School recruiters and prospective teachers know that the nation’s much ballyhooed “teacher shortage” is highly relative: Some schools desperately need qualified teachers (especially in select subjects), while others seem to have mile-long waiting lists.
So how can teachers be guided to the schools that really need them? That’s the million-dollar question.
One innovative stab at a solution comes from the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz, Calif. As part of a regional teacher-development project, the CFTL has launched a new data-driven initiative to break down teacher need in the Monterey Bay area.
Working with the Monterey Bay Educational Consortium and some 65 local education agencies, the CFTL will collect and analyze current-year data on the area’s teacher workforce. Then, in cooperation with nearby community colleges and universities, it will use the results to help align the region’s preparation, placement, and support systems with schools’ needs.
In a series of research reports issued over the past several years, the CFTL has decried apparent inequities in the distribution of qualified teachers in California, finding that many schools serving poor and minority children are forced to rely on large numbers of non-credentialed educators.
While the overall demand for teachers in California schools has eased somewhat recently, the CFTL has found, high-needs schools will likely continue to face shortages of qualified teachers, in part due to an expected wave of retirements. The demand is particularly high in subjects like math, science, and special education.
The Monterey Bay region presents a “virtual mirror of the teaching workforce challenge facing California,” the CFTL said in a release. About 14 percent of the teachers in the area did not have teaching credentials in the 2002-2003 school year. Most of those were working in low-performing schools serving poor and minority students.
The hope is that nuanced data on schools’ and educators’ needs, along with greater coordination, will help stakeholders in the region zero in on the problem.
“Having accurate local data about our teaching workforce will help us to understand the challenges confronting our schools and drive the development of regional strategies to strengthen our teaching workforce,” said Diane Siri, superintendent of the Santa Cruz County schools, in the CFTL’s release.