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The Crisis: California's Teacher Crisis

 

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Do all California students have qualified teachers?
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The State defines a qualified teacher through its teacher credentialing system. The credential is the only guarantee that teachers meet minimum standards for teaching skills and subject matter knowledge.

• In the year 2000 there were more than 42,000 California teachers without full preparation or credentials.
• Last year more than half of the new teachers hired in California entered their classrooms without having practiced teaching under the supervision of a veteran teacher.
• Approximately 1,900 schools, enrolling more than 1.7 million California children, are staffed by large numbers (20% to 75%) of under-prepared, uncredentialed teachers.
• Students of color and low-income students are several times more likely than their white and more affluent peers to be taught by unqualified teachers.
Students deserve teachers who hold credentials and who know how to bridge students' home cultures and languages with the knowledge that matters at school.

Are qualified teachers important?

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• Teacher quality has a stronger impact on achievement than other school resources. Students who have even two ineffective teachers in a row lose ground and may never recover.
• The State’s lowest ranked schools on the Academic Performance Index (API) have the least qualified teachers.
• Schools with many underqualified teachers have high turnover rates and lack of connection to the community.
• When schools lack qualified and experienced teachers, new teachers
don’t have the support they need to learn to teach well. Passion and commitment are vital qualities in teachers. However, these characteristics must be coupled with the rigorous training that a credential requires and with an awareness and valuing of the many cultures that make up California’s student population.

What is California (not) doing about the lack of qualified teachers?

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• California allows students to be taught by teachers who have not yet satisfied the State’s own measures of competency and have not been trained to teach linguistically or culturally diverse students.
• California has responded to the teacher shortage primarily by reducing standards. Some districts give “emergency permits” to thousands of teachers who are not fully qualified. 40% of these teachers leave their jobs within a year.
• California does not provide enough funds to recruit good teachers
into high-need fields such as math, science, and English Language
Development.
• The State permits stark differences in salaries and working conditions, discouraging teachers from working in schools serving the State’s most disadvantaged students.
• California fails to adequately fund its teacher education system, limiting access to high quality preparation.
The State has known for a decade that there is a shortage of qualified teachers, but has not taken the action needed to fix the shortage or inequalities that result.

What should be done?

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• California should enforce its own standards, requiring a full
credential for all teachers and phasing out “emergency permits” in the next few years.
• California should follow New York City which no longer places uncertified teachers in low-performing schools.
• The State should enable districts to offer better salaries, improve teachers’ working conditions, and provide teachers with more mentoring.
• California needs a funding system that gives extra support to teachers who choose to work in hard-to-staff schools or in fields with teacher shortages.
• The State should guarantee that teachers are qualified to teach California’s diverse student population, including English Learners.
• California should increase incentives to recruit new teachers from all racial and ethnic groups.
Other states have shown that they can give all their students a qualified teacher. This is a problem that can be solved. Parents, students, and community members should demand that California respond to this crisis.


Sources:
The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, (2002) California’s Teaching Force: Key Issues and Trends 2002. www.cftl.org
Darling-Hammond, L. (2002) Access to Quality Teaching: An Analysis of
Inequalities in California’s Public Schools.
www.decentschools.com/
Additional references are available at www.ucla-idea.org
To learn whether the teachers at your school have a credential, go to:
http://tcla.gseis.ucla.edu/rights/resources/tqactivities.html