The number of new California teacher credentials declines after seven years of increases

Just when California’s teacher shortage seemed to be easing, it got worse. A seven-year increase in the number of new teacher credentials issued by the state ended last year with a 16% decline, exacerbating the current teacher shortage in the state.

16,491 new teaching credentials were issued in California in 2021-22, the most recent fiscal year data available. Last year, the state awarded 19,659 such credentials, according to “Teacher Supply in California,” an annual report to the state Legislature compiled by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Three thousand fewer teachers could have a significant impact on California school districts already struggling to fill teaching jobs. Without enough credentialed teachers, schools have had to hire teachers on emergency permits that do not require them to complete teacher training.

Elementary schools, which primarily employ teachers with multi-subject teaching credentials, may feel the shortage the most. 25% fewer new multi-subject credentials were issued in 2021-22 than in the prior year. New special education credentials were down 12%, and new single-subject credentials, mostly issued to high school teachers, were down 7%.

“The last few years have been really tumultuous for students and teachers, and a lot of factors have played into that,” said Jana Luft, acting associate director of educator engagement at The Education Trust-West, a nonprofit education advocacy organization. profit. “It may take a while to see if there are dips this year, if they will continue or be an aberration.”

Although the United States has had a teacher shortage for decades, the pandemic has made it worse, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a nonprofit educational research organization. Many teachers, tired of online teaching or disillusioned with disruptive student behavior, which escalated after schools reopened, closed or took early retirement.

A Rand Corp. study last year found that nearly all school districts had to combine or cancel classes, or asked teachers to take on additional assignments at one or more of their schools due to teacher shortages.

14 job fairs, one teacher hired

Konocti Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Chris Schoeneman is not surprised by the report. He traveled to 14 job fairs in California, Nevada and Montana this year to search for teachers and only managed to hire one. He still needs 36 teachers next school year, nearly double the number in previous years.

“The system doesn’t have enough people,” he said. “This year we had to pay teachers to take two classes and give them para(educator) support. They were teaching 50 or 60 at a time, instead of 20 or 30. Subs are hard to find, and we burned them out.”

Job fairs that once drew more than 100 applicants now draw just 20 or 30, he said. Schoeneman found the only candidate in Montana.

He attributes the lack of interest in teaching to changing student discipline policies and an increasingly difficult work environment for teachers.

“You hear that the children are out of control. They aren’t, but we have fewer and fewer tools to deal with bad behavior,” Schoeneman said. “It is a challenge.”

Recruiting teachers for Konocti Unified, a district serving 6,700 students in rural Lake County, more than an hour north of Santa Rosa, is already difficult. So Konocti is recruiting new college graduates to work as interns in the district. Interns earn a full-time teacher’s salary while completing courses and other training for accreditation.

Nearly half of the 184 teachers at Konocti Unified have less than five years of experience and 27% are working on internship or emergency permits without a preliminary or clear teaching credential, according to Schoeneman.

Districts fill vacancies with under-prepared teachers

The number of emergency-style permits issued in California increased in 2021-22 as the number of teacher credentials decreased, indicating an increase in unprepared teachers entering the workforce.

California issued 4,065 provisional internship permits and short-term staff permits, up 28 percent in 2021-22 from the previous year, according to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing report. School districts may request the state to issue these permits to individuals who have not completed, or in some cases have not even begun, teacher training to meet an immediate or anticipated staffing need. California also issued 5,812 new intern credentials that year, up slightly from the previous year.

“We know that students of color, especially those experiencing poverty, are disproportionately likely to have under-prepared teachers and, in some cases, a host of substitutes if they don’t have fully-prepared teachers to staff classrooms,” Luft said. . “It has a significant impact on the results of these students.”

Only the number of people who issued a teaching waiver, which allows teachers to teach courses outside of their credential when districts cannot find teachers with the appropriate credential, decreased in 2021-22, compared to the previous year.

Districts have struggled for years to find teachers for hard-to-fill jobs like special education, science, math and bilingual education. The lack of new candidates is making that shortage worse.

Finding bilingual teachers with bilingual endorsements, a specialized credential required to teach English language learners, has become increasingly difficult.

