California data reveals how many teachers are qualified, how many aren’t

California and the Bay Area have some work to do on training and hiring qualified educators.

For the first time, new state data released Thursday reveals who is teaching kids from kindergarten to high school, and how many of those teachers are qualified in the subject matter taught in their classes.

A Bay Area News Group analysis of the data for the six-county Bay Area shows that San Francisco and Alameda Counties lag behind the state, with 75% of teachers qualified to teach the classes they are assigned, based on state credential status, compared to 83% in the Golden State overall.

The state separates the data into four main categories: Clear, ineffective, out-of-field, and intern.

Statewide, 83.1% of classes or courses in the last school year were taught by a “clear” teacher who has a credential and is fully authorized to teach the course, whereas 4.1% of them were “ineffective” — taught by a teacher with an emergency permit, a credentialed instructor teaching outside of their credential area without authorization, or someone with no credential to teach in California.

In the middle, 4.4% of classes or courses are taught by “out-of-field” teachers who have other credentials, and 1.5% are taught by interns.

The state’s goal is to have all, or a majority, of “clear” teachers.

Every Bay Area county has a higher rate of instruction from “ineffective” teachers compared to the state, except for Santa Clara county, which has 4% of classes or courses taught by “ineffective” teachers. At the other end of the spectrum, 11.8% of teacher assignments in Alameda County were classified as “ineffective” and in San Francisco, 9% were classified as “ineffective.”

“While this first-ever baseline data set shows that a vast majority of teaching assignments are properly filled, there is more work to be done to hire, train, and retain teachers, especially in light of the national teacher shortage,” Linda Darling-Hammond,  president of the State Board of Education, wrote in a news release.

The new dataset “creates a baseline database that will inform state and local decisions over the coming years as agencies work to address teacher shortages,” a spokesperson from the California Department of Education said in a news release.

“When students are subject to teacher misassignments, they suffer and experience poor educational and career outcomes,” Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D- South Los Angeles), who introduced a related bill, AB1219, wrote in an email on Thursday.

The bill did not require the CDE to track the data, but it updated state reporting systems “to allow schools, school districts, and the CTC to identify teacher misassignments; the placement of a teacher in a position for which they do not have a certificate or credential like a gym teacher instructing students in biology,” Jones-Sawyer said. And it gives that agency “the tool to monitor all public schools annually, and clarifies “that charter schools must have properly assigned teachers as well.”

“This further helps strengthen existing law that requires the worst performing schools to report this information annually, not for punitive reasons, but rather to identify schools for targeted investments to spur improvement on behalf of vulnerable students,” Jones-Sawyer said. “By creating a partially automated annual monitoring process, this bill increases oversight and accountability and ensures a high quality education for all California students.”

Teacher quality and shortages have long been a problem across the state, but they were worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, still immersed in the teacher quantity and quality shortage, the state is throwing money at programs to increase both.

To fill the short-term need at the start of the year, Gov. Gavin Newsom briefly signed a short-term authorization allowing schools to hire teachers who weren’t in the “clear” category deemed by the state. Schools were allowed to bring on recent retirees or longer-term substitutes from January to March this year.

The plan got more educators in classrooms, but didn’t solve the long-term solution of teacher quality.

Darling-Hammond highlighted statewide initiatives that could help with the deficit of quality teachers: the $500 million Golden State Teacher Grants, $350 million investment in teacher residency programs and $1.5 billion Educator Effectiveness Block Grant.

The programs are “aimed at bringing more teachers into the pipeline and providing them with the effective training — steps that will move California toward a day when 100 percent of assignments are ‘clear,’” she said in a news release.

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