Study Finds Beginning Teachers in California Face a Bumpy Path to a Teaching Career

May 20, 2013, 16:26 ET from SRI International

MENLO PARK, Calif., May 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study conducted by SRI International, J. Koppich & Associates, and Inverness Research finds that the majority of beginning teachers in California face a bumpy path to a teaching career. The study found that state policies designed to promote and enhance the effectiveness of beginning teachers fail to match employment realities. Most significantly, beginning teachers often do not get the support they critically need to be effective in the classroom.

State policies assume that teachers complete teacher preparation and earn a preliminary credential, take a probationary teaching job, complete a two-year induction program, are evaluated annually, and earn a clear credential and tenure. Unfortunately, most beginning teachers are not allowed to follow this career path.

Instead, most beginning teachers are only offered jobs as temporary teachers, long-term substitutes, or some other non-probationary status teaching position. This may postpone their participation in the state's induction program until it is no longer relevant and delays their path to tenure. Often, teachers who are not on the tenure track are not evaluated, even though they may continue teaching year after year.

The study found teachers classified as temporary throughout the state. While it is hard to determine precise numbers given the state's incomplete records, data reveal that nearly one-quarter of first- to third-year teachers in California work for some part of their careers as temporary teachers or long-term substitutes. As a result, more than half of teachers entering their third year have not earned tenure.

"We were surprised to discover the temporary teacher phenomenon is neither new nor limited to a geographic area or type of school district," said Daniel Humphrey, Ed.D., director of SRI's Center for Education Policy. "We found that temporary teachers may be rehired in the same district year after year, but often are neither supported nor evaluated."

State policies designed for beginning teachers often do not serve them well regardless of their employment status. Beginning teachers' stories are punctuated by district fiscal uncertainty, repeated layoffs, and the most challenging assignments, often in multiple subjects and more than one school.

Julia Koppich, Ph.D., the co-lead author of the report concluded, "Our study results make clear that California beginning teachers' career trajectory is anything but smooth. Many new teachers are required to take a tortured route that often twists or skirts the intent of state policy."

The study recommends that the state:

  • Keep accurate counts of temporary teachers
  • Require that all teachers, including temporary teachers and long-term substitutes, be supported and evaluated
  • Allow districts and regional consortia to tailor induction support to the needs of their beginning teachers and require these supports be provided in the first two years of teaching
  • Decouple the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program (BTSA) from clear credentialing
  • Support local experiments in teacher evaluation, including allowing peer review for beginning teachers
  • Rethink the purpose of evaluation so that it focuses primarily on support and improvement

The study was conducted between September 2011 and April 2013. Data collection included review of state policies related to induction, evaluation, tenure, and clear credentialing for beginning teachers; interviews with state education policy officials; visits to eight case study sites and interviews with beginning teachers, BTSA support providers, principals, and district officials; and collection and analysis of a sample of redacted BTSA and evaluation files. The study was funded by the Stuart Foundation.

About SRI International
Innovations from SRI International have created new industries, billions of dollars of marketplace value, and lasting benefits to society—touching our lives every day. SRI, a nonprofit research and development institute based in Silicon Valley, brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off ventures. Government and business clients come to SRI for pioneering R&D and solutions in computing and communications, chemistry and materials, education, energy, health and pharmaceuticals, national defense, robotics, sensing, and more.

SRI's Center for Education Policy (CEP), part of SRI's Education Division, conducts studies of education reforms that hold promise for improving the pre-K-16 system of schooling. Clients include the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, various states, and a wide variety of corporate and private foundations.

About J. Koppich & Associates
J. Koppich & Associates is a San Francisco-based education consulting firm. Julia E. Koppich serves as the firm's principal. J. Koppich & Associates conducts research and program evaluation principally in the areas of teacher effectiveness, including teacher evaluation and compensation, and public sector labor-management relations.  Clients have included the National Governors Association, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, U.S. Department of Education, Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools, Memphis City Schools, and the National Center on Performance Compensation.

About Inverness Research
Inverness Research is an independent and national educational evaluation firm headquartered in Inverness, California. Inverness Research conducts studies that concentrate on the congruence between policy or project theory and realities in the field. Their aim is to help projects assess the quality and efficacy of their efforts, and to help funders and policy makers better understand the design of their initiatives and the value of their investments. Inverness Research also conducts opportunity analysis for education philanthropies. Clients have included the National Science Foundation, the National Writing Project, Education Development Center, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, as well as several large-scale multi-institutional partnerships involving universities, science museums, and school districts.

About the Stuart Foundation
The Stuart Foundation is dedicated to transforming public education and the child welfare system so that all youth can learn and achieve in school and life. The Foundation is a partner and convener in melding the resources, thinking, and energy necessary to create and sustain system-wide change in California and Washington. It invests in programs and practices that serve as scalable and sustainable models and that inform policy.

SOURCE SRI International