Commission eyes salaries, training in effort to recruit good teachers

The Associated Press
Thursday September 06, 2001

SACRAMENTO – California needs to try new ways to find and keep great teachers in public schools, such as creating a world-class teacher academy or a special credential for teachers who succeed in poor schools, says a new state commission report. 

The state’s recent expensive efforts to find and keep qualified teachers in public schools are starting to work but more efforts are needed, Michael Alpert, chairman of the Little Hoover Commission, said Wednesday in releasing the report. 

“We are far short of the mark and not enough teachers have the skills and abilities needed for success,” said Alpert, a retired Coronado attorney who is married to state Sen. Dede Alpert. 

California public schools are facing a shortage of qualified teachers due to population increases, retirement of veteran teachers and class-size reduction. Several previous reports have documented that nearly 40,000 of the state’s nearly 300,000 teachers do not have full state credentials. That usually means they have not taken all the required teacher-preparation courses. 

Even worse, the distribution of those less-than-fully qualified teachers is very uneven, with students in schools with high poverty levels and low test scores more likely to have them. 

The 1,337 public schools with the lowest 20 percent of 2000 test scores had an average of 21 percent of teachers on emergency permits; 113 of those schools had 40 percent or more unqualified teachers, according to Department of Education records. 

Lawmakers and Gov. Gray Davis have in recent years approved billions of dollars to raise teacher salaries, increase teacher training and allow school districts to offer incentives such as signing bonuses and home-buying assistance to attract teachers. 

Lawmakers are currently working on how to spend $200 million in this year’s state budget aimed at low-performing schools and say that attracting qualified teachers will be part of that new program. 

The commission’s suggestions, sent to the Legislature and governor, include: 

• Creating “a premier teacher academy” to recruit and train the best teachers to be assigned to low-performing schools. The academy could try out new techniques in teaching. 

• Streamlining the state’s process of getting a teaching credential, “a complex labyrinth that tests persistence and endurance as much as the ability to teach.” 

• Creating a special credential that recognizes teachers who raise student achievement in low-performing schools. 

• Fast-tracking credentials for teachers with experience in other states and in private schools. 

• Conducting a state labor market study to determine how much teachers would have to be paid to work in low-performing schools. 

• Spending money to make hard-to-staff schools more attractive workplaces. 

• Evaluating the administrative practices of low-performing schools and identifying weaknesses in management practices. 

• Coordinating the current efforts of dozens of state agencies working on the problem. 

The Little Hoover Commission, created in 1962, is an independent state agency that reviews state programs and policies and recommends ways to make them more efficient.