Educator workforce & effectiveness
Educator quality is the most influential school-based factor that contributes to student outcomes. In California, the teacher pipeline is comprised of institutions that provide teacher candidates with opportunities to learn the knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. K-12 schools play a large role in this system, teaching novices the K-12 curriculum, providing the learning context for all field placements, as well as providing mentor teachers for student teaching placements and induction mentors.
Efforts to find qualified teachers has become more challenging in California, as the number of emergency teaching credentials has more than doubled since 2012-13. School leadership is similarly important and challenging. Policy and practices to build teacher and principal quality in California will need to take into account growing demand, fewer qualified people for positions, and high turnover.
PACE's work in this area is designed to highlight the problems and help the state work toward evidence-based solutions.
About 75% of districts in California report teacher shortages, that is, these districts are having greater difficulty filling classroom positions with people certified to teach in certain subject areas, which affects the qualifications and quantity of teachers hired. Teacher shortages are most severe in rural and high-poverty urban areas, and schools serving high concentrations of students of color, English learners, and low-income students. Districts also face shortages of fully certified teachers in particular subject areas including Special Education, mathematics, science, and bilingual education. In math, for example, there are half as many fully prepared teacher candidates with preliminary credentials entering the workforce today as there were six years ago.
Getting Down to Facts II research found that California’s overall principal turnover rate is higher than in many other states. In 2015-16, more than one in five principals left their schools, with about two-thirds of these leaving the profession or the state, and the other third moving to other schools and districts.
Typically, more experienced principals are more effective, but low-achieving, high-poverty schools are more likely to have novice principals. Fifty-three percent of principals in schools in the bottom 20% in student achievement are in their first three years on the job, compared to only 26% of principals in schools where student achievement is in the top 20%. Turnover rates show a similar disparity. A principal in one of California’s high-poverty urban schools is 50% more likely to leave than one in a low-poverty suburban school.
California’s principals want more professional development and are looking for support beyond management and basic academics. Nearly all (98%) of the state’s principals say that they would like to receive more professional development than they currently receive.
California ranks at or near the bottom of all states in terms of the percentage of K-12 public school students with access to various types of health care or mental health care inside their school buildings. Rates are especially low for school districts’ direct employment of school nurses and school counselors. For school nurses, California ranked 39th in 2012, with approximately 2,240 public school students for each nurse. Regarding school counselors, California ranks last among the 50 states, with approximately 1,000 public school students per counselor. Yet California’s youth do not have low needs; for example, California ranks 28th among states in terms of the estimated percentage of children with a serious emotional disturbance.
About two out of every three new special education teachers are underprepared, the greatest proportion of any major subject area. Much of the special education teacher shortage is driven by attrition. Factors that impact special education teacher attrition include the following:
- Inadequate preparation and professional learning
- Working conditions (i.e. high caseloads)
- Low compensation
The state has begun to address teacher shortages across subject areas, including special education, through investments such as teacher residencies, local solutions to shortages, and grants for teachers in high-needs fields, however, most of these have been one-time investments.
Recent investments from the state level are promising, but improvement the recruitment and retention of special education teachers will require a comprehensive and sustained policy approach that includes:
- Strengthen the pipeline with recruitment incentives for high-retention pathways
- Improve the quality of and access to preparation
- Expand and strengthen professional development
- Improve working conditions for special education teachers
- Increase compensation
Read more about the shortage of qualified special education teachers and potential paths forward in California’s Special Education Teacher Shortage, which was produced as part of the PACE Policy Research Panel on Special Education.