OAKLAND, Calif., July 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Amid a worsening teacher shortage in California schools, a new report by Bellwether Education Partners, Rethinking Teacher Preparation: Empowering Local Schools to Solve the Teacher Shortage and Build Better Teachers, identifies strategies to increase the supply of effective teachers and ensure they are prepared for success in the classroom.
The report's recommendations call for California policy makers to empower public schools and teacher preparation programs to build partnerships and encourage innovative pathways to the classroom that maintain high standards.
After years of cuts to the teaching workforce during the economic recession, California schools are beginning to hire again, but teacher preparation programs are not producing enough graduates to meet the needs of our schools. In 2013-14, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing issued 14,810 teaching credentials, well below the 21,000 new teachers needed for the next school year alone. The shortage impacts districts across the state in both rural and urban communities. In addition to declining recruitment numbers, the state's teachers remain significantly less diverse than the students they teach and not enough specialize in high-demand subject areas like science, math, bilingual and special education.
Without a comprehensive plan to address the teacher shortage the right way, California risks repeating mistakes of the past with a lasting impact on students for years to come. In the 1990s, a massive teacher shortage diminished teacher quality as schools relied on teachers with emergency teaching permits. California schools may be heading down the same path again as the 2013-14 school year saw a 37 percent increase in the number of teachers working on emergency permits which do not require teacher training or ongoing support of any kind.
"The current teaching debate in California centers on tenure, dismissal and layoff procedures," said Sara Mead, a principal with Bellwether Education Partners. "A state desperate to hire new teachers needs to pay at least as much attention to the ways teachers come to the classroom and how they are prepared. Today's teacher shortage is a challenge but it also brings the opportunity to reimagine and improve California's approach to teacher preparation."
Teacher preparation programs play a significant role in teacher quality and student learning. As the report notes, according to a national study, "the benefit to students of having a teacher from the best teacher preparation program is comparable to that of lowering class size by five to ten students." Unfortunately, California's current reliance on credential type as the determining factor in whether a teacher is labelled "qualified" without taking classroom effectiveness into account hinders the state's ability to evaluate how "graduates are performing once they enter California schools, or whether some programs produce better teachers than others," the report finds.
According to the report, current flaws in the teacher preparation environment – including fragmentation between the various steps in the process and a lack of communication and coordination between preparation programs and those responsible for school hiring – create barriers to entering the profession, costing the state untold numbers of teacher candidates.
Rethinking Teacher Preparation – in line with Governor Brown's push for increased local control in education – calls for developing teachers through increased partnerships between districts and preparation providers and expanding non-traditional pathways to the classroom. The report highlighted several partnerships between local schools and teacher preparation programs that serve as models. A partnership between the Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach Community College and California State University Long Beach is integrating in-class teaching experience with coursework and ongoing mentoring guidance. The Fresno Unified School District and California State University Fresno are exploring a residency program for aspiring 4th through 8th grade teachers that places them in a district school under the tutelage of a master teacher. By focusing on local and diverse recruitment, successful partnerships like these are improving retention rates and building a teacher workforce that more closely connects with the backgrounds of their students.
While local school and preparation program partnerships highlighted in the report are getting results bringing diverse, well-trained and supported teachers, with qualifications in high-demand specialties, into the classroom, those commonsense approaches remain the exception rather than the norm, the report finds.
According to the report, characteristics of effective teacher preparation partnerships include:
- Open dialogue between schools and preparation programs on what teachers need to succeed in the classroom.
- Shared information on hiring needs and desired skills sets.
- Collaboration on designing and implementing training programs.
- Structured in-classroom experiences, mentorship opportunities, and extended residencies to improve long-term professional development.
- Local recruitment and a commitment to bringing under-represented minority groups into the profession to create deeper ties between teachers and the communities they work in, which in turn leads to better retention.
The report also calls for state policy leaders to create a better preparation environment by:
- Incentivizing school and preparation program partnerships and eliminating regulations that complicate them.
- Removing barriers that obstruct the creation of new pathways to the classroom.
- Encouraging local teacher recruitment pipelines.
- Finding new ways to evaluate the quality of preparation programs.
- Reducing the reliance on credential type as the sole determining factor of whether a teacher is labeled qualified.
- Investing existing and new state resources to support teacher preparation.
"Opening the doors to new partnerships and alternative solutions is a step in the right direction and should not be confused with the quick-fix solutions we tried in the past," said Shane Martin, Ph.D., Dean of the LMU School of Education, whose partnerships with Los Angeles schools were highlighted in the report. "To reach the goal of excellent teachers in every California classroom we have to be open to promising new approaches that are preparing teachers who are local, qualified, diverse, ready to meet the needs of their students, and committed to the profession and their school."
In developing Rethinking Teacher Preparation, Bellwether Education Partners engaged a diverse group from around California, including district and charter school hiring professionals, providers of traditional and alternative pathways to the teaching profession, union leaders, representatives from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and other education experts. The report's recommendations are based on stakeholder group discussions, an extensive series of interviews and outside research.
Click here to download the full report.
Bellwether Education Partners is a nonprofit dedicated to helping education organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors become more effective in their work and achieve dramatic results, especially for high-need students. For more information, visit bellwethereducation.org.
Rethinking Teacher Preparation is a fully independent presentation of Bellwether's analysis and conclusions. The report was commissioned by Teach For America, which had no editorial control over its content or recommendations.
SOURCE Bellwether Education Partners