Report cites obstacles to hiring more teachers

By Grace Lee Associated Press Writer
Wednesday October 24, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Calling California’s shortage of trained teachers “nothing less than a crisis,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin Tuesday urged the state to increase teacher salaries and phase out the hiring of uncredentialed teachers. 

Eastin presented a task force report she commissioned to teachers, administrators and an eighth-grade video class taping the event at Natomas Middle School. 

“I believe in accountability for students,” Eastin said, “but it isn’t fair for students in schools with 80 percent uncredentialed teachers” to face the new standards without help. 

The state’s school districts have hired tens of thousands of untrained teachers although more than four credentialed teachers exist for every opening, the report shows. 

A 40-member task force of teachers and education administrators said increasing pay and phasing out the hiring of uncredentialed teachers would help increase the state’s pool of qualified teachers. 

“If we are really going to have general reform, we need put a laser-like focus on the educators who will lead our schools,” Eastin said. “We want recruitment and retention, not just of warm bodies but of educators.” 

California has 1.3 million trained teachers and 290,000 teaching jobs, but many openings go unfilled because teachers gravitate toward higher-paying districts, said the report. 

The report criticized the state for paying teachers too little and raising extra barriers for those with out-of-state credentials and teachers returning to the classroom. 

State incentives also encourage people to enter teaching without a credential, making it more likely they will eventually quit teaching, the report said. 

“The problem with emergency credentialed folks is they have no prior training and most are gone within a short time. Forty percent are gone within a year,” said Skip Meno, who co-chaired the task force. “What we’re doing is pouring water into a bathtub with a big hole at the bottom.” 

Last year, California had more than 42,000 uncredentialed teachers, more than any other state. 

Schools in poor communities and those with larger proportions of English learners have higher numbers of uncredentialed teachers. Students in schools with large minority populations are seven times more likely to have untrained teachers. 

Low-performing schools should not be allowed to hire uncredentialed teachers in proportions higher than the state average, the report said. 

Emergency credentials, the task force recommended, should be phased out within five years, which would force district to hire only those with credentials. 

More undergraduate university programs should include teacher training as part of the degree and give students opportunities to teach, the report urged.