SACRAMENTO — California will face a growing shortage of qualified teachers in this decade as older instructors retire in record numbers and schools hire more teachers without preliminary credentials, a study says.
“Many states face shortages of skilled teachers, but none at the scale of California,” says a report released Wednesday by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.
The nonprofit organization said the state will need to make “significant improvements” in teacher pay and working conditions to eliminate the shortage.
Kerry Mazzoni, Gov. Gray Davis’ education secretary, called the study a “good report,” but said it didn’t reflect recent state efforts to attract, train and retain teachers.
The state’s optimistic its programs will help fix some of the problems in the report, she said, mentioning a $200 million plan that could be used to help attract veteran teachers to low-performing schools.
Last year, 14 percent of the state’s 301,000 public school teachers didn’t have the preliminary teaching credential the state has traditionally said is the minimum requirement to manage a classroom.
The number of teachers without preliminary credentials is projected to reach 21 percent — about 65,000 out of 309,000 instructors — by 2009 as experienced teachers retire or leave the profession, the study said.
Forty percent of the state’s current teachers are at least 50 years old and are approaching retirement age.
California schools have had to depend on some instructors with emergency teaching permits for a number of years, but their use started increasing sharply after 1995, when the state ordered class sizes cut from 30-plus to 20 in the four lowest grades.
The traditional route for most people interested in becoming teachers has been to pass college or university courses and get on-the-job training as a student teacher before taking over a classroom.
Now, however, most new California teachers start work before finishing classes or student teaching, the report said.
As earlier reports have said, those underprepared teachers land most often in schools serving low-income neighborhoods, and the problem is getting worse, the study said.
In nearly half of California schools fewer than 5 percent of the teachers are not fully credentialed and almost a third have no underprepared instructors, according to the report.
But in a quarter of the public schools — mostly schools in urban areas — more than 20 percent of teachers are not fully credentialed.
“When the data are examined by poverty or race or academic achievement, it is starkly apparent that students who are poor, black or Hispanic or who are in low-performing schools have those teachers who are the least prepared by far,” the study said.
The report also found that:
— Support programs available for beginning teachers vary and are often lacking in schools with large numbers of underprepared teachers.
— The state has one of the most comprehensive programs to help new teachers move into the profession, but many underprepared teachers are not eligible for the program.
— Only about one in five teachers say the ongoing training they receive after they start their careers has increased their effectiveness a lot.
— Less than a quarter of teachers say their ongoing training has adequate follow-up.
Besides calling for long-range improvements in teacher salaries and working conditions in general, the report recommends the state provide additional financial incentives to bring veteran teachers to low-performing schools.
“The most important thing for the state to do this (coming) year is to really zero in on these low-performing schools,” said Harvey Hunt, the center’s co-director.
The report also recommends eliminating emergency credentials for underprepared teachers by 2006 and making other improvements in teacher training and continuing education programs.
Mazzoni predicted the state will phase out emergency credentials and instead require new instructors without credentials to take part in intern programs. But she said it would be risky to set a firm cutoff date.
Hunt agreed that the Legislature and Davis have “already taken some pretty significant steps to address” problems cited by the report.
“The teacher preparation programs have been expanded and standards have been increased,” he said. ”(They’ve) expanded preparation options and dramatically expanded what we call induction — the shepherding of new teachers into the profession the first couple of years.”
He said those improvements were taken into account in making the study’s projections. But he added, “Some of these programs are so new that their impact can’t be identified.”
Funding for the study was provided by California State University and a number of private foundations.
On the Net: Read the report at www.cftl.org