What’s causing teacher shortages in California?
Michigan State University researcher Katharine Strunk helps answer that question as part of a sweeping report on public education in the state.
Getting Down to Facts II, released on Monday, is intended to help policymakers make more informed decisions across a range of issues affecting California’s 6.2 million students. Strunk headed up the workforce-related studies in the project, co-authored a research brief on teacher supply and co-authored one of the 36 technical reports.
She and her technical report co-authors found that school systems have greater difficulty filling teaching positions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, special education and English language learning. School districts with higher salaries generally have fewer vacancies. However, they also found districts that backload their salary schedule — as in give greater yearly pay increases to more experienced teachers — have higher vacancy rates.
“There is evidence in California and elsewhere across the country that school districts could benefit from offering financial incentives to recruit more teachers into positions where shortages actually exist,” said Strunk, Clifford E. Erickson Distinguished Chair in Education and co-director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative research lab. “Similarly, this raises questions for policymakers about how they can create incentives that encourage certain types of teachers to enter and stay in the profession.”
The report, “Teacher Staffing Challenges in California: Exploring the Factors that Influence Teacher Staffing and Distribution,” outlines findings based on a statewide analysis of district-level aggregate data publicly provided by the California Department of Education, information on teacher job postings and local policies established in district teacher contracts.
The authors also found districts on the state borders struggle to compete for teacher candidates who could be better recruited by making state licensure rules easier and more transparent.
Strunk’s co-authors are Dan Goldhaber of American Institutes for Research and University of Washington; Andrea Chambers, an MSU doctoral student in Education Policy; and Nate Brown, Natsumi Naito and Malcolm Wolff, all of University of Washington.