Yes, the Teacher Shortage is Bad, but California Voters Don’t Want Fast Tracked Teachers Either

California teachers need more student teaching experience prior to teaching, poll says

Schools are desperate for teachers in California, but attempts to fast track teachers into classrooms haven’t won over voters there, results of a new poll suggest.

More than half of voters polled said they oppose policies that allow new teachers to begin teaching before they have completed training, even if those teachers would fill shortage positions, according to a poll released this week by EdSource and the California-based Learning Policy Institute.

The number of alternative teacher training programs nationwide has increased since 2000. Many allow teachers to enter the classroom after completing a brief training or while still working toward a credential. Traditional programs also offer paths to teaching that allow new teachers to become the “teacher of record” before their own schooling or credentialing is complete.

Voters responded to several questions about how California should improve the teaching profession.

In California, such programs have been particularly popular as the state deals with a worrying teacher shortage. Fewer teachers are enrolling in teacher preparation programs and entering classrooms, especially in critical subjects like math and special education.  The number of teacher credentials issued in California declined by 26 percent between the 2009-10 school year and 2013-14, and between 2009 and 2013, enrollment in teacher preparation programs dropped by 55 percent. More than 85 percent of voters in the poll said that the shortage of teachers in the state is a serious problem.

Related: Alternative routes to teaching become more popular despite lack of evidence

Harold Levine, dean of the University of California, Davis School of Education said in a call with reporters about the poll that he gets calls from desperate school districts “begging us to help them find people who may not be credentialed” to work in empty classrooms. “In some cases, in many hard-to-staff schools and particularly in northern parts of the state and in rural areas, it’s quite daunting for them [to find teachers],” he said.

The poll surveyed 1,002 registered English and Spanish-speaking California voters. They overwhelmingly said that teacher quality is essential for new teachers. Nearly 95 percent of those polled said a high level of training is critical for new teachers, and 88 percent of residents who were polled said teachers should have a full year of practice teaching under an expert mentor teacher prior to teaching alone.

Related: How teacher-training programs are trying to get teachers into rural schools

On Tuesday’s call, Joe Aguerrebere, assistant vice chancellor of teacher education and public school programs at the California State University Office of the Chancellor, said that although many educators are worried about the quantity of teachers, quality is critical.

“What I certainly don’t want to happen is what we have done in California in the past, such as when we went through class size reduction mode where a number of people came into the classrooms that were not as qualified as they should have been,” Aguerrebere said. “The students are the ones that paid the price for that over time.”

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

Jackie Mader

Jackie Mader received a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a recipient of the 2012 Fred M. Hechinger Journalism Education Award. Prior to attending Columbia, she taught special education in Charlotte, N.C. and trained first-year teachers in the Mississippi Delta.