A new report says that California’s teaching shortage — the supply of new teachers is at a 12-year low even as demand is starting to rise — is likely to get worse unless targeted steps are taken to stem it.

California is just one of the many states dealing with a teacher shortage that has been growing in recent years because of a combination of several factors, including that school reform has left many teachers feeling as if they have been scapegoated for problems in public education.

[The real reasons behind the U.S. teacher shortage]

The U.S. Education Department maintains an annual state-by state list showing the subject areas in which teachers are in short supply, and this is what it says about California:

In the 1990-91 and 1991-92 school years, California had K-12 shortages in bilingual education, life science and physical science. In 2015-16, there are statewide shortages in English/Drama/Humanities, History/Social Science/ Math/Computer Education/ Science/Self-Contained Class/Special Education (including State Special schools).

A new study says that the supply of new teachers in California is at a 12-year low, with enrollment in educator preparation programs having dropped by more than 70 percent over the last decade and lower than the estimated hires by school districts around the state.

The study, titled “Addressing California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage: An Analysis of Sources and Solutions” and written by Linda Darling-Hammond, Roberta Furger, Patrick Shields and Leib Sutcher, was just published by the Learning Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that does independent research and advance solutions to improve education.

The report says that the shortage is “most acute in mathematics, science, and special education”  and that “California must take purposeful steps now if the state is to avoid more acute, widespread shortages of teachers.” Here’s the executive summary, complete with factors feeding the shortage and recommendations on how to reverse it.

The executive summary:

After many years of teacher layoffs in California, school districts around the state are hiring again. With the influx of new K–12 funding, districts are looking to lower student-teacher ratios and reinstate classes and programs that were reduced or eliminated during the Great Recession. However, mounting evidence indicates that teacher supply has not kept pace with the increased demand. This report examines indicators of current shortages, discusses their impact on students, analyzes factors that influence teacher supply and demand in California and nationally, and recommends policies to ensure an adequate supply of fully prepared teachers for the fields and locations where they are needed.
FINDINGS

Increased demand for K–12 teachers in California comes at a time when the supply of new teachers is at a 12-year low. Enrollment in educator preparation programs has dropped by more than 70 percent over the last decade, and has fallen below the number of estimated hires by school districts around the state. Many signs point to shortages:

•In mid-October, two months after the school year started, EdJoin, the statewide educator job portal, still listed more than 3,900 open teaching positions—double the number listed at that time in 2013.

•In 2014-15, provisional and short-term permits (issued to fill “immediate and acute” staffing needs when a fully credentialed teacher can’t be found) nearly tripled from the number issued two years earlier, growing from about 850 to more than 2,400.

• In all, the number of teachers hired on substandard permits and credentials nearly doubled in the last two years, to more than 7,700, comprising a third of all the new credentials issued in 2014-15.

•Estimated teacher hires for the 2015-16 school year increased by 25 percent from the previous year, while preliminary credentials issued to fully prepared new teachers increased by less than 1 percent from the previous year, and enrollment in teacher education programs increased by only about 2 percent.

Although shortages are occurring across a range of subject areas, the problem is most acute in mathematics, science, and special education. Each of these high-need fields has been marked by a drop in the number of preliminary credentials issued to new teachers and a significant increase in the number of temporary permits, waivers, and intern credentials.

•In mathematics and science, the number of preliminary credentials awarded to new, fully prepared teachers dropped by 32 percent and 14 percent, respectively, over the last four years.

•In that same time, the numbers of underprepared mathematics and science teachers (those with temporary permits and waivers and intern credentials) have increased by 23 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

•In special education, the number of credentials issued dropped by 21 percent between 2011–12 and 2013–14, while substandard permits and credentials increased by 10 percent. Nearly half (48 percent) of the special education teachers licensed in California in 2013–14 lacked full preparation for teaching.

•To get a sense of the growing disparity between demand and supply, while districts estimated their hiring needs at roughly 4,500 special education teachers in 2014–15, only about 2,200 fully prepared new special education teachers emerged from California’s universities in that year.

•As in previous years when California has experienced a shortage of qualified teachers, low-income students of color and students with special needs are disproportionately impacted by the shortage. According to California’s educator equity plan, in 2013–14, nearly twice as many students in high-minority as in low-minority schools were being taught by a teacher on a waiver or permit (a teacher not yet even enrolled in a preparation program). Similar disparities existed between students in high- and low-poverty schools. In the 2000–01 school year, during the last round of acute shortages, 40,000 California teachers were working on emergency credentials, the vast majority of them in high-minority and high-poverty schools. At that time, one in four students in these schools was taught by an underprepared teacher in any given year, placing at greater risk the quality of education these students received.

