to guide state and local leaders on how best to use resources to recruit and retain teachers and will inform California residents about teacher assignments in their local schools. It also allows California to finally meet federal Every Student Succeeds Act requirements.

“The release of the teacher data is a milestone achievement, years in the making,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney at Public Advocates, a public interest law firm. “We wish it had been here years ago but now the state will finally will have data capturing the quality of teaching force statewide down to the school level.”

The data will reveal disparities between low-income and wealthier schools in staffing fully prepared teachers, he said. Research by the Learning Policy Institute shows that the gaps have widened in California since the pandemic.

Students are more likely to have underprepared teachers in small rural districts where teachers are more difficult to recruit, according to the data. At Big Lagoon Union Elementary School in Humboldt County, 97% of the courses in 2020-21 were taught by interns, who generally have not completed the tests, coursework and student teaching required for a preliminary or clear credential. The school serves 24 students and has two teachers and a principal, according to state data.

Of the 10 school districts with the largest number of classes being taught by underprepared teachers, Oakland Unified has the largest enrollment — 35,352 students. Almost a third of the classes in the district that year were being taught by teachers working without the correct credential or training, according to an EdSource analysis of the state data that excluded charter schools.

The new data categorizes teacher assignments as “clear,” “out-of-field,” “ineffective,” “interns,” “incomplete” or “unknown.”

It shows that 83.1% of the assignments that school year were clear because classes were taught by teachers with the appropriate credentials. Another 4.4% of the teaching assignments were deemed out-of-field because classes were taught by teachers who were credentialed but hadn’t passed required tests or coursework that demonstrate competence to teach the course or the student population in the class. Interns taught 1.5% of classes. Teaching assignments were labeled ineffective if they were taught by people without authorization to teach in California, or who were teaching outside their credential or permit without authorization from the state. Some 4.1% of courses had that designation.

Elementary schools had the highest percentage of clear teaching assignments — 90.6%, while media arts courses had the highest percentage of ineffective assignments at 34%.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, was in line with the state average with 85% of its assignments clear, 3.3% out-of-field and 3.5% ineffective.

Other districts had a much higher number of teachers assigned to classes they weren’t fully prepared to teach. Maricopa Unified, Konocti Unified, Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified, Alpaugh Unified, Needles Unified, Oakland Unified, Chualar Union, Vineland Elementary, East Nicolaus Joint Union High and Borrego Springs Unified had 29% to 41% of their classes taught by an underprepared teacher in 2020-21 — the highest percentage among districts with more than 250 students.

There has long been concern about teacher assignments at schools in high-poverty communities. Oakland Unified, which has 72% of its students on free and reduced-priced lunches, was among the districts with the highest number of underprepared teachers.

Oakland Unified has had a teacher shortage for decades. It has been made worse by the pandemic. Over the past five years the district has averaged over 500 teacher vacancies each year. The complexity of the credentialing process, teacher diversity and the national teacher shortage have all played a part in the teacher shortages in Oakland, according to a press release from the district.

“I have the utmost respect for all of our teachers, whether they are currently credentialed, teaching outside of their subject area or in the process of getting their credential,” says Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, who noted she started her career with an emergency teaching credential.

In recent years district officials have increased beginning teacher salaries and increased recruitment and retention efforts.

School officials have numerous options that allow them to assign teachers to classes they aren’t credentialed to teach. Teachers who have not completed testing, coursework and student teaching can work with provisional intern permits and intern credentials. Credentialed teachers can teach classes outside their credential with limited assignment permits and waivers in order to meet staffing needs. School districts also can use the local assignment option to assign a teacher with a different teaching credential to a class when they can’t find an educator with the proper credential. 

“Amidst a nationwide staffing shortage, school districts are struggling to find teachers for classes and sometimes must utilize the local assignment option to place high-quality teachers in assignments that they aren’t credentialed to teach, yet they are proving to be highly effective in,” said Kindra Britt, spokeswoman for California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

Court and community schools run by county offices of education have a particularly difficult time filling positions, she said. 

