California schools have for years contended with a shortage of fully qualified teachers. While local educational agencies (LEAs) are no strangers to meeting staffing challenges, the pandemic has put more strain on an already stretched workforce. Adding to existing waivers and flexibilities, California has taken extraordinary steps to make it easier to fill substitute vacancies, to create alternatives to high stakes testing that have kept otherwise qualified teachers from completing their credentials, and to provide nearly $1 billion of new investment in the teacher pipeline.
LEAs always have the legal responsibility to staff classrooms with well-prepared, fully credentialed teachers to the full extent possible. As the impacts of the pandemic continue to reverberate through the educator workforce, the following opportunities are available now to help LEAs meet the need for teachers and substitutes.
Short-Term Waivers: Short-Term Waivers allow local agencies to address unanticipated, immediate, short-term (one semester or less) staffing needs by assigning teachers who hold a basic teaching credential in any field to teach outside of their credential authorization, with the teacher’s consent. These waiver types need only be authorized at the local level.
Teaching Permit for Statutory Leave (TPSL): When a teacher takes certain extended statutory leaves of absence, TPSL holders may serve as a temporary teacher of record for the entirety of the leave. When more than one acceptable leave is taken consecutively, a TPSL holder may continue to serve as the interim teacher of record for the entire length of those leaves.
Local Assignment Options (LAO): LEAs that are unable to fill a staffing vacancy with the appropriately credentialed teacher for an assignment have the flexibility to use LAOs. Requirements vary by assignment, but most require the teacher to hold a full teaching credential and to consent to the assignment. LAOs cover general education assignments only.
Emergency Substitute Permits: To provide continuity in classrooms and reduce the total number of substitute teachers needed, California temporarily extended the length of time a substitute teacher can serve in the same classroom to 60 days. Normally, general education and career technical education substitutes may serve up to 30 days and education specialist substitutes may serve up to 20 days. This flexibility expires on July 1, 2022.
Testing Flexibilities: Looking ahead, California has begun to rethink the how it can reliably assess a teacher’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, and to expand options to recruit and prepare teachers. Recent statutory changes to the subject matter and basic skills requirements now allow credential seekers to meet these requirements through coursework in addition to existing testing options. Similarly, updates to the Reading Institution Competence Assessment (RICA) will phase out the existing exam and replace it with a performance assessment.
Grant Funding: The state is also investing directly in new teachers with nearly $1 billion in new funding for recruitment and retention grants that do not need to be paid back, for educators who commit to working in some of the highest need classrooms in the state. Together, the Golden State Teacher Grant, Classified School Employee Teacher Grant, and the Teacher Residency Grant aim to credential over 43,000 new teachers in the next five years.
Sasha Horwitz, Governmental Relations and Public Affairs Manager, Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)