The Dwindling Teacher Pipeline Gets a Boost

At the beginning of the school year the teacher shortage in the Bay Area hit crisis levels as districts scrambled to fill vacancies. At the time, Oakland Unified's Chief Talent Officer Brigitte Marshall said, "We've seen a sharp decrease in the number of individuals coming out of credentialing programs."

Those credentialing programs are the all-important pipeline for new teachers.

"We've had an enormous drop over the last dozen years in the number of teachers going into preparation," said Linda Darling-Hammond, the chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. "It's been a 70 percent drop."

The teacher pipeline cratered for many reasons, including layoffs and low salaries. But for the first time in years, a trickle of new credentialing candidates could translate into good news for the teaching profession.

"We had a slight uptick in the beginning of the school year in response to the fact districts are hiring again instead of laying people off," said Darling-Hammond.

Take Cal State East Bay. Enrollment is up this year in the teacher credential program.

"I fought it for a long time," said credentialing candidate Jenna Landry. "All through my undergrad I tried to change majors, I tried and last year I worked full time in a classroom and I said OK, stop fighting it, apply to the credential program."

The job market is expected to be good for credentialing candidates.

"I feel really good because I know that I’m not going to have to stress out like people did years ago about finding a job your first year," said credential candidate Chelsea Brazil.

CSU East Bay College of Education and Allied Studies Interim Dean Jim Zarrillo said, "Most of our graduates last year had offers from more than one district."

Zarrillo said he expects enrollment to continue to gradually increase because the job market is strong.

"There couldn’t be a better time to become a teacher," he said.

No one knows yet if a rise in enrollment in teacher credentialing programs can undo years of dwindling teacher numbers.

"It's not at all clear whether the uptick is gonna be enough to staff the demand that is happening now and coming in the future," said Darling-Hammond.

But for a teaching profession battered by years of bad news, it is a welcome change.

"We're coming back," said Zarrillo.

In California, people enrolled in teacher credentialing programs can work as teachers while they get their credential. They’re called intern teachers. School districts turn to intern teachers because they can’t find enough fully credentialed teachers.

CSU East Bay reports enrollment is up in its intern program.

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