Education

Report: California may be facing a teacher shortage

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

California could be on the brink of a teacher shortage. This according to a 48-member task force brought together by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

On Monday, the group released a 96 page report looking at ways to improve the state's teacher workforce.

It found, the state needs to change the way it recruits, educates and retains teachers if it wants to improve student academic performance.

It also revealed, teacher education is uneven, salaries are inequitable and teachers with the toughest assignments are typically paid the least.

Right now, Fresno Pacific University is training teachers to address the shortage.

Education Division Chair Linda Hoff said the college is home to a unique partnership where prospective teachers are paired up with experienced professionals already working in the field. She says the students gain firsthand knowledge while working in high-poverty schools with a large number of minority students and English Language Learners.

"That kind of intensive training is making a huge difference in the commitment our students are making to teach in high poverty schools and feeling competent and equipped to do so," she said.

Student Chris Berzac is one them. He said he entered the program after discovering his calling while teaching an improv acting class to eighth graders in Chicago. "I have 160 students in my student teaching program right now," he said. "They all need me and for me that's refreshing, but it's scary too because we're going to lose all these teachers and I don't know if I can take more kids on."

He said he is feeling more encouraged about his job prospects now that the Task Force's 90-page report recommends the state step up support and training for teachers throughout their careers. A focus the group found would make them more effective and more likely to remain in the profession. "The shortage, I think it's an opportunity," Said Berzac. "I think people who want to teach or have an inkling to teach should get into a classroom and try, get into a program and see if it works for you."

His classmate, Deanna DenHartog agreed. "I got to about my second semester of college and decided God was really leading me into Education," she said. "I started being a tutor in Math and I saw the light come on in kid's eyes when they finally understood something and it thrilled me to see that. Loved learning about the kids and being able to build relationships with them."

Both Berzac and DenHartog said they understood why some students would get discouraged from entering the field. The report found low-salary districts, like those found in the Valley, serve twice as many new English learners, have class sizes that, are on average, 20% larger than higher salary districts and many provide poorer working conditions with a greater proportion of newly hired, inexperienced and uncredentialed teachers.

Teachers and administrators at Fresno Pacific are staying positive, because they said education in California is everchanging and if students have the passion to teach, they should.

"Right now we're showing almost 80% of our students are in fact teaching and I am getting calls now from reputable districts saying they need a third grade teacher, do you have anyone left and I go to my colleagues and we can't find anyone because pretty much everyone has a job," said Hoff.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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