Monday, December 14, 2009

UNDERPREPARED TEACHERS STILL BUNCHED IN POOR SCHOOLS: Charter Schools have greatest number + Press Release + Report link

Posted in The Educated Guess by John Fensterwald.

  • The Educated Guess is a blog on education policies in California and Silicon Valley. It is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

14 December - There has been an impressive reduction in the number of underprepared teachers – those without a preliminary teaching credential — in California schools. In 2000, they numbered 42,000. Last year, it was 11,000.

But these teachers, comprising 2.5 percent of the workforce, remain concentrated in urban, low-income schools. Twenty percent can be found in 2 percent of the state’s 10,000 schools, according to The Status of the Teaching Profession 2009, an annual report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning in Santa Cruz.    >>REPORT:>>

Charter schools comprised 59 percent of these 219 schools. Some may have intentionally hired Teach for America fellows, smart college graduates who pursue their credential after they are hired.

Only  5 percent of high school teachers are underprepared – down from 14 percent in 2000 — although one in 10 math teachers and one in five social science teachers taught classes for which  they lacked a credential.

The Center started drawing attention to the problem after the state’s massive class-size reduction program in the late ’90s sent tens of thousands of unprepared teachers into the classroom. The federal No Child Left Behind law forced districts to recruit trained teachers — or lose Title I money. But disparities remain in hard-to-staff urban schools;  the state’s Race to the Top application is expected to start to address them.

Other numbers that jumped out in the report:

  • Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers from 310,000 in 2007-08 to 307,000 last year. Reflecting a boomlet in high school population over the past five years, the number of high school teachers increased from 74,000 to 79,000.
  • Also reflecting budget cuts, the number of first and second year teachers dropped 20 percent in one year, from 35,000 in 2007 to 28,000 last year.
  • College students are getting the message of a bad job market and a profession under pressure to perform. The number of candidates in teacher training programs dropped by a third in five years: from 77,000 in 2001-02 to 52,000 in 2006-07.
  • But K-12 enrollment is projected to rise 4 percent over the next decade, including a 7 percent increase in elementary students, from the last year’s total of 6.25 million schoolchildren.


Press Release: December 14, 2009

New Report Examines Mismatch Between Changing Needs of Reforming High Schools and Systems of Teacher Development and Support

(Sacramento) Faced with increasing demands to help more students succeed in college and the workplace, many California high schools are engaged in ambitious efforts to increase academic rigor, make instruction more relevant, and create learning environments that are more personal and supportive. But many teachers lack the preparation, skills and support needed to help students and fulfill the demands of the state’s reforming high schools, according to a new report released today by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

“The 3R’s of reforming high schools -- rigor, relevance and relationships -- set a high bar for teachers and principals alike and have implications for teacher preparation, professional development and the ways in which high schools are organized,” said Margaret Gaston, Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. “But there is a mismatch between the needs of these high school teachers and the state’s systems of teacher preparation and support.”

While many teachers have the expertise they need to succeed in California’s reforming high schools, data from a new survey of high school principals commissioned by the Center and conducted by SRI International finds that nearly all schools have some teachers who lack knowledge or skills in areas now considered key for success in college and the workplace. For example, just 68 percent of California high school principals reported that a substantial majority (two-thirds) of their teachers had the pedagogical skills to promote critical thinking and problem solving, or the interpersonal skills needed to connect with students.

The research also finds that teacher knowledge and skills differ substantially by school poverty level. Principals in affluent schools were more likely than those in less affluent schools to report that their teachers had the knowledge and skills needed to implement reform strategies. For example, 78 percent of principals in the state’s most affluent high schools reported that a substantial majority of their teachers have the pedagogical skills to promote students’ critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. By comparison, just 48 percent of principals in the state’s least affluent schools said their teachers had those skills.

“California’s poorest communities are where reforms are most urgently needed, but they are also where teachers are likely to be the least prepared or supported to deliver what their students need,” says Gaston.

