How many teachers in your school district have the appropriate qualifications?

In eight of San Diego County’s 42 school districts, more than one in five classes were taught by a teacher without an appropriate credential for the course they teach or by a teacher for whom no credential information is available.

That’s according to new state data for the 2020-2021 school year that shows, for the first time, how many teachers at each school have the proper clearances and training to teach their assigned course.

Most teachers in San Diego County and statewide have the proper credentials, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it increasingly difficult for schools to hire and retain teachers in general, let alone of those with the appropriate credentials, school officials said.

“There is no doubt that qualified teachers are among the most important contributors to a student’s educational experience,” state Board of Education Chair Linda Darling-Hammond said in a statement. communicated. “California is committed to ensuring that every student has well-prepared teachers to teach engaging content to diverse learners effectively and fully supported in their work.”

In San Diego County, about 84 percent of teaching duties in public schools were filled by teachers with the appropriate credentials.

Two percent of assignments were filled by teachers who did not have permission to teach their course, used an emergency teaching permit, or had no permission, license or credential to teach in California. Schools can choose to hire emergency-licensed teachers as substitutes, for example, if they face a staffing shortage.

Another 5% were filled by teachers who have a degree, but the wrong degree for the course they are teaching.

One percent of assignments were filled by interns studying for a degree or teaching credential.

For the remaining 8% of teachers, the school district or charter reported incomplete or incorrect information about their licensing, so it is unclear whether these teachers have the appropriate credentials.

San Diego County’s numbers roughly match state averages. Statewide, 83% of classes were taught by educators with appropriate credentials, while 4% were taught by teachers with out-of-field degrees, 2% were taught by trainees, and 4% were taught by teachers with an emergency license or who lacked authorization.

The San Diego Unified School District was above the state average: 92% of teaching duties were performed by properly credentialed teachers.

Of the 12 districts in San Diego County with percentages of properly credentialed teachers below the state average, seven were rural districts. Rural districts often faced hiring challenges even before the pandemic due to their remoteness. It is now even harder to convince people to travel to rural districts as petrol prices are higher than ever, officials say.

“Our location certainly plays a role in finding teachers,” said Lisa Stoffel, assistant superintendent and director of human resources for the Mountain Empire Unified School District, a rural district that spans the southeast part of the county, including communities. from Pine Valley, Campo and Boulevard. At Mountain Empire, 79% of teaching duties were performed by teachers with the appropriate qualifications, and 12% had an emergency permit or no permit.

Five of the below-average school districts were school districts only. Unlike elementary schools where an educator has a degree to teach all subjects, secondary schools need teachers with specialized degrees.

Federal and state officials refer to teaching assignments fulfilled by teachers with emergency licensure or without permission as “ineffective,” though many school officials don’t like the term. They say a teacher can still be an effective educator even if they don’t have the proper credentials.

“The definitions in this report are new and do not speak to the performance or instructional effectiveness of our teaching staff,” said Amy Venteuolo, spokesperson for the San Marcos Unified School District, where 11% of school assignments teaching were labeled “ineffective”.

Venteuolo added that 87% of San Marcos classes were taught by educators with the appropriate credentials, which is above the state average.

“At SMUSD, we actively seek to hire and retain only the best educators and invest in their success. This includes substitute teachers and working with student teachers to invest in their growth and development,” Venteuolo said.

Some school officials said there were sometimes financial or logistical reasons why schools used teachers in classes for which they did not have a degree.

Of all the county’s public school systems, the San Diego County Office of Education — which educates about 1,200 students — has the lowest percentage of teachers with the appropriate credentials. Only 40% of teachers in the county office had appropriate credentials, while 48% taught a subject other than their area of ​​expertise, and 11% showed incomplete or unknown information.

The San Diego County office isn’t alone — county offices of education across the state overwhelmingly showed fewer teachers with proper credentials, according to data from the state.

Officials say that’s largely because county offices have small schools, including courts and alternative schools, that serve certain student populations, such as students with cases in juvenile court. In these small schools, where there may be as few as 10 students in a high school class, it makes more sense to have one teacher for all those students, rather than hiring multiple teachers, each with the right degree for each high school subject they are. taught, said Kindra Britt, spokeswoman for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

State law allows teachers with any California degree to teach in community, court, alternative, and other specialty schools, but they may still be classified as “out-of-scope.”

This need for scale efficiency is also why small rural schools may have fewer teachers with the right qualifications, Britt added. It’s an example of why schools may show a large number of educators who don’t have the appropriate qualifications, but that doesn’t automatically mean the teachers aren’t qualified, she said.

Some districts in the San Diego area had low numbers of teachers with the appropriate credentials because they had incomplete, incorrect, or missing data for many of their teaching assignments.

For example, the Sweetwater Union High School District, which had approximately 1,580 teaching assignments, reported that only 68% of them were filled by teachers with the required credentials, largely because 28% of teaching assignments had incomplete or non-existent data. Similarly, Alpine Union Elementary had only 69% of