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

Bay Area teacher Michele Lamons-Raiford — who has been in the profession for 20 years — said that this was the first year she had thought about what life might be like outside the classroom. Simmering for years, the stresses on K-12 educators are now threatening to push unprecedented numbers out the classroom door.

For many, the pandemic was the deciding factor: Already facing what often seemed impossible demands, teachers struggled to keep students engaged with distance learning. And the return to in-person instruction brought a whole new set of challenges, as teachers wrestled with supporting students through the dramatic academic and social emotional effects of Covid.

As one veteran Sweetwater teacher, Louise Williamson, said, “I was excited to return to my classroom this fall and see my students at Hilltop High School in person. About three weeks into the school year, I felt like a failure.”

Even before the pandemic, teacher shortages had reached crisis proportions. California has been among the states hardest hit, with 80% of districts experiencing shortages. Since the pandemic, the problem has only grown more acute.

The impact of teacher shortages on students is deep and direct, particularly in this time of recovery. When a resource teacher in her school left in the middle of the year, Azusa teacher Angela Wright left her fifth and sixth grade class to a substitute and stepped in to replace her colleague. With one teacher departure, two classrooms of students lost a trusted adult to guide them. It is not surprising, then, that student achievement and engagement is heading in the wrong direction: School absences are up; high school graduation rates are down; enrollment in community and four-year colleges has significantly dropped.

In addition to overall shortages, California also has a long way to go to have an educator workforce that reflects the ethnoracial and linguistic diversity of our state. Despite evidence that a diverse educator workforce has a positive impact on student engagement, learning, and other outcomes for all students, the California teacher workforce remains predominantly white. Although only 22% of California’s students identify as non-Hispanic white, approximately 61% of public-school teachers in California do.

District leaders are attempting to address the teacher shortage and diversity crises through several strategies including offering short-term bonuses, relaxing certification rules, revamping professional development and deploying administrators to the classroom. For long-term solutions, we must attract more of our young people to enter the teaching profession and give them the training and support they need to succeed.

Fortunately, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed investments in Golden State Pathways does just that — by building and strengthening on-ramps that jump-start the preparation of young people for careers and postsecondary work in K-12 education.

In contrast with traditional high school, where college-prep curriculum is confined to the classroom and some students pursue career-tech opportunities separately, pathways bring it all together. Rigorous academics are integrated with career technical studies, student supports and work-based learning opportunities — like apprenticeships and other opportunities for hands-on learning — that allow local leaders to leverage the diverse resources in their communities and prepare students for work as early childhood educators and paraprofessionals immediately upon high school graduation.

Already several California districts are leading the way. At the Teaching Career Academy at Hollywood Senior High School in Los Angeles, students are preparing for education through partnerships with local elementary schools and others who expose them to opportunities in the field. They leave the academy ready for immediate employment or postsecondary work. And through a dual enrollment program with a community college, students can apply for an associate teaching credential, allowing them to earn college credit while getting real-world experience teaching in a child care facility.

By allowing local education agencies to develop new pathways, Golden State Pathways funds can be used to build upon these linked programs and support the development of new programs in communities that desperately need them. Building this pathway within a community that has great need for well-prepared, diverse educators creates a mechanism for local leaders to amplify the assets within their local community and leverage them to improve opportunities for their students.

A diverse, well-prepared teaching workforce, with close ties to the community, is critical to the success of young people and to California overall. The pandemic exacerbated teacher shortages that must be addressed, and it also shined a light on the need to find new ways to engage and empower our young people. With thoughtful implementation to reach the communities and students who need it most, Golden State Pathways promises to help us do both.

•••

Sarah Lillis is executive director of Teach Plus California, a nonprofit organization that trains and empowers teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues.

Anne Stanton is president of the Linked Learning Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for high-quality college and career preparation through pathways. 

The opinions in this commentary are those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

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  1. Kelly Okamoto 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    How will we attract young people when they will not be paid enough to support their future families?

  2. Anthony Fox 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    If the Governor really wants to help with the teacher shortages, he should get rid of the RICA. This test has a high failure rate and is not a fair assessment of a good teacher. There are many teachers out there who are teaching in subjects that the RICA is not part of what they are doing. I have been teaching now for 7 years and have not passed the RICA. My job will … Read More

    If the Governor really wants to help with the teacher shortages, he should get rid of the RICA. This test has a high failure rate and is not a fair assessment of a good teacher. There are many teachers out there who are teaching in subjects that the RICA is not part of what they are doing.

    I have been teaching now for 7 years and have not passed the RICA. My job will go away in 2025 if I don’t pass the test. I’ve been observed by 15 different professors and Administrators and they all feel I’m a wonderful teacher and should be cleared, but the RICA is holding that up. I personally know of 7 other teachers who are in the same boat as me. So there are probably thousands more out there. So get rid of the RICA.

