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Shortage of teachers? It depends where you look

Districts across the state struggled to fill teaching vacancies.

The teacher shortage has hit most districts in California, but an EdSource survey shows the impacts are nuanced, uneven — and sometimes inequitable.

Even within the same district, some schools — especially those in wealthier neighborhoods — experienced less teacher turnover and were more likely to start the school year with full staff.

Meanwhile, many districts that serve large numbers of high-needs students reported severe teacher shortages at the start of the school year, leaving students with substitutes or administrators to replace until so the district can hire more staff.

“The teacher shortage is not a story of mass exodus. There are variations,” said Desiree Carver-Thomas, researcher and policy analyst for the Learning Policy Institute, which is studied the question. “But there are very significant shortages in some districts, and that’s having a big impact on students.”

At Santa Ana Unified, for example, where nearly 90% of students are low-income, the district reported 52 teaching vacancies last week, nearly half of them in special education, a notoriously hard-to-find division. staff. That may seem insignificant for a district that has more than 2,300 teachers on payroll, but those vacancies have left district leaders scrambling. If they cannot find enough replacements, the district plans to reassign those students to other classes.

It’s not that Santa Ana doesn’t try. So far, they have hired 75 teachers for the 2022-23 school year, in addition to the 318 teachers they hired last year.

“Santa Ana Unified continues to experience the same shortage, if not more, of applicants for certified and classified positions,” district spokesperson Fermin Leal said, noting the stiff competition between neighboring districts to quickly recruit and hire teachers. . “We are proud of all applicants who have chosen and are choosing to work with SAUSD.”

Long Beach Unified, where more than 66% of students are low-income, also reported a severe teacher shortage. Even after hiring 277 teachers over the summer, the district still has 45 vacancies. Oakland Unified, which has about 20,000 fewer students than Long Beach, has 34 vacancies after a hiring spree of 474 teachers.

The teacher shortage isn’t unique to California, and in fact, California isn’t even among the hardest hit, according to a study by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute. Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Kansas and many other states are all facing severe shortages at the start of the school year, according to the report. Teachers everywhere resigned, sometimes even in the middle of the school year, citing the stress of working through Covid, an increase in student misbehavior after returning to in-person classes and a lack of respect from parents, among other complaints. a february investigation by the National Education Association teachers’ union found that 55% were seriously considering quitting their jobs.

Combined with new funds to increase staff, many districts found themselves with greater than expected hiring needs. And subjects that were hard to staff even before the pandemic — like special education, bilingual education, math and science — are hit even harder now.

EdSource collected teacher hiring data from 16 districts representing a sample of California: urban, rural, coastal, valley, large, small, affluent, and low-income. All but two districts (Riverside Unified and Trona Joint Unified near Death Valley) reported some shortage. Seven said they had nearly filled all of their vacancies, while the other seven said they were experiencing severe shortages.

San Francisco Unified managed to fill all but eight of the 500 vacancies at the start of the school year, in part by offering bonuses of up to $2,000 to teachers to work in special or bilingual education or in underperforming schools.

Los Angeles Unified made the headlines last week when he announced he had filled 99% of his teaching positions. Clovis Unified, near Fresno, said there were 22 vacancies when the school started, but the district plans to fill those positions soon.

“We are not seeing an extreme shortage of teachers like what is happening in other parts of the state. We’re actually in pretty good shape for our recruiting,” district spokesperson Kelly Avants said. “Even when you look at some of the STEM fields and advanced high school math and science, we’re full in those fields right now.”

Certain districts in California, such as Fresno, have been struggling with teacher shortages for years and have already adopted creative ways to attract and retain teachers. Bonuses, money for real estate down payments and student loan forgiveness were among the tools districts used to attract potential teachers.

These districts had also established close relationships with local colleges to create a seamless transition from a certification program to employment. Fresno went further and opened “teacher academies” in high schools, so that students could start their teaching careers while being students themselves.

Districts that have been proactive about hiring now find themselves in better shape, Carver-Thomas said.

She also credited the state’s efforts to bolster the teacher pipeline. New Golden State Teacher Scholarship Program offers up to $20,000 for those pursuing a degree in teaching, counseling or school social work. Salary increases, retention bonuses and teacher residencies also help.

“It seemed to make a difference,” she said.

Riverside Unified bucked the trend. The district has a high percentage of low-income students — 72% — but has had no trouble filling positions like many districts with similar demographics.

Kyley Ybarra, deputy superintendent of staff, said her department has been trying to increase the number of teachers for years. The district increased salaries to compete with neighboring districts, bringing a new teacher’s starting salary to $66,933. They have also reduced class sizes, added professional development courses and offered to pay for the second stage of the teacher certification process, which can cost up to $10,000.

But the biggest help has been the district’s relationship with its three local universities, Ybarra said. By offering teaching jobs to students, the district has seen a surge in the number of potential teachers applying for jobs after graduation.

The district still has to hire hundreds of teachers a year, typically, but college partnerships relieve a lot of the stress, Ybarra said.

“They get to know us, they feel comfortable and many decide to stay,” Ybarra said. “It’s a lot of work, but it made all the difference.”

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