December 14, 2010
California Teaching Workforce is Running on Empty
New Report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning Finds Harsh Budget Cuts Put Quality Teaching at Risk
(Sacramento) Cumulative cuts of more than $20 billion from California’s schools over the past three years have made it tougher for teachers to help students meet increasing expectations for academic achievement and have badly damaged the state’s ability to recruit and prepare new teachers needed for the future, according to the annual report on California’s teaching workforce released today by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.
“California’s teaching workforce is running on empty,” said Margaret Gaston, President and Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. “The disinvestment in building a top quality teacher workforce is at odds with rising demands for students’ academic success. The fiscal crisis has so severely damaged the pipeline for recruiting and training new teachers that teaching quality may be put at risk for many years to come.”
California’s Teaching Force 2010: Key Issues and Trends is the latest report in a twelve-year effort by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning to help policymakers, the philanthropic community and others understand the critical need to strengthen the teaching profession in order to meet the state’s ambitious goals for students’ academic excellence. Research for the report was conducted by SRI International and includes an in-depth look at thirteen focus school districts and five focus institutions of higher education in California.
Amid intense scrutiny and increasing expectations for teachers, this year’s report details the impact of the recent budget cuts and policy shifts on California’s teaching workforce. The report also examines the state’s system of teacher evaluation and makes clear the critical need for an effective data system to strengthen education in the state.
“These are very tough times to be a teacher in California,” said Patrick Shields, Director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI International. “The expectations have never been higher, but drastic budget cuts are having a direct impact in the classroom and are damaging the systems of supports and resources teachers need to improve student learning.”
Key among concerns raised by the report:
Tough Times for Teachers and their Students
There are fewer teachers in the classroom, and those who remain face larger class sizes and have less time for planning and instruction. Budget cuts have also reduced the availability of counselors, librarians and instructional aides on whom teachers rely to help support student learning. And while they have taken on additional responsibilities, many teachers are receiving less compensation due to salary cuts and reduced instructional days.
Additionally, while California’s commitment to have all students proficient in English and mathematics by 2013-14 will require dramatic increases in current achievement rates, the resources needed to strengthen the knowledge and skills teachers must have to help students get there have been reduced or eliminated. For example, the Professional Development Block Grant, the largest source of funding to train teachers and staff, was cut by more than $50 million, a reduction of 20 percent, with much of what was left diverted to saving jobs. And support for beginning teachers has been cut by more than $37 million, a reduction of almost 30 percent.
The Teacher Pipeline is Severely Damaged
While student enrollment has dipped in the past few years, it is expected once again to increase by more than 230,000 students between 2009–10 and 2018–19, with the most significant growth at the elementary level. Yet California has seen a recent loss of new teachers and dramatic decreases in enrollment in preparation programs and the production of teaching credentials. As aging teachers retire, California’s capacity to produce the numbers of new teachers the workforce will need has been weakened and the state may again face a shortage. Consider:
Unfortunately, the state’s capacity to prepare teachers has also been damaged. In response to unprecedented budget cuts, CSU, the state’s largest preparer of teachers, has had to reduce enrollment, increase tuition and make adjustments in staffing. These changes have removed potential teachers from the pipeline and weakened training, monitoring and support of student teachers as they begin their careers.
Without an Educational Data System, California is Flying Blind
Over the past thirteen years, California has made significant progress toward the development of a robust statewide K-12 education data system. Recently, the system has suffered serious setbacks, and Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto of funding for the data system has thrown the future of CALTIDES and CALPADS into limbo. Without a data system, the state is unable to track and analyze important trends in the workforce that would help to improve teaching, and stands to lose out on federal and private funding opportunities dependent upon having one.
“Without an effective educational data system, California is flying blind,” said Shields of SRI International. “In the face of rising expectations and limited resources, it is critical that California develops a system that can provide the information needed to make strategic and targeted decisions to strengthen teaching and increase student achievement.”
Additionally, amid current calls for increased accountability, the report finds that California’s system of teacher evaluation is outdated, does not consider a range of meaningful measurements of student achievement, and provides little in the way of information that can inform and guide efforts to strengthen teaching. The report highlights national trends, outlines the role of value-added measurement, and tracks efforts to overhaul teacher evaluation in California. The report urges that any new evaluation system include multiple measures of teaching effectiveness and targets supports for teachers tied to the results of the evaluation.
California’s Teaching Force 2010: Key Issues and Trends is being released as a new governor, a new superintendent of public instruction, and newly elected members of the legislature prepare to take office. The authors offer the report as an independent source of information on critical education issues facing the state, and urge policymakers to act to resolve them.
“The findings of this report make clear that California’s teaching workforce is under tremendous strain, and that tension is impacting our students and undermining their future,” concluded Gaston. “Despite the current focus on the profession, all signs indicate the system that provides teachers to our schools is eroding. At every point, teachers are receiving less and less support needed to improve the quality of instruction. The system of evaluation does little to improve teaching, and the policy and philanthropic communities, education leadership and others do not have the data necessary to make informed and strategic decisions. We face a serious conflict between the high expectations we have for students and the investments we are making in our schools.”
In addition to its research findings, California’s Teaching Force 2010: Key Issues and Trends calls for bold and creative action to address current challenges. The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning offers four recommendations that take into consideration the ways school are funded, how teachers are evaluated and given the professional support they need to ensure their effectiveness, and the establishment of a comprehensive data system which can contribute to sound rational decision making at all levels of the education system.
The full report and its recommendations, as well as summary materials, are available on the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning’s website.