“Districts that want to expand bilingual programs, including dual immersion programs, are constrained due to a lack of staffing,” said Manuel Buenrostro, associate policy director for California Together. “Despite the demand for these programs, we will not be able to meet the demand unless we meet the needs of bilingual teachers.”

Why aren’t people becoming teachers?

California has been one of the few states that has gained enrollment in teacher preparation programs, Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the state Board of Education, said in an interview in March.

State prep programs enrolled nearly 4,000 students between 2016 and 2021. It’s unclear if the enrollment increases continued into the 2021-22 school year, as that data has not yet been released.

According to the commission’s report, teaching credentials issued to candidates prepared by California higher education institutions in 2021-22 decreased 25% from the prior year.

Enrollment in California State University’s teacher preparation programs, which educate the majority of the state’s teachers, remains substantially below the 19,235 students enrolled 20 years ago.

The decline in the number of applications for teaching credentials may be related to the expiration of state Covid flexibilities, such as waivers for both the California Basic Skills Test and the subject matter proficiency requirement before teaching, Cheryl said. Cotton, deputy superintendent of the California Department. of Education.

“We are back to pre-pandemic levels, reissuing about 12,000 credentials every year,” Cotton said.

California has invested in recruiting, training

California has spent $1.2 billion since 2016 on programs aimed at addressing teacher shortages. Among the largest expenditures are $515 million for the Golden State Teacher Grant program, $401 million for the Teacher Residency Grant program, and $170 million for the teacher credentialing program for California classified school employees, all of which provide financial support to students. candidates for teachers, according to the Legislature. Analyst office.

The proposed revised state budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes additional funding and flexibilities to help recruit and train teachers, including making it easier for members of the military and their spouses to transfer their teaching credential from another state, offering teachers other avenues to complete some tests if they were affected by the Covid pandemic, increasing scholarships for resident teachers and funding a program to prepare bilingual teachers.

Cotton is hopeful that the number of new teaching credentials will increase, especially with the state’s continued recruitment and retention efforts.

“It takes a while to change things,” Cotton said. “We expect to see increases.”

What would make the teaching profession more attractive?

Schoeneman would like the state to allow teachers to earn their bachelor’s degree and complete teacher preparation in four years instead of five, reduce the number of tests required to earn a credential, and offer teachers more autonomy once they are in the classroom.

To attract a diverse teaching workforce, the state must increase educator pay; encourage the construction of affordable housing; facilitate alliances to support teacher preparation and training; provide stipends to promising high school and college students who commit to working in the district; and help districts cultivate inclusive, culturally affirming, and anti-racist school communities, according to the recently released “California Educator Diversity Roadmap,” a project of Californians for Justice, The Education Trust-West, and Public Advocates.

One of the recommendations made by the focus groups that participated in the study was to pay teacher candidates who are completing the required hours of teaching students.

“We also heard a bold call for something like a GI bill for teachers,” Luft said. “You shouldn’t have to pay for your education to become a teacher. The Golden State Grant teacher is a good start, but it’s not enough.”

The Golden State Teacher Grant awards up to $20,000 to students enrolled in state-approved teacher preparation programs.

Konocti isn’t waiting for the state to sweeten the pot for teachers. The district is offering a $5,000 signing bonus for all newly hired teachers with a preliminary or clear credential and has opened a daycare that is subsidized for employees.

“We’re trying to think of things to support young families and younger teachers,” he said. “Cutting daycare costs in half is huge.”

Teacher recruitment begins in high school

Protracted teacher shortages have state and school district leaders looking for future teachers in their high schools.

In 2022, state legislators passed California’s Golden State Pathways Program Grants Act to provide funds to school districts to promote careers in high-growth occupations like teaching. The program helps students “move seamlessly from high school to college and career,” according to the California Department of Education website.

At Konocti, school staff promote the teaching profession in its high schools, hire graduates as paraprofessionals and other district jobs, and encourage their alumni to enroll as trainee teachers.

“We talk about it all the time,” Schoeneman said. “If you see someone who has some talent, we are all on top of them on this. ‘You need to do this. You are really good at this. Here is your path. You have to do it.'”