 “We are putting the most qualified person in front of students,” she said. “The data doesn’t really support that.”

Darling-Hammond calls the shortage of appropriately credentialed teachers in some communities worrisome, but she is confident that recent state initiatives to recruit and retain teachers will increase the number of teachers in the state. The initiatives include $500 million for Golden State Teacher Grants, $350 million for teacher residency programs and $1.5 billion for the Educator Effectiveness Block Grant. 

But there is still work to be done, Darling-Hammond said. “A lot of people are beginning to recognize that retention is the name of the game,” she said. “It’s not about recruitment. Nine out of 10 positions are open because people left the year before.”

There won’t be any punitive action from the state if they have too many teachers without the correct credentials, although they may feel more public pressure now that the data is publicly available, Darling-Hammond said.

The data collection was mandated by Assembly Bill 1219, which passed in 2019. It also is the result of two years of collaboration between the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the California Department of Education. 

The information will be used to inform state and local education officials about where teaching shortages exist and how deep they are so that resources can be targeted to places with the most need, Darling-Hammond said. The data also can help the state improve programs by tracking the attrition rates of teachers who completed residency or other teacher preparation pathways, she said.

“As we begin to emerge from a global pandemic, this data is an important tool to drive conversations about how we can best serve students,” said Mary Nicely, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction at the California Department of Education. “By launching this annual report, we are providing a new level of transparency to support schools, students and families as we find ways to navigate today’s challenges to public education, including statewide education workforce shortages.” 

The data is submitted to the state from school districts each fall, based on teaching assignments on the first Wednesday in October. The teaching assignments are then compared to teachers’ credentials by Commission on Teacher Credentialing staff. If a teacher’s assignment doesn’t match his or her credential, the school district and a state monitor will review the case, said Cindy Kazanis, division director at the California Department of Education.

More than 3,000 school employees were trained to use the new database at more than 30 in-person sessions and through several webinars, said state officials at a news conference on Wednesday.

But not all necessary employees had training or knew how to enter the codes correctly, resulting in many school or district entries being designated as incomplete, Britt said. The California Department of Education won’t correct the data, she said.

“Despite the confusing labels, our educators are effective; this issue is semantic, and we need steps to remediate the incorrect data,” Britt said. “I’m a little concerned about the damage that can be done to an already strained education workforce.”

Schools had time to review the data, including almost six months to submit, review, correct and certify their teacher assignment data, said Maria Clayton, director of communications for the California Department of Education. They then had four months in late 2021 to review the results after teacher credentials were compared to teaching assignments.

Britt said the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association is advocating for more training options for county offices.

The information on teacher assignments will be available to the public on the California Department of Education’s Dataquest website, and will be used in several other state and local reports including each School Accountability Report Card, the California School Dashboard, the Federal Teacher Equity Plan and the Williams Monitoring criteria.

Affeldt and other equity advocates are hoping the state board will include the information as a metric on the school dashboard to compel districts to address disparities among schools in teacher assignments. The board plans to examine the issue after the California Department of Information has released a second year of data.

Read more:

Do you count on EdSource’s reporting daily? Make your donation today to our year end fundraising campaign by Dec. 31st to keep us going without a paywall or ads.

Share Article

Comments (15)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Tia Davenport 1 week ago1 week ago

    I found this article to be very telling in many ways, but the fact is that California needs teachers. As a National Board Certified Teacher, I’m not given the respect or compensation for my work to earn this top certification, and I earned NBCT status as an “effective” teacher. There has to be a better pipeline for new teachers and offer support for the many substitute teachers. We have to do better.

