Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Beginning Teachers in California Face a Bumpy Path to a Teaching Career

A new study conducted by SRI International, J. Koppich & Associates, and Inverness Research finds that the majority of beginning teachers in California face a bumpy path to a teaching career. The study found that state policies designed to promote and enhance the effectiveness of beginning teachers fail to match employment realities. Most significantly, beginning teachers often do not get the support they critically need to be effective in the classroom.

State policies assume that teachers complete teacher preparation and earn a preliminary credential, take a probationary teaching job, complete a two-year induction program, are evaluated annually, and earn a clear credential and tenure. Unfortunately, most beginning teachers are not allowed to follow this career path.

Instead, most beginning teachers are only offered jobs as temporary teachers, long-term substitutes, or some other non-probationary status teaching position. This may postpone their participation in the state's induction program until it is no longer relevant and delays their path to tenure. Often, teachers who are not on the tenure track are not evaluated, even though they may continue teaching year after year.

The study found teachers classified as temporary throughout the state. While it is hard to determine precise numbers given the state's incomplete records, data reveal that nearly one-quarter of first- to third-year teachers in California work for some part of their careers as temporary teachers or long-term substitutes. As a result, more than half of teachers entering their third year have not earned tenure.

"We were surprised to discover the temporary teacher phenomenon is neither new nor limited to a geographic area or type of school district," said Daniel Humphrey, Ed.D., director of SRI's Center for Education Policy. "We found that temporary teachers may be rehired in the same district year after year, but often are neither supported nor evaluated."

State policies designed for beginning teachers often do not serve them well regardless of their employment status. Beginning teachers' stories are punctuated by district fiscal uncertainty, repeated layoffs, and the most challenging assignments, often in multiple subjects and more than one school.

Julia Koppich, Ph.D., the co-lead author of the report concluded, "Our study results make clear that California beginning teachers' career trajectory is anything but smooth. Many new teachers are required to take a tortured route that often twists or skirts the intent of state policy."

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