California’s Teacher Shortage -An Opportunity for Growth

California is facing a critical teacher shortage, with 75% of surveyed districts reporting too few qualified teachers to fill vacancies. Furthermore, 80% of these districts state shortages have worsened since the 2013/14 school year -making this problem fairly recent. Enrollment and application in teacher education programs has decreased sharply, and with a third of the current teaching workforce set to retire in the near future, an educational disaster may be in the making.

The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning has estimated California will need to gain an additional 100,000 teachers over the next decade. California is already ranked 50th -and last in student-to-teacher ratios, needing 100,000 additional teachers currently just to maintain the national ratio average, nevermind addressing the issue of workforce attrition.

Math, science and special education are the worst hit subject areas, with a 32% decrease in math, and 14% decrease in science teaching credentials awarded in the last four years. This factor is especially problematic considered the technology-centric, STEAM driven direction our economic future seems to be heading in.

There are significant barriers to obtaining teacher credentials, compounding the shortage. Tuition, books and the cost of living in a notoriously expensive state like California create significant difficulties for those considering a career in teaching. Furthermore, most current teacher credential programs require 1–2 years of postgraduate study after obtaining a bachelor's degree. With education costs and student-loan debt increasing, further study is not always feasible.

Many students minority groups have lower financial resiliency, and must face either holding jobs to support themselves while studying, or face crippling student loan debt, further limiting enrollment in teaching programs.

The Solutions:

Many Cal State University programs are now offering blended programs. These ‘Integrated’ or ‘Concurrent’ programs allow for the subject requirements of a teaching-track program combined with the pedagogy courses in the teaching Single Subject Credential Program.

By taking advantage of these programs, prospective teachers can complete a program of study in a little over four years -reducing costs, and barriers to entry. Many of the Cal State University campuses are now offering these programs, such as Bakersfield, Chico, Fresno and Monterey Bay. Students can take advantage of these offerings at many different locations, with the possibility of studying closer to home.

However, these programs are available, but most Cal State campuses have little to no information readily obtainable through the California State University website or the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. In order to make credentialing easier, access to information on programs must be easily available and widely advertised as a first step in alleviating California’s teacher shortage.

Organizations such as the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute (APALI) are helping combat this lack of information through several methods:

  • Requesting the California State University system and California Commission on Teacher Credentialing work to update their websites, and publish all relevant information on educational paths for teacher credentialing.
  • The Santa Clara County Office of Education maintains a Facebook page that is a great resource for information on streamlining the California teacher credentialing process to recruit/keep educators of diverse backgrounds reflecting our student demographics. See it here:

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