Federal

California Urged to Address Teacher-Quality Shortcomings

By Linda Jacobson — December 12, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

California students are unlikely to meet the meet academic goals for mathematics and English under the No Child Left Behind Act unless policymakers continue to improve the quality of the state’s teaching workforce, a research study suggests.

“California’s Teaching Force 2006: Key Issues and Trends” is available from The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

The report, released last week by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., says that 18,000 of the state’s more than 300,000 teachers are still “underprepared,” meaning they don’t have, at minimum, a preliminary teaching credential.

Though that figure has been declining since 2000, weaknesses in the teaching workforce still hit poor and minority students the hardest, says the report, based on research conducted by SRI International, of Menlo Park, Calif., and data from the California Department of Education.

Students in the state’s lowest-achieving schools are more likely to have the least-prepared teachers, the authors say. In high-achieving schools, for example, one 6th grader in 50 has an underprepared teacher. But in low-achieving schools, one out of every four 6th graders has a teacher without the required credentials, says the report.

“Given the incredible hurdles the state faces in improving student achievement, there is an urgent need for highly trained and effective teachers,” Patrick Shields, the director of the Center for Education Policy at SRI and a researcher for the report, said in a press release. “Meeting that challenge will require not only an increased focus on the quantity and qualifications of teachers, but on the quality of teaching.”

The center, however, doesn’t suggest that state leaders are ignoring those matters. It gives Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and the Democratic-controlled legislature credit for passing a legislative package this year that includes a streamlined teacher-credentialing process, improvements to teacher-intern programs, and the development of a data system that will provide additional information on the workforce.

“The state is making targeted investments to improve the conditions in the lowest-performing schools in hopes of improving teacher quality,” the report says.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell also announced late last month that 14 county offices of education will begin receiving a total of $2.1 million to train bilingual teachers. The local education agencies provide training to teachers who work with English-language learners. This year’s state budget also provides an additional $350 million under California’s “economic impact aid” formula to schools with disproportionate numbers of English-language learners.

The research center report, however, stresses that much more remains to be done if achievement gaps in the state are to be reduced.

Just last month, Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, a think tank based jointly at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University, released a review of state education policies showing that, after narrowing in the 1990s, achievement gaps have widened in some grades between students from low-income and middle-class and families, and between students proficient in English and those still learning English. (“Some Calif. Achievement Gaps Are Widening, Study Finds,” Nov. 29, 2006.)

English-Learners

Margaret J. Gaston, the executive director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, said the legislature has moved to strengthen the skills of teachers who work with English-language learners.

Lawmakers this year passed a bill that adds training for those teachers to the state’s Mathematics and Reading Professional Development Program—an $80 million-a-year initiative enacted in the 2002 fiscal year that aims to provide 176,000 teachers statewide with 120 hours of training each.

A new report from the state auditor’s office, however, shows that after five years, only a few more than 7,200 teachers have completed the program, and that about a quarter of them had their training paid for by other federal or state sources.

“Although not specifically required to do so in statute, the [state department of education] has done little to actively promote the program,” the auditor’s report says. “It appears that a more concerted outreach effort is warranted.”

In a written response, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Gavin Payne said the department would work with the state board of education to develop an “outreach plan.” But he also blamed other factors for the low completion rate, including “competing use of a teacher’s available time.”

Jamal Abedi, an education professor at the University of California, Davis, who specializes in the education of language-minority students, agreed that instruction for English-language learners “suffers from the lack of experienced teachers.”

But he also attributes some of the achievement gap to assessment tools that are intended for mainstream students and that don’t present an accurate picture of English-learners’ abilities. The state, he said, could do more to develop a comprehensive plan that would “address classification, instruction, and assessment of these kids.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week as California Urged to Address Teacher-Quality Shortcomings

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Biden Admin. Says New K-12 Agenda Tackles Absenteeism, Tutoring, Extended Learning
The White House unveiled a set of K-12 priorities at the start of an election year.
4 min read
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona participates in a roundtable discussion with students from Dartmouth College on Jan. 10, 2024, on the school's campus, in Hanover, N.H.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona participates in a roundtable discussion with students from Dartmouth College on Jan. 10, 2024, on the school's campus, in Hanover, N.H.
Steven Senne/AP
Federal Lawmakers Want to Reauthorize a Major Education Research Law. What Stands in the Way?
Lawmakers have tried and failed to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act over the past nearly two decades.
7 min read
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, joins Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, as Starbucks founder Howard Schultz answers questions about the company's actions during an ongoing employee unionizing campaign, at the Capitol in Washington, on March 29, 2023.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, joins Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, at the Capitol in Washington, on March 29, 2023. The two lawmakers sponsored a bill to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Federal Will the Government Actually Shut Down This Time? What Educators Should Know
The federal government is once again on the verge of shutting down. Here's why educators should care, but shouldn't necessarily worry.
1 min read
Photo illustration of Capitol building and closed sign.
iStock
Federal Biden Admin. Warns Schools to Protect Students From Antisemitism, Islamophobia
The U.S. Department of Education released a "Dear Colleague" letter reminding schools of their obligation to address discrimination.
3 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview in his office at the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP