- A new report released today by the Learning Policy Institute, “California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds,” indicates students of color — and, indeed, all students — perform better when served by teachers with better qualifications. The study highlights the impact California's teacher shortage is having on student achievement as the Teacher Credentialing Commission authorized more than 12,000 "substandard" credentials in the 2017-18 school year, a number that represents roughly half of that year’s entering workforce.
- The research for the report found the proportion of teachers holding substandard credentials is negatively associated with student achievement, and that these teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools in California with higher populations of students of color and low-income students. The research also found that level of teacher experience is positively associated with levels of student achievement, particularly for black and Latino students.
- Anne Podolsky, an LPI researcher and policy analyst and the lead author on the report, recommends solving teacher shortages by making teacher education more affordable and offering incentives to attract teachers to high-needs fields and schools. Some of these approaches could include teacher residencies, better pathways to credentialing for classified staff, and forgivable loans for teacher education.
The teacher shortage that affects certain fields of study and certain states more than others is now impacting the quality of education for many students. While emergency credentialing measures and easier certification pathways have managed to place bodies in front of the classroom in some cases, the lack of teacher training and experience often impacts student success, as this research indicates. Couple that factor with the tendency of many school districts to place the least-qualified teachers in positions at the least-desirable schools (and the ones with the highest needs) and the adverse effects are doubled.
Solving the teacher shortage issue requires that state lawmakers and school districts not only find better ways to attract students to the profession, but also to retain the ones that are most effective. Lowering the cost of attaining teacher education and offering loan forgiveness programs to defray the cost are two ways to attract students to the profession. But attitudes must change as well. Teaching used to be recognized as a noble profession and that status needs to be restored, but it will take the efforts of the public and of teachers themselves (who are often heard complaining about the profession) for that to take place.
Creating effective teacher pipelines can also ease the burden of teacher shortages. California has already been experimenting with pathways and incentives to help classified staff become certified teachers. And other states are trying grow-your-own teacher programs to encourage students to enter the teaching profession.
While attracting teachers requires broader support from lawmakers and the community, retaining teachers is usually up to school and district leadership. Offering solid support for beginning teachers, whether through professional development, mentoring or teacher residency programs, can help them through those first few years when teachers are more likely to leave the profession. Offering perks such as childcare and gym memberships can increase the likelihood of retaining good teachers. But principal leadership and the school culture these leaders help create has the biggest impact on whether teachers decide to remain at their school.