These and other findings are detailed in The Status of the Teaching Profession 2009, the latest in a decade-long series of annual examinations of California’s teaching workforce produced by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning with research conducted by SRI International. In addition to the latest available data on the supply, qualifications and distribution of the state’s teaching workforce, this year’s report focuses on what is happening in high schools and examines the capacity of the teaching workforce and systems of teacher development to meet increasing demands. The report includes the results and analysis of a new statewide survey of high school principals, case studies of a sample of reforming high schools, and additional background research on education policy and practice.

The new report finds that California’s teacher development system is not adequately aligned with high school reforms that seek to increase rigor, make school more relevant and foster more personal and supportive learning environments for students. Teachers who come to reforming high schools without the preparation they need find it difficult to handle the complexities of the new programs and, for new teachers, induction programs are not able to provide adequate support throughout the first and often the most difficult years of teaching. School principals struggle to recruit, hire and retain teachers needed to carry out reforms and note the lack of fit between the professional development teachers receive and what is needed to develop the collaboration and communication skills required for success in changing high schools. Further, what progress has been made in professional development and cohesive staffing may be undermined by budget cuts and teacher layoffs.

“Teacher development in California has not kept pace with increasing expectations for students and demands on teachers,” said Patrick Shields, Director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI International. “If the state wants to produce more high school graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workforce, California needs to create the capacity to recruit, train and support teachers in ways that ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to implement these strategies. Unfortunately, at a time we should be strengthening the capacity of teachers, teacher development is threatened by additional budget cuts.”

While revealing weaknesses in the teacher development system, case studies in the report highlight school-level efforts to build closer alignment between the demands of reforms and the knowledge and skills of teachers. These efforts could serve as models to other educators and to policymakers. For example, some schools have adopted recruitment and hiring practices that produce a better match between job candidates and open teaching assignments, crafted professional development programs that provide reform-specific supports and learning opportunities, or partnered with local teacher preparation programs to better support new teachers.

In addition to its analysis of high school teaching, The Status of the Teaching Profession 2009 examines the supply, demand and distribution of California’s teaching workforce. California has made significant progress in reducing the number of underprepared teachers from over 42,000 at the beginning of the decade to under 11,000 in 2008–09. Across the K-12 system, the percentage of underprepared teachers is highest in high schools, where 5 percent of teachers are underprepared. While fewer students face underprepared teachers, those in the lowest-achieving schools remain much more likely to have underprepared teachers. In California high schools serving mostly Latino and African-American students, students are six times more likely to face an underprepared teacher as their peers in schools with few minority students.

The report also documents a weakened teacher pipeline. The teaching workforce is shrinking slightly, but the supply of future teachers may not be sufficiently robust to replace teachers likely to retire in the next few years. Nearly 100,000 teachers are age 50 or older, but the number of candidates enrolling in teacher preparation programs has declined by one third in recent years, from over 77,000 in 2001-02 to under 52,000 in 2006-07. The production of teacher credentials mirrors that decline.

“There is a broad consensus that students need to leave high school prepared for postsecondary education and the world of work,” concluded Gaston, “but this will only happen if California substantially strengthens the capacity of the teaching force to deliver high quality instruction to each and every student. Right now the state has a patchwork of policies for secondary education, but more ambitious high school reform efforts are largely an unsupported local endeavor. We must find a way to make smart investments in our teaching force if we are to ensure that high school graduates develop the skills and knowledge that colleges, business and industry demand and the students themselves deserve.”

To assist educators and policymakers, the report also includes recommendations that specify ways that state policymakers and education leaders can help close the gap between the preparation and support teachers need to succeed in reforming high schools and what they currently receive. The recommendations recognize California’s budget context and are designed to be realistic, drawing upon existing, realigned, or earmarked federal resources.

The Status of the Teaching Profession 2009 and summary materials of the findings are available on the Web at The report is produced annually by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning as part of its Teaching and California’s Future initiative in consultation with the California State University; University of California, Office of the President; and WestEd. Research for the report is conducted by SRI International.


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