With more teachers entering the profession as interns, California has reduced the number of under-prepared teachers by half.  However, the vast majority of intern teachers are assigned to low achieving schools serving poor and minority students, according to a new two-year study of teaching in California released in December by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the teacher workforce in California. The report also warns that the state is facing a shortage of tens of thousands of teachers within the next decade.

Recognizing the tremendous challenges facing California’s public education system, and especially the quality of the state’s teacher workforce, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is a strong supporter of the work of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. Since 1996, the Foundation has awarded nearly $4 million in grants to the Center, and in particular, its Teaching and California’s Future initiative, which evaluates the teacher workforce annually. These reports, which include the most recent information available on teacher supply and demand, have become a much anticipated and informative resource for members of the California education leadership and policy communities.

“The Status of the Teaching Profession 2005,” reveals a serious maldistribution of teaching interns. According to the report, 85 percent of new teachers who enter the classroom as interns are assigned to schools where more than 60 percent of the students are minorities.  Only three percent of intern teachers work in schools with few minority students.  The full text of this year’s report is available at the following Web site: 

“The least prepared, least experienced teachers are assigned to schools serving primarily African American and Latino children, many of them from poor families,” said Margaret Gaston, Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

“The Status of the Teaching Profession 2005” also warns of a looming teacher shortage at a time when the state is challenged to meet high-stakes federal requirements. California will need to replace at least 100,000 teachers, a full one-third of the teacher workforce, as baby boomer teachers retire over the next ten years. These retirements, along with declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, are projected to boost California’s teacher shortage back up to approximately 27,000 teachers as soon as the 2007-08 school year, and to nearly 33,000 teachers by 2014-15.

“According to the No Child Left Behind Act, all students are required to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.  But we project that California will be short tens of thousands of teachers just as the stakes for students and schools will be the highest,” said Patrick Shields, Director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI International and the principal researcher for the report. “Unfortunately, it is exactly the kids who are most in need of an experienced teacher that are the least likely to get one, a prospect the coming teacher shortage will only increase.”

The report notes that students in schools measured as the lowest achieving by the state’s academic performance index are five times more likely to face under-prepared teachers than students in the highest performing schools, and are far more likely to face a string of under-prepared teachers.

The report was produced by The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning in consultation with the California State University, Office of the Chancellor; Policy Analysis for California Education; the University of California, Office of the President; and WestEd.  Research was conducted by SRI International of Menlo Park, CA, which had primary responsibility for writing the report.