  3. Pepper Delores Lewis 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    As a substitute teacher with a masters degree equivalent, we need to form a union, no! We need the CTA to collect dues from us so we cannot be fired for racism, ageism, LBGTQ status, race, disability like teachers who have union representation. I’m recently fired from the Elk Grove Unified School District after 7 years of loyal service. I love teaching and am extremely popular and highly recommended. Please watch my YouTube Goodday Sacramento … Read More

    As a substitute teacher with a masters degree equivalent, we need to form a union, no! We need the CTA to collect dues from us so we cannot be fired for racism, ageism, LBGTQ status, race, disability like teachers who have union representation.

    I’m recently fired from the Elk Grove Unified School District after 7 years of loyal service. I love teaching and am extremely popular and highly recommended. Please watch my YouTube Goodday Sacramento Halloween in the Park and Classic Cars and Kidney Donors interviews by reporter Big Al Sams and call me at (916) 436-6988!!

  4. Dmiranda 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Even for new educators, it is very challenging to get a preliminary credentials due to all the obstacles the state government has set for new educators. In my opinion the there should different ways to evaluate teachers and their performance not only questions and test. CBEST CSETs and RICA should be evaluated and considered to not be a requirement for new teachers since most of them go through the same content in their college career.

  5. Mary Jane Radford Arrow 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    It's good to hear that pathways are being developed here in CA that will help ensure a well-prepared and diverse pool of teachers in future. But what about now? These shortages are affecting learners and communities today. My experience trying to work in my local district and work towards becoming a Special Ed teacher has been frustrating to say the least and involved brick wall after brick wall. I have 20+ years of teaching … Read More

    It’s good to hear that pathways are being developed here in CA that will help ensure a well-prepared and diverse pool of teachers in future. But what about now? These shortages are affecting learners and communities today. My experience trying to work in my local district and work towards becoming a Special Ed teacher has been frustrating to say the least and involved brick wall after brick wall. I have 20+ years of teaching experience in HE and various contexts (not in California) and recently earned my EdD.

    Still, when applying for the so-call “emergency teaching credential ” with the support of my local district, the fact that I only had one semester of math in college and not 3 meant I had to take the standardized CBEST test. This takes time to prepare for and appts are limited so the delay meant I could not work this past school year. Why can’t a qualified person look at my record and experience and make a decision that a Specisl Ed teacher might not need 3 semesters of math? I also was willing to return to university and earn a SpecEd credential but the state college application process and the amount of time involved is daunting … and I say that as someone who has attended a lot of university!

    I was told in no uncertain terms that I would need to study at least 2 semesters/a yea. Why isn’t there a program for motivated and experienced people who may not have taken a traditional path to K-12:teaching that will get them into the classroom sooner rather than later?

    I must say that I’ve pretty much given up and am pursuing other career paths, and this makes me a bit sad especially in light of the serious issues facing our communities. It’s a shame tat the credentialing authorities cannot be more flexible and seek ways of bringing nontraditional, experienced Californians into the fold in order to meet our very urgent current needs.

  6. Dixie Cunnigan 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This was once an highly recommended and respected profession to be in. I always wonder why educators’ salary didn’t live up to the job. We train students for high paying jobs, so why not give us educators the same respect when it comes to ours salary. There’s definitely something wrong with this picture, and you wonder why educators are leaving this profession … low paying job, unsafe work place, lack of respect, dirty campus, and so….

  7. Lee 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I am a retired educator looking for a substittute or part-time teaching position at the elementary level. I have lots of retired educator friends willing to do the same. We are here….Wake up…..Use us!!!!

    Replies

    • Mary Jane Radford Arrow 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Hi Lee,
      Have you checked out any of the services that place substitutes, e.g., Scoot? I had a few placements with them, but without a credential my options were limited. But I would recommend checking them out.

  8. Darren Willis 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Yeah, lets not fix the real issues driving people out of the teaching profession, lets create a pipeline to shove more meat into the sausage grinder.

  9. Nessa 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    They need to appreciate the ones that still want to work with children, they treat us poorly and don’t get me started in the wages. And stop with the CBEST and CSET rule. We have our degrees to teach. None wants to teach because it is hard work.

  10. Elizabeth Bautista 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    We need to increase teacher pay, decrease class sizes and eliminate the EdTPA which is just a cash grab and a waste of time.

  11. Lisa Voss 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    So teachers are leaving the field in droves and rather than address why, we are trying to get more people into the profession knowing most will leave in the first 5 years of their career. Doesn’t sound like a good plan for retaining quality educators.

