The data will reveal disparities between lower-income and wealthier schools in staffing fully prepared teachers, he said. Research by the Learning Policy Institute shows that the gaps have widened in California since the pandemic.
Students are more likely to have underprepared teachers in small rural districts where teachers are more difficult to recruit, according to the data. At Big Lagoon Union Elementary School in Humboldt County, 97% of the courses in 2020-21 were taught by interns, who generally have not completed the tests, coursework and student teaching required for a preliminary or clear credential. The school serves 24 students and has two teachers and a principal, according to state data.
Of the 10 school districts with the largest number of classes being taught by underprepared teachers, Oakland Unified has the largest enrollment — 35,352 students. Almost a third of the classes in the district that year were being taught by teachers working without the correct credential or training, according to an EdSource analysis of the state data that excluded charter schools.
The new data categorizes teacher assignments as “clear,” “out-of-field,” “ineffective,” “interns,” “incomplete” or “unknown.”
It shows that 83.1% of the teaching assignments that school year were "clear" because classes were taught by teachers with the appropriate credentials. Another 4.4% of the assignments were deemed out-of-field because classes were taught by teachers who were credentialed but hadn’t passed required tests or coursework that demonstrate competence to teach the course or the student population in the class. Interns taught 1.5% of classes. Teaching assignments were labeled ineffective if they were taught by people without authorization to teach in California, or who were teaching outside their credential or permit without authorization from the state. Some 4.1% of courses had that designation.
Elementary schools had the highest percentage of clear teaching assignments — 90.6%, while media arts courses had the highest percentage of ineffective assignments at 34%.
Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, was in line with the state average with 85% of its assignments clear, 3.3% out-of-field and 3.5% ineffective.
Other districts had a much higher number of teachers assigned to classes they weren’t fully prepared to teach. Maricopa Unified, Konocti Unified, Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified, Alpaugh Unified, Needles Unified, Oakland Unified, Chualar Union, Vineland Elementary, East Nicolaus Joint Union High and Borrego Springs Unified had 29% to 41% of their classes taught by an underprepared teacher in 2020-21 — the highest percentage among districts with more than 250 students.
There has long been concern about teacher assignments at schools in high-poverty communities. Oakland Unified, which has 72% of its students on free and reduced-priced lunches, was among the districts with the highest number of underprepared teachers.
Oakland Unified has had a teacher shortage for decades. This has been made worse by the pandemic. Over the past five years the district has averaged over 500 teacher vacancies each year. The complexity of the credentialing process, teacher diversity and the national teacher shortage all have played a part in the teacher shortages in Oakland, according to a press release from the district.
“I have the utmost respect for all of our teachers, whether they are currently credentialed, teaching outside of their subject area or in the process of getting their credential,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, who noted she started her career with an emergency teaching credential.
In recent years district officials have increased beginning teacher salaries and increased recruitment and retention efforts.