July 29, 2015

Rethinking Teacher Preparation: Empowering Local Schools to Solve California’s Teacher Shortage and Better Develop Teachers

By Sara Mead, Chad Aldeman, Carolyn Chuong, and Julie Obbard

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After years of cuts to the teaching workforce, California districts are beginning to hire again. This positive change is offset, however, by the fact that teacher preparation programs are producing fewer graduates than the state’s schools and districts want to hire. As a growing number of districts face teacher shortages, or the prospect of them, California needs new strategies to improve both the supply and the quality of new teachers prepared in the state.

California lacks a coherent strategy to grow the supply of high-quality teachers. A variety of organizations have identified weaknesses in the state’s teacher preparation programs and policies, but many of their recommendations would impose new requirements that lack research support and could further reduce the number and diversity of teacher candidates. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which oversees teacher preparation, is initiating reforms designed to reduce the focus on inputs in teacher preparation and increase attention to outcomes—but they may not go far enough. And none of these proposals would address the state’s most fundamental teacher preparation problems: a highly fragmented approach to preparation and an excessive focus on credential type, rather than on actual classroom effectiveness, as the sole measure of teacher quality.

Improving the quality of teacher preparation in California will require a profound shift in the way that key players in the system—districts and charter schools, preparation programs, state regulators, and candidates themselves—think about their roles in teacher hiring and recruitment. Districts and charter schools need to take on a greater role in cultivating their own teacher supply. Preparation programs need to reframe the focus of their work around meeting the needs of K-12 schools and candidates—the consumers of teacher preparation. This will require both a wider variety of preparation programs and real, robust local partnerships between districts or charter schools and the programs that prepare their teachers. State policies can encourage and support these partnerships, while also providing greater flexibility for them to customize preparation to candidate and local needs.

A number of California districts and preparation programs already demonstrate what these partnerships can look like in practice; however, overcoming the state’s current supply and quality challenges will require more districts, charter schools, and preparation programs to follow their lead. This paper offers a number of recommendations for districts, charter schools, preparation programs, and state policymakers.

Districts, charter schools, and preparation programs should:

  • Share and analyze district data on hiring needs and completer outcomes with preparation programs
  • Align preparation programs’ standards and expectations for program completers with districts’ needs and expectations for new teachers
  • Co-create new types of programs that address district and candidate needs
  • Strengthen clinical fieldwork by providing effective teacher-mentors and treating student teaching as a recruiting tool for districts
  • Recruit prospective teachers
  • Connect teacher preparation with other human capital strategies

State policymakers should:

  • Hold preparation programs accountable for how they partner with and meet the needs of consumers—both districts and candidates
  • Hold districts accountable for developing their own preparation pipelines
  • Support development of integrated human capital strategies and diverse preparation pathways
  • Leverage existing resources, including Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds, federal Title II funds, and Linked Learning Funds, to support preparation pathways
  • Publicize and use data on teacher supply and demand to recruit prospective teachers to the profession

Through these actions, California can increase both supply and quality of teachers to meet the needs of its diverse schools and students.

Read the full report here.

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