  12. Mark 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    FYI, White male is an under represented minority in teaching. Focus on recruiting good people to be teachers, don't dump on white females as if they are inadequate because of their skin color. Good teachers come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Raise their salaries and good people will enter the profession. BTW, the narrative in the comments about good teachers leaving for "right to work for … Read More

    FYI, White male is an under represented minority in teaching. Focus on recruiting good people to be teachers, don’t dump on white females as if they are inadequate because of their skin color. Good teachers come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Raise their salaries and good people will enter the profession.

    BTW, the narrative in the comments about good teachers leaving for “right to work for less states” without pensions is absurd. Take your rhetoric elsewhere.

  13. Megan A 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Pathways isn’t the way to get more teachers. Pay them more for their insane out-of-classroom workload, and don’t make them start a teaching job 50-130k in debt.

  14. Randall Freeman 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Yet we add a useless EdTPA as an additional obstacle to entering the teacher ranks.

  15. Nellie 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Teachers will continue to move to other states, different work or retire because of the poor school programs, and defunding law enforcement, indoctrination, vaccine, not safe for anyone on school campus. God Bless America

  16. PHILLIP LEASURE 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Easy, fire half the Admin and focus on education instead of trying to provide “services”.

  17. SD Guero 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Families are fleeing CA. Enrollment is down 3% year over year across the state. Barring an equally huge exodus of teachers (unlikely as they all want that sweet sweet lifetime pension), many districts are going to have to start laying off faculty in CA unless ~5-10% of staff voluntarily quits next year. Just like school closures in the face of Covid, this is simple arithmetic and this response from public educators claiming a labor shortage is short sighted and makes no sense.

  18. Pam Castleman 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Great article… sharing widely.

  19. Brian 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I am a retired high school teacher. After this last year as a long-term sub, ALICE training, a lockdown with an arrest of a student with a firearm, catching Covid from my students, I am finished. No more. My students are not even considering teaching. Why? Time. Debt load. Low salaries. Need to subsidize teacher training programs, recruit minorities, and raise salaries.

  20. Elizabeth Moore 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    If CA wants more teachers they need to do away with the CalTPA requirement during student teaching! Also all that college and exams for less than $50,000 a year puts teachers in poverty!

  21. Seth 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    After the 22-23 school year when the fed Covid money runs out , there will be teachers looking for jobs and helping stable the shortage. In my district, we have about 200 extra temporary teachers to help lower class sizes and they will be released in June of next year. We are a declining enrollment district, so there will not be nearly enough jobs openings to keep them. I know other districts have done the … Read More

    After the 22-23 school year when the fed Covid money runs out , there will be teachers looking for jobs and helping stable the shortage. In my district, we have about 200 extra temporary teachers to help lower class sizes and they will be released in June of next year. We are a declining enrollment district, so there will not be nearly enough jobs openings to keep them. I know other districts have done the same with hiring extra teachers to lower class size for the past couple years – those teachers will be looking for jobs a year from now.

  22. Teresa Jenna 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Last year as a Commissioner for Aging and Veterans Affairs I schedule an appointment with a local city school district that needs teachers, especially in STEM and SPED areas. My suggestion: why not benchmark a concept like "Teach America" and instead of bringing graduates with no life and teaching credentials into the classroom (as your only alternative to traditional recruiting through EDJOIN) develop a system to teach older able intelligent experienced seniors ages 55 and … Read More

    Last year as a Commissioner for Aging and Veterans Affairs I schedule an appointment with a local city school district that needs teachers, especially in STEM and SPED areas. My suggestion: why not benchmark a concept like “Teach America” and instead of bringing graduates with no life and teaching credentials into the classroom (as your only alternative to traditional recruiting through EDJOIN) develop a system to teach older able intelligent experienced seniors ages 55 and up to be instructors in areas of need. Many seniors are looking for part-time work where they can make a difference. Researchers, Engineers, Doctors, Nurses, Public Health Specialists, Technicians, Data Specialists, Administrators, Creatives could fill in gaps, cover as subs, take on short term assignments.

    And, maybe after that even join your district full time for a few years. There are many highly capable individuals who are available but they would be more comfortable having a short-term type of workshop being instructed on discipline, regulations, compliance issues, curriculum and content development, teaching and instruction methods. Build a one or two month summer training program and then put these seniors to work with a teacher mentor. Say one experienced teacher mentors 2-3 seniors. Stanislaus Schools could be showcased to the world.

    The HQ director said “really” you think there are people interested!!! The person did not move on the idea and shuffled me out the door. Not a word or followup from either this person or the superintendent.

    Bloody shame. I remain a Commissioner in my county and talk to seniors every day hearing of interest but when school systems are so narrow in their thinking, they will never make progress!!!!!

    Maybe the only alternative is to hire innovators inside to teach “old thinkers” the methods of thinking out of the box and taking chances on great ideas

    Schools and California need to be changed.

  23. Mary Vixie Sandy 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Thank you, Sarah and Anne. Innovating to address teacher shortages is more important than ever.