New Report Raises Warning Over Assignment of Least Prepared Teachers and Resurgent Teacher Shortage in a High Stakes Education Environment
(Sacramento) With the help of teachers entering the profession as interns California has reduced the number of underprepared teachers by half, but the vast majority of intern teachers are assigned to low achieving schools serving poor and minority students, according to a new two-year study of teaching in California released today by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. The report also warns that the state is facing a shortage of tens of thousands of teachers within the next decade.
The Status of the Teaching Profession 2005 reveals a serious maldistribution of teaching interns. According to the report, eighty-five percent of new teachers who enter the classroom as interns are assigned to schools where more than sixty percent of the students are minorities. Only three percent of intern teachers work in schools with few minority students.
“The least prepared, least experienced teachers are assigned to schools serving primarily African American and Latino children, many of them from poor families,” said Margaret Gaston, Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. The chronic assignment of the least prepared teachers to certain groups of students raises serious questions about the equity and fairness of the state’s effort to resolve its teacher shortage.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, whether or not a state is making a good faith effort to reach the highly qualified teacher goals of NCLB will be determined, in part, by examining “the steps taken to ensure that experienced and qualified teachers are equitably distributed among classrooms with poor and minority children and those with their peers.”
“The findings of this report make clear that to resolve the teacher shortage and address the inequities in teacher assignment, California’s policymakers must put into place a permanent system that reliably delivers fully qualified and effective teachers to every classroom. By acting now, the state can take a strong step toward reaching the rapidly approaching deadline to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act,” Gaston added.
The Status of the Teaching Profession 2005 also warns of a building teacher shortage at a time when the state is challenged to meet high-stakes federal requirements. California will need to replace at least 100,000 teachers, a full one-third of the teacher workforce, as baby boomer teachers retire over the next ten years. These retirements, along with declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, are projected to boost California’s teacher shortage back up to approximately 27,000 teachers as soon as the 2007-08 school year, and to nearly 33,000 teachers by 2014-15.
“According to the No Child Left Behind Act, all students are required to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. But we project that California will be short tens of thousands of teachers just as the stakes for students and schools will be the highest,” said Patrick Shields, Director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI International and the principal researcher for the report. “Unfortunately, it is exactly the kids who are most in need of an experienced teacher that are the least likely to get one, a prospect the coming teacher shortage will only increase.”
The report notes that students in schools measured as the lowest achieving by the state’s academic performance index (API) are five times more likely to face underprepared teachers than students in the highest performing schools, and are far more likely to face a string of underprepared teachers.
“For 6th graders in California’s lowest-achieving schools, the odds of having had more than one underprepared teacher are three in ten; for 6th graders in the highest achieving schools, the odds drop to one in fifty,” said Gaston.
“California does not have an adequate teacher pipeline in place to provide a constant supply of fully prepared and effective teachers to every school,” said Harvey Hunt, Senior Policy Advisor to the Center. “Without one, it’s hard to see how we will meet the needs of students or the requirements of NCLB. The state’s policymakers urgently need to begin a new conversation about how to ensure that all California students have the teachers they need and deserve.”
The report's call for involvement of California's policy leaders in strengthening the teaching profession has been taken up in the State Senate. Under the leadership of President Pro Tem Don Perata, Senator Jack Scott (D-Pasadena), chair of the Senate Education Committee, is already developing omnibus legislation to address the issues in the report.