 

PROGNOSIS FOR THE FUTURE

Among the factors contributing to the increased demand for teachers, districts’ efforts to return student-teacher ratios to pre-Recession levels is one of the most significant. California has the highest student-teacher ratio in the nation (24:1, as compared to the national average of 16:1 in 2013), and the disparity grew even greater during the extended period of budget cuts. For California to bring student-teacher ratios back to pre-Recession levels, districts would need to hire
60,000 new teachers beyond their other hiring needs. If California were to reduce student-teacher ratios to the national average, districts would have to hire 135,000 additional teachers.

Although enrollments are expected to be largely stable statewide, in some counties, enrollment growth will play a critical role in determining hiring needs. In 11 counties, enrollments are expected to grow by more than 5 percent in the coming decade; in Kern and Imperial counties, enrollments are expected to grow by more than 10 percent.

Attrition from retirement will also vary by district and county. With 34 percent of teachers statewide age 50 and older, and nearly 10 percent age 60 and older, retirements will continue to be a factor in many locations over the next five to 10 years.

Non-retirement attrition is an even larger factor, typically accounting for two-thirds of teachers who leave. Research shows that salary levels and other aspects of compensation matter (such as college debt levels and housing costs), as do working conditions, especially having a supportive administrator and a collegial work environment. Turnover for beginners—who leave at much higher rates than other teachers—is influenced by how well novices are prepared prior to entry and how
well they are mentored in the first years on the job.

Each time a teacher leaves the profession, it not only increases demand, it also imposes costs on districts. Replacement costs for teachers have been found to be about $18,000 per teacher who leaves, which adds up to a national price tag of more than $7 billion a year. High turnover also negatively affects the achievement of all students in a school. A comprehensive approach to reducing attrition would reduce the demand for new teachers and save money that could be better spent on mentoring and other approaches to supporting teacher development and advancing student achievement.

On the supply side, overall desirability of teaching as a profession is the most important factor; others include ease of entry, competitiveness of salaries, and teaching conditions. Highly publicized teacher layoffs during the budget downturn left a mark on the public psyche, including that of individuals who might have been considering a teaching career. In addition, salaries were frozen and working conditions suffered during the era of cutbacks, as resource limitations led to increased class sizes, along with fewer materials and instructional supports. One sign of the impact is that only 5 percent of the students in a recent survey of college-bound students were interested in pursuing a career in education, a decrease of 16 percent between 2010 and 2014.

These factors suggest that California must take purposeful steps now if the state is to avoid more acute, widespread shortages of teachers. Earlier state policy initiatives were greatly reduced or terminated during the era of state budget cuts. Reinstating incentives for teacher recruitment and retention will be a critical component of a thoughtful strategy to address the emerging teacher shortage.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Based upon this analysis and prior research, the authors offer the following policy recommendations for consideration:

1. Reinstate the CalTeach program, which helped recruit teachers from colleges, other careers, and other states; provided them information about how to become credentialed; and directed them to preparation programs and districts so that entry into the profession was made simpler and more supported.

2. Create incentives to attract diverse, talented individuals to teach in high-need locations and fields by funding candidates who prepare and teach in such schools and subject areas, as did two highly successful California programs: the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship and the Assumption Program of Loans for Education (APLE).

3. Create innovative pipelines into teaching, such as high school career pathways and Grow-Your-Own teacher preparation models, which encourage and support young people and others to go into teaching in their own communities. These strategies are aligned with the research findings that many young people can be attracted to teaching early in life, and teachers prefer to teach near where they grew up and attended high school.

4. Increase access to high-quality preparation programs that support teacher success in high-need districts and fields. California needs new approaches to training and recruitment to solve shortages in communities and fields that have longstanding challenges with both adequate preparation and adequate supply. In particular, innovation is needed to develop new model programs for training urban and rural teachers, such as teacher residencies and new models of special education preparation.

5. Ensure that all beginning teachers have access to a high-quality support and mentoring program that can reduce early attrition and enhance competence, such as is available through well-designed Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) programs.

6. Provide incentives that support teachers’ ability to stay in or re-enter the profession through strategies like mortgage guarantees for housing, ease of credential renewal, streamlined reciprocity with other states, and opportunities to continue teaching and mentoring after retirement.

7. Improve teaching conditions by supporting administrator training that enables principals to create productive teaching and learning environments.