  2. Marcy 4 months ago4 months ago

    To address the teacher shortage how about university teacher education programs offering asynchronous/synchronous online courses to meet the needs of nontraditional students. Evening courses typically start at 4-6pm at CSUs. Teacher interns work in the classroom, enduring long commutes to attend in person classes is a problem. With schools ending at 3:30 PM, candidates will have added stress. Another barrier would-be teachers face is paying expensive fees to take CBEST, CSET and RICA … Read More

    To address the teacher shortage how about university teacher education programs offering asynchronous/synchronous online courses to meet the needs of nontraditional students. Evening courses typically start at 4-6pm at CSUs. Teacher interns work in the classroom, enduring long commutes to attend in person classes is a problem. With schools ending at 3:30 PM, candidates will have added stress.

    Another barrier would-be teachers face is paying expensive fees to take CBEST, CSET and RICA tests. Most do not pass the exams the first time. The governor should allow The CTC to evaluate course transcripts for subject matter or eliminate expensive CBEST, CSET and RICA examinations. California should look to other states by losing the excessive requirements to teach. If a candidate has a master’s, doctorate or bachelor’s degree and enrolled in a teacher education program that should be sufficient to teach.

    The teacher education programs are not attracting would-be teachers. Teacher education programs are unaffordable. Most would-be candidates may not qualify for Pell grants to return to school because of prior education. Most working adults cannot afford to take off work for unpaid student teaching. Student teachers should receive compensation or the option of working as a paid paraprofessional.

    Until state officials, universities and credentialing agencies address issues, teacher shortages will persist. Teaching is a noble profession, but low teacher salary and excessive teaching requirements do not make the profession attractive.

  3. Ted 4 months ago4 months ago

    17% is much closer to 1 in 6. “Nearly 1 in 5” is stretching it. I suggest revising.

  4. David 5 months ago5 months ago

    There is an assumption in this discussion that is going unaddressed. It is assumed that teaching credentials are necessary in order to have effective teaching. That is not the case. Having credentials means that you've taken some courses and know what the "best practices" are, not that you have the ability and desire to convey your subject matter in a compelling way so that students of various backgrounds and abilities will absorb and make … Read More

    There is an assumption in this discussion that is going unaddressed. It is assumed that teaching credentials are necessary in order to have effective teaching. That is not the case. Having credentials means that you’ve taken some courses and know what the “best practices” are, not that you have the ability and desire to convey your subject matter in a compelling way so that students of various backgrounds and abilities will absorb and make it their own.

    Far better than requiring teaching credentials would be to audition prospective teachers. They still would need to pass a thorough background and subject matter check and, I think, have a BA degree, but requiring only that rather than the onerous amount of coursework that is currently needed to get a teaching credential would open up the field to many qualified college graduates who, were it not for that hurdle, could be excellent teachers.

    Once on the job, their teaching effectiveness (using objective tests) would need to be monitored as, at present, it is not. Alas, there is a huge industry today that is economically supported by “teacher credentialing” and there are many ineffective teachers who are accustomed to being left alone, and these groups would naturally oppose such a change, but, if we really want to improve K-12 education, standing up to such opposition should not dissuade us. This is something we should be willing to at least try.

  5. Jorge Ramirez 5 months ago5 months ago

    The data in this article seems incomplete. I’m an avid reader of Ed source articles, but this time I feel that your staff drop the ball in getting the whole story. The data charts just don’t add up.

  6. Dr. Bill Conrad 5 months ago5 months ago

    No amount of bureaucratic credentialing rigamarole is going to address a fundamental problem that extraordinarily week colleges of education attract the least qualified candidates and train them very poorly in content, pedagogy, and assessment skills. Just look at the abysmal student achievement results in California! Teaching is still considered charity work! Over 80% of K-12 teachers are white women. Nuf said. Read The Fog of Education!

  7. Dori 5 months ago5 months ago

    As an experienced and sucessful teacher coming in from MN, I was told by the county rep that my credential wouldn't transfer over because it was based on a U of M major program for interdisciplinary history and lit which wasn't recognized by CA. I had to take more classes to focus on a single angle discipline and retake all the pedagogy classes. Since the school needed me immediately, I signed on as a long-term … Read More

    As an experienced and sucessful teacher coming in from MN, I was told by the county rep that my credential wouldn’t transfer over because it was based on a U of M major program for interdisciplinary history and lit which wasn’t recognized by CA. I had to take more classes to focus on a single angle discipline and retake all the pedagogy classes. Since the school needed me immediately, I signed on as a long-term substitute then entered the internship program. Several of us were in the same situation – highly successful teachers who had to jump through California’s hoops because our credentials wouldn’t transfer over for one reason or another.

