SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are looking for ways to lure more qualified teachers into the schools that need them the most – those with mostly poor, minority and non-English-speaking students.
Lawmakers spent much of Wednesday considering a variety of bills to lure more qualified teachers to these schools that, studies have shown, are more likely to have unqualified teachers and low test scores.
Proposed solutions include higher pay, smaller class sizes, cleaner schools and other ways to make those schools more attractive to qualified, experienced teachers. The first of these bills have started to move through the Legislature’s education committees.
Schools with the lowest scores on the statewide test are predominantly those with the poorest students, the highest numbers of minority children and the most kids who don’t speak English.
Low-performing schools also are the most likely to have many classes taught by teachers without the state credential showing they have a college degree, have taken teacher training classes and have passed a basic-skills test.
Currently, 37,000 of the state’s 292,000 teachers are teaching with emergency credentials, says state school Superintendent Delaine Eastin.
Those unqualified teachers are not evenly distributed among schools, according to a study by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Cruz.
The schools tend to be those in the state’s poorest communities, where students come to school the least prepared and are most in need of the best teachers, says the center.
Leaders of the California Teachers Association, the state’s larger teachers’ union with 295,000 school and college members, have started a bus tour this week to some of those lowest-performing schools to promote their own proposals.
The CTA wants to make those schools attractive places to teach by giving districts money to use as needed to train teachers, reduce the sizes of more classes, improve school buildings and provide books and materials.
CTA President Wayne Johnson, sitting in the bus near Jefferson Elementary School in Fresno, said by telephone that transferring teachers involuntarily to low-performing schools will not work.
“We think that would probably drag a lot more teachers out of teaching,” he said.
The committee, with CTA support, Wednesday approved a bill to gradually reduce class sizes in grades four through eight, starting with the state’s lowest-performing schools. The state’s class-size-reduction program covers kindergarten through third grades and some ninth-grade classes.
The teacher shortage, caused by more students, teacher retirement and class-size reduction, is expected to worsen, with California needing 300,000 new teachers in the next decade.