California Needs to Rethink Teacher Preparation: Here’s How

California schools are facing a growing shortage of teachers. After years of budget cuts and layoffs, demand for teachers is growing in California, but the number of candidates completing teacher preparation has plummeted. This isn’t just a supply problem, however. Conversations with district leaders and stakeholders in California–as well as new teachers themselves–suggest that the state’s preparation programs aren’t equipping many prospective teachers with the skills they need to meet the demands of the job. Teacher shortages could exacerbate this problem, by forcing districts to hire more emergency certified and other unprepared teachers. But a new Bellwether paper argues that California has another option: The state could also use the shortage as an opportunity to fundamentally rethink its approach to teacher preparation, and support the development of new models that improve both the supply of new teachers and the  quality of their training.

Specifically, the paper calls on California to rethink its currently fragmented approach to teacher preparation, shift the focus of preparation oversight from inputs to outcomes of preparation, and foster partnerships between preparation programs and K-12 schools to implement much more integrated approaches to preparation that leverage the knowledge and assets of local schools and emphasize the skills and knowledge teachers need for success in the classroom.

Through such partnerships, school districts, charter schools, and preparation programs could:

  • 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 district or charter school human capital strategies

Although the core work of rethinking teacher preparation needs to take place at the local level, in organic partnerships between preparation programs and the K-12 schools that hire their graduates, state policymakers can help to foster the development of such partnerships–and eliminate barriers they currently face. 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 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.