Data released last week by the California Department of Education shows 83% of teachers in the state are credentialed and fully authorized to teach their courses, while nearly 16% are not.
This was the first data release from the statewide Teaching Assignment Monitoring Outcome system, which tracks teacher qualifications based on subject area, the number of students enrolled in a course, and other factors. The data covered the 2020-21 school year and is considered baseline information to inform future decisions to redress teacher shortages in the state.
The system is an interagency collaboration between the California DOE, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and Board of Education, and is similar to systems in other states. More than $3.6 billion has been invested statewide over the last four years to boost teacher recruitment, retention, and training.
Although teacher shortages were a long-standing problem prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 — combined with school shootings and policy changes like anti-critical race theory and so-called "Don't Say Gay" legislation — is believed to have pushed teachers out of their jobs and even out of the profession entirely.
Almost half, or 44%, of public schools report having full- or part-time teacher vacancies, according to nationally representative data released in March by the National Center for Education Statistics. More than half of schools (57%) with one or more vacancies said they increasingly needed to assign teachers work outside their job descriptions.
Of public schools that reported at least one vacancy, 61% cited the COVID-19 pandemic as leading to more vacancies in both teaching and nonteaching staff positions. Resignation, not retirement, was the top cause of vacancies for 51% of schools.
The teacher outcome monitoring system in California aims to help curb shortages and improve teacher quality.
"We have seen dashboards and data releases like that in other states, and we were really glad to see California releasing these data and improving the data [and] level of detail of the teacher workforce data they make publicly available," said Nicole Gerber, spokesperson for the National Council on Teacher Quality, in an email. Gerber said the data from California is in line with some of the group's recommendations, but not all.
Some recommendations in the organization's April 2022 report include collecting and publishing information on teacher turnover, and collecting and publishing data on teacher type by school, including information around teacher gender and race, years of experience and effectiveness.
“As we begin to emerge from a global pandemic, this data is an important tool to drive conversations about how we can best serve students,” said Mary Nicely, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction at the California Education Department, in a statement.
Some education advocates say the data will reveal disparities in teacher quality between low-income and wealthier schools.
“While this first-ever baseline data set shows that a vast majority of teaching assignments are properly filled, there is more work to be done to hire, train, and retain teachers, especially in light of the national teacher shortage,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education, in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Education has repeatedly encouraged districts to use federal pandemic relief funds to support recruiting and retaining teachers. At the same time, the Ed Department has prompted leaders to consider ways to sustain teacher recruitment and retention efforts once those relief funds dry up.