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Shortage of teachers leads California to provide multiple paths to the classroom

While some schools rely on the district’s collaborations, others have relied on teachers to provide tutoring or relied on other online offerings meant to aid with homework or provide asynchronous guidance.
Julie Leopo
While some schools rely on the district’s collaborations, others have relied on teachers to provide tutoring or relied on other online offerings meant to aid with homework or provide asynchronous guidance.

Officials in California are trying a range of approaches to deal with the state's teacher shortage.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and California legislators have poured billions of dollars of state money into special grants and programs to recruit, train and retain educators in order to ease the state’s persistent teacher shortage. Lawmakers also have made temporary and permanent changes to teacher credentialing requirements since the pandemic, including waiving fees, to make it easier to become a teacher in California.

Teacher candidates have many choices. They can take the traditional route — attend a teacher preparation program and complete student teaching — or they can take part in a teacher residency or internship program that allows them to complete required coursework while teaching.

Teacher candidates can apply for residency programs through a university teacher preparation program that operates in partnership with one or more school districts. During their residency, teacher candidates are paired with experienced teachers for a year of clinical training. Residents are usually paid a stipend.

Prospective teachers also can enroll in a commission-approved district intern program or a university internship program. Both allow candidates who have bachelor’s degrees to teach while they complete their teacher preparation coursework. Most interns are the primary teacher in the classroom. These teachers hold intern credentials until they complete the requirements for a preliminary credential.

The state also has a California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program, which offers financial assistance and academic guidance to school staff who want to complete an undergraduate degree and earn a teaching credential. The staff members must work in districts that have been awarded a grant for the program through the state.

Most California teachers hold one of three basic teaching credentials — multiple-subject, single-subject and education specialist. Multiple-subject credentials are for elementary school teachers, single-subject credentials are generally for middle and high school teachers who teach one subject, and an education specialist credential is for special education teachers.

They must first earn a preliminary teaching credential and, after additional training and mentorship during their first two years of teaching, they can earn a clear credential.

To earn a preliminary teaching credential a teacher must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree.
  • Completed an accredited teacher preparation program.
  • Completed 600 hours of student teaching.
  • Been fingerprinted and passed a background check.
  • Taken required tests or completed university-approved coursework.
  • Completed a course or passed a test on the provisions and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Earned a recommendation from their teacher preparation program.

A preliminary credential is good for five years.

Required tests and their alternatives

Teachers must prove they have the skills needed to educate students. Before the pandemic, tests were traditionally used to determine if a teacher candidate was ready for a teacher preparation program or the classroom, but new legislation gives them the option to use university-approved coursework instead in some cases. Teacher candidates can check with their teacher preparation program administrator to determine which courses to take or have their transcript evaluated by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Current flexibility: California has waived test fees through June 30, 2023.

Basic skills requirement

Teachers must prove they have the basic skills to teach. Generally, this is done before a teacher preparation program. Here are the options:

  • Pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test.
  • Pass the California SET: Multiple Subjects plus Writing Skills Examination.
  • Pass the CSU Early Assessment Program or the CSU Placement examinations.
  • Earn a qualifying score on SAT, ACT test or College Board Advanced Placement Examinations.
  • Pass a basic skills test from another state.
  • Submit a transcript that shows a grade of B or better in one course in critical thinking, literature, philosophy, reading, rhetoric or textual analysis to show reading proficiency; a course in composition, English, rhetoric, written communication or writing to demonstrate writing proficiency; and a course in algebra, mathematics, quantitative reasoning or statistics to show math proficiency;
  • Complete a combination of courses and exams to meet the requirement.

Current flexibility: The Commission on Teacher Credentialing has extended the pandemic waiver that allows teacher candidates to student teach without completing their basic skills requirement. The flexibility ends May 1, 2023. Teacher candidates must complete the requirement before being recommended for a preliminary credential.

Subject-matter competence

Teacher candidates are required to demonstrate proficiency in the subject they will teach before they can earn a credential. This has traditionally been done by passing the appropriate tests in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, or CSET, but teachers can now also take coursework or a combination of tests in the CSET and coursework to satisfy this requirement.

Teacher candidates also can complete a bachelor’s degree in the subject area of the credential they are seeking. A teacher preparation program will evaluate the major to see if it is acceptable, but the Commission on Teacher Credentialing will make the call for candidates who are applying to the commission directly for credentials, such as those seeking emergency-style permits.

Current flexibility: The test can be waived until the end of a teacher candidate’s preparation program if they applied for an intern credential to teach in a school by June 30, 2022.

Reading Instruction Competence Assessment

The RICA measures how well candidates for multiple-subject credentials and education specialists teach reading. The test is expected to be eliminated in 2025 when it will be incorporated into the Teacher Performance Assessment, which requires teachers to demonstrate their ability to teach.

Current flexibility: A teacher candidate enrolled in a teacher preparation program by June 30, 2022, isn’t required to take the RICA before earning a preliminary credential, but they must pass it before earning a clear credential.

Performance assessment

Once a teacher is in the classroom, they are required to complete a performance assessment that demonstrates how well they assess students, design instruction, organize subject matter and perform other skills. The three assessment models — the California Teaching Performance Assessment, edTPA and Fresno Assessment of Student Teachers — require that teachers make a video of themselves teaching at the school where they work.

Special education credentials

Special education candidates must complete all the basic requirements of other teachers, as well as instruction in one of four areas — mild to moderate support needs; extensive support needs; deaf and hard of hearing, visual impairments; and early childhood special education — to earn a credential in that specialty.

Out-of-state teachers

Teachers moving to California must submit to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing their college transcripts and a copy of their out-of-state teaching license, as well as proof they have been fingerprinted.

To avoid taking unnecessary tests and training, the commission recommends that applicants submit their score on out-of-state basic skills tests and proof of two years or more of teaching experience.

Where to apply

Most applications are submitted to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing online. It generally takes about 50 days for the commission to process applications, which are available on the commission’s website. Application fees vary depending on the document but generally are under $100 each.

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