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Amid Teacher Shortages, Calif. Districts Look for Ways to Fill the Gaps


California is facing a teacher shortage; districts in the state have seen this coming, but how to address it remains a source of consternation.

The Great Recession caused California, like many other states, to lay off thousands of teachers; while many were eventually re-hired, many others weren't. But as would be expected, educators whose districts didn't bring them back also didn't wait around for teaching vacancies, instead moving on to other jobs. Factors like attrition and retirement have caused other teachers to leave the system as well.

Now there are too many teaching vacancies in some of the state's districts, and measures of the teaching pipeline offer little relief: Between 2008 and 2013, the number of students in Calif. teacher-credentialing programs fell by roughly 55 percent, according to a state analysis. (The drop wasn't all weighted toward the beginning of that date range, either—between 2011 and 2013, enrollment in the state's teacher-preparation programs fell 24 percent.)

Facing a shortage, San Francisco's education leaders are currently weighing the merits of looking for relief from alternative-certification programs like Teach For America, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Superintendent Richard Carranza has pleaded with the local board of education to increase the number of slots allowed for TFA, but the board has been divided and is leaning against the idea. Per the Chronicle:

'I don't think TFA is the right strategy for our hard-to-fill schools,' said board member Sandra Fewer. 'I think our hard-to-fill schools need fully credentialed teachers. I think they need teachers who have perfected their craft, honestly. I think we can do better than this.'

While research on TFA members' effectiveness shows whatever you want it to mixed results, the program has developed some recruitment challenges of its own. Still, some education officials in San Francisco told the Chronicle that they take risks with whatever teachers they hire, and many TFA corps members have worked out well.

Not likely to help the city, though: A December 2014 report from the National Center on Teaching Quality criticizes San Francisco for its slow growth in teacher salaries.

On the plus side, San Francisco has some incredible restaurants if you're a teacher thinking about the West Coast. If that's too exotic, nearby Clark County, Nev., is pretty desperate for teachers, too.

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