Learning Policy Institute Report Offers Solutions to California Teacher Shortage


As school districts throughout California are looking to hire teachers, a new report looks into the current teacher shortage and makes recommendations on how the state can best handle the situation.

As funding for public school education in California has increased, K-12 schools are beginning to consider hiring additional teachers in an effort to lower student-teacher ratios and bring back classes or programs that were previously canceled as a result of the Great Recession.

The Learning Policy Institute report, Addressing California's Emerging Teacher Shortage: An Analysis of Sources and Solutions, takes a closer look at what could be the possible causes of the shortage in certain areas, their impact on students in the state, factors that influence the supply of teachers, and recommended policies that will create an adequate number of high-quality teachers for years to come.

According to the report, the supply of new teachers in the state is at a 12-year low. With enrollment in teacher education programs having dropped more than 70% over the last decade, the number of new hires in school districts is falling as well.

Researchers found that Edjoin, the educator job portal in the state, still showed 3,900 open teaching positions as of mid-October, double the number of open slots in 2013. In addition, the number of provisional and short-term permits, which are issued to candidates who are not fully certified in order to immediately fill vacant positions, almost tripled in the 2014-15 school year from three years previously, going from around 850 to over 2,400.

The number of teachers hired through these permits has almost doubled in the last two years, reaching over 7,700. That number makes up one-third of all new credentials issued in 2014-15.

While teacher hires for the 2015-16 school year have increased by an estimated 25% from last year, the number of preliminary credentials issued to fully prepared new teachers saw an increase of less than 1% and enrollment into teacher education programs increased by around 2%.

The report suggests that while retirement is a factor, with 34% of teachers in the state currently aged 50 or older, non-retirement issues play a larger role. According to the research, salary levels, college debt, and working conditions all play a part in the high turnover rate, especially among those new to the profession. These teachers may choose to stay in their positions if they are more well prepared before they enter and if they are mentored in their first year.

The authors suggested a number of recommendations to help the state deal with the teacher shortage, including the reinstatement of the CalTeach program, which recruits teachers from other colleges, states, and professions. They also suggest adding pipelines into the profession such as high school career pathways. Access to high-quality preparation programs that support teachers in high-need districts should be increased, and all novice teachers should have access to high-quality mentorship programs, the report says.

The authors add that incentives should be included that not only attract talented teachers to high-need areas, but also support a teachers' ability to stay in or re-enter the field. In addition, they stress that teaching conditions should be improved to allow for principals to implement a productive teaching and learning environment.

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