Teach Our Children Well

Report #160, September 2001


As students return from summer vacation, the Little Hoover Commission urged the Governor and the Legislature on Wednesday to further improve efforts to help schools attract and retain high-quality teachers.

More than 6 million students attend California schools and 300,000 teachers educate them.  But some 40,000 of these teachers do not meet the qualifications that the State says are necessary to properly educate children.

The Commission’s study, Teach Our Children Well, illuminates why so many California schools struggle to hire enough capable teachers to fill classrooms.

“While lawmakers have worked hard to help schools get able teachers, more effort is needed,” said Michael E. Alpert, chairman of the Commission.  “We are far short of the mark, and not enough teachers have the skills and abilities needed for success.”

“The Commission found that teacher preparation programs are not doing an adequate job.  Teacher credentialing is still too bureaucratic.  And compensation strategies, teaching conditions and poor school management are hampering the ability of schools to attract and retain enough high-quality teachers.”

The Commission recommended reforms in the following areas:

  • Preparing New Teachers: The Commission identified a number of ways to make sure that universities and other preparation programs are actually preparing new teachers for the challenges of the classroom.  Grants and other resources should be targeted at uncredentialed teachers who are committed to work in hard-to-staff schools.  The teacher preparation programs at public universities should be funded based on how well they prepare career teachers to be successful in the classroom. And to expand the number of high-caliber teachers, California should consider creating a premier teacher academy to generate world-class educators.
  • Credentialing New Teachers: State credentialing should ensure quality without deterring potential teachers.  The State should verify that every requirement is based on the skills and abilities needed for educational success; requirements that cannot be verified should be eliminated. Teachers should be allowed to prove during a probationary period that they possess the knowledge and skills for a credential.  The State should create a special credential that recognizes teachers who raise student achievement in challenging schools.  And the State can do more to recruit capable teachers from outside of California and to fast-track credentials for teachers with experience in others states or private schools.
  • Compensation: The State should encourage local districts to reward performance, to create career ladders for the best educators to remain in the classroom, and to compensate high-quality instructors for raising student achievement in needy schools.  To achieve this objective, the State should use labor market data to determine the compensation necessary to attract able teachers into low-performing schools.
  • Teaching Environment: Dilapidated and unsafe schools have greater difficulty recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers.  Schools that routinely fail to attract qualified teachers should be assessed and their deficiencies corrected, with state assistance if necessary.
  • Administrative Practices: Schools that persistently rely on emergency permits to fill vacancies should be reviewed for a variety of administrative and management practices to ensure that qualified teachers are not discouraged by poor management or cumbersome personnel practices.
  • Workforce Management: California’s effort to build a quality teacher workforce is fragmented.  The Secretary of Education should be charged with coordinating and aligning state efforts to ensure they produce the best outcomes.  The secretary should rigorously assess these initiatives and advise policy-makers on how to refine these programs.

“In future years we will have to be more careful in how we spend additional dollars,” Alpert said. “The Commission’s recommendations, if implemented, would help policy-makers better invest public resources.”

The Little Hoover Commission is a bipartisan and independent state agency charged with reviewing state programs and policies and recommending ways to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.  The Commission’s recommendations are sent to the Governor and the Legislature for their consideration.