    For those claiming “interns need to be babysat,” I guarantee that my fellow interns went through rigorous classes through the Fortune School of Education, but some were treated very poorly by their fellow teachers. Instead of getting the on-campus mentorship they deserved, they were left with little to no PD despite the placement school’s promises of appropriate support.

    I was lucky because I was an intern in name only. I do agree that interns should not be given a full slate of classes from the very beginning. Ideally, they would have 2 classes where they co-teach the first semester, teach 1-2 alone the second semester and co-teach 2 others. Year 2 – give them up to 4 classes until they finish the program. They get a full slate after they clear their credential.

  8. John 5 months ago5 months ago

    Pay the teachers more money. The current pay condemns teachers to a life without homeownership and trips to the food bank with their children.

    Replies

    • Dr. Bill Conrad 5 months ago5 months ago

      Pay master teachers 6 figure salaries no doubt. However they must demonstrate expertise in content knowledge, pedagogy, and assessment skills. And they can demonstrate significant measurable growth in academic knowledge and skills. No more free money for time as a teacher! Those days are over! Students and families expect and deserve second to none service. No more free money for teachers with ridiculous demands foe small class sizes. Focus on improving and aligning professional practices.

  9. Peter 5 months ago5 months ago

    Besides the teacher shortage and attrition, how confident are we in the quality of the credentialed teachers? I am well aware that many teacher preparation programs in CA graduate underprepared teachers.

  10. Dominee Marchus 5 months ago5 months ago

    It appears your definition of ineffective teachers is the former definition which was revised and expanded November 2019 to include teachers who are legally authorized, see CDE website, Updated Teacher Equity Definitions; https://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ee/teacherequitydefinitions.asp

  11. Allison Nofzinger 5 months ago5 months ago

    California takes way too long to clear certified teachers from other states. I had 3 different state credentials and it took over 1.5yrs. Seriously and thus was before the pandemic. Now most don't even need to take the credential tests. It's ridiculous. I don't think it's right for intern teachers to just come in either. We don't have time to train them during the day. I get they are excited to be in the schools … Read More

    California takes way too long to clear certified teachers from other states. I had 3 different state credentials and it took over 1.5yrs. Seriously and thus was before the pandemic. Now most don’t even need to take the credential tests. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think it’s right for intern teachers to just come in either. We don’t have time to train them during the day.

    I get they are excited to be in the schools … but it’s not just babysitting. The pay for California is so low for teachers as well. There is no way to even live here on what we get paid. I’ve lived Hawaii and MD and made more than here. Seriously, get with the program! You want to keep us pay us!

  12. veronica thomas 5 months ago5 months ago

    Do we have similar data for charter schools?

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 5 months ago5 months ago

      Yes, and EdSource plans to include them soon.

  13. Leonard Isenberg 5 months ago5 months ago

    LAUSD and other districts have created the shortage of qualified teacher by bringing false charges and getting rid of more expensive high seniority teachers and replacing them with fresh out of college untrained teachers working on emergency credentialed "teachers" working for $35,000 a year for 3 years, only to be replaced by another set of emergency credentialed untrained "teachers" when the 3 years are up. Public education is no longer about education, rather it's about … Read More

    LAUSD and other districts have created the shortage of qualified teacher by bringing false charges and getting rid of more expensive high seniority teachers and replacing them with fresh out of college untrained teachers working on emergency credentialed “teachers” working for $35,000 a year for 3 years, only to be replaced by another set of emergency credentialed untrained “teachers” when the 3 years are up. Public education is no longer about education, rather it’s about vendor profits. http://www.perdaily.com