Benefits of classified-to-teacher program already felt

Benefits of classified-to-teacher program already felt

(Calif.) Eighty-five percent of classified employees at Davis Unified that applied for a state-funded teacher preparation program in 2016 have completed their certification and are already teaching in the classroom.

Davis was one of three districts that aggressively pursued annual grants of up to $4,000 per participant over five years to pay for tuition, fees, books and other costs related to promoting existing school employees into teachers.

The Legislature set aside a total of $45 million over two years as part of an effort to reduce the shortage of classroom educators, especially in math, science and special education.

Both rounds of funding are now complete, according to a report to lawmakers from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. A total of 2,250 former classified employees are receiving or have been provided support under the program.

Between 2004 and 2014, the number of teaching credentials issued in California decreased by 45 percent, according to state data. Prior to 2008 when the recession took hold, as many as 50,000 college students were working toward getting a teaching degree and certification. Since then, the numbers have fallen to less than half of that.

As a result, many districts have been forced to rely on teachers that lack full accreditation, substitutes and sometimes larger classrooms.

The $45 million classified employees credentialing program is only one of four that the Legislature funded over the past two years.

Lawmakers also set aside $10 million to help colleges and other teacher preparation institutions develop new pathways to credentials that can be completed in four years. And $5 million is being used to establish a statewide center for supporting districts in the recruitment and training of the educator workforce, with an additional $9.2 million to fund grants to districts that the center will help oversee.

The effort to bring classified employees into the teaching ranks is by far the biggest program, and appears so far to have had some significant results.

There had been for many years recognition at the local level that classified employees, many of whom were already working in the classroom, represented an untapped resource for recruitment.

After the funding was secured as part of the 2016 budget agreement, the CTC issued an invitation to local educational agencies to apply for the new grant money. The agency reported receiving 61 proposals that covered almost 5,600 potential candidates—far in excess of the 1,000 slots the state had in the first round of funding.

Twenty-five LEAs received funding in 2016; 28 won grants in 2017.

The Orange County Department of Education was the biggest winner, with 300 grants over the two years. Davis was second, with 175 awards, and the Sonoma County Office Education received 155 grants.

Under the terms of the funding, participants had to have a minimum of two years postsecondary education or an associate’s degree. The assumption at the outset was that most candidates would still need help getting the minimum number of college units.

After shifting through the applications, however, the CTC found that about 70 percent of the classified workers who applied for the grants already had a Bachelor’s degree.

In many districts, the percentage of grantees with college degrees was even higher, which resulted in many more qualifying sooner to take over a classroom. In Davis Unified, for instance, 85 percent of participants are now serving as a teacher.

There was also hope among the architects of the program that the grants would be especially useful in bringing in more minority teachers to the profession. And it did.

According to the CTC report, 48 percent, or 464 of the 1,000 grants awarded in the first year, went to employees that identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino.