California School News — January 2017
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Teacher Shortages Ahead, Survey Finds

In her critique of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, CSBA President Susan Henry argued that California needs to prepare for the future by investing in its “human infrastructure,” specifically its 6.2 million public school students. In a state that ranks 41st in per-pupil funding, that is undoubtedly true, and a critical component of supporting those students is the classroom teacher, a position that’s becoming increasingly difficult to fill.

According to a recent, widely read CSBA California School News. Report, California Teacher Shortages: A Persistent Problem, 75 percent of surveyed districts indicated there are too few qualified teachers to fill their teaching vacancies. The survey, co-published with the Learning Policy Institute, was completed by representatives from 211 school districts in CSBA’s Delegate Assembly to gain an understanding of the problem and to highlight strategies that could potentially be effective in addressing the teacher shortage crisis.

Teacher shortages leave districts with high rates of vacancies, causing them to rely on underprepared teachers and substitutes, increase class sizes and assign teachers outside of their areas of training. Districts say these shortages are driven by a declining supply of teachers, ongoing retirements and high turnover, and are having a disproportionate effect in math, science and special education. More than one-third of districts are now struggling to find elementary school teachers, usually found in surplus.

Although districts with higher populations of low-income and English-learner students are suffering the most, the crisis is affecting districts of all types. To address these shortages, many districts are hiring teachers with substandard credentials or leaving positions vacant, a response that will have ripple effects for years to come.

“The teacher shortage crisis presents a crucial test of our will to address one of the most fundamental issues impacting not only public education but also the future of this state,” said CSBA CEO and Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “The ripple effects from a dwindling pool of teachers will be felt for generations, throughout all aspects of our society. The scope of the problem requires a state-level response and CSBA is committed to pressing for thoughtful, effective long-terms solutions to this issue.”

Other critical findings from California Teacher Shortages: A Persistent Problem:

Survey Findings

Subject area shortages: The most highly impacted subject area is special education, with 9 out of 10 districts (88 percent) reporting shortages. Also highly impacted are math (58 percent) and science (57 percent). Fourteen percent of districts with shortages report not having enough bilingual teachers. This shortage will likely increase because of the passage of Proposition 58, which allows for bilingual education within California public schools.

Student impact: Teacher shortages impact all students. And while more significant shortages were reported by districts serving the largest concentrations of high-needs students — low-income students, English learners and students of color — most districts, regardless of demographics, report experiencing shortages.

Location: While teacher shortages are reported more frequently in cities (87 percent) and rural areas (82 percent), shortages are also substantial in towns (72 percent) and suburbs (69 percent).

Grade-level shortages: Shortages occur at all grade levels, but the problem is worse in upper grades, with 60 percent of middle school districts reporting shortages and 62 percent of high school districts reporting the same. The shortages are lower in elementary schools (37 percent) and early childhood programs run by school districts (15 percent).

Causes: Districts are experiencing shortages for a variety of reasons, the most significant reported cause being a shrinking supply of newly credentialed teachers, a problem cited by 79 percent of districts. Other frequently cited explanations for shortages include teacher retirements (54 percent), teachers leaving the district (34 percent), reductions in class size (32 percent), and the high cost of living (29 percent). Highpoverty districts report teacher turnover as a reason their districts are facing shortages twice as often as low-poverty districts.

District Strategies for Addressing Teacher Shortfalls

Districts are struggling to address the shortages, and 55 percent report that they are hiring teachers with substandard credentials. They are also hiring substitutes at high rates, assigning teachers to positions outside of their credential field, leaving positions vacant, increasing class sizes and canceling courses. At the same time, almost all districts are developing and implementing policies that seek to address shortages in more positive ways. It remains to be seen how successful various strategies will prove to be. Among the strategies:

Teacher preparation and pathways: Ninety-three percent of districts report adopting teacher preparation strategies, including collaborating with teacher preparation programs to coordinate student teacher placements and to share news of job opportunities; developing teacher leadership opportunities within their schools; and creating or expanding residencies and “grow-your-own” pathways into the profession for paraprofessionals, high school students, and district volunteers.

Financial strategies: Seventy-four percent of districts are adopting financial strategies. Districts most frequently report providing additional compensation for teachers who assume leadership roles. In addition to raising salaries, some districts are adding stipends for teachers in high-need fields, offering signing bonuses to new teachers, or removing salary caps for experience. A few districts offer loan forgiveness or service scholarship programs.

Personnel management: More than half of districts report adopting personnel management strategies. Strategies include offering job sharing and paid maternity/paternity leave, moving up hiring timelines, supporting staff to participate in recruitment fairs, developing systems for tracking teacher turnover and conducting exit interviews to better understand the reasons for teacher turnover.

Working conditions: More than one-third of districts use retention strategies that include mentoring for new teachers, additional professional development for all teachers and common planning time for teacher teams. Many of the working conditions strategies are aimed at supporting high levels of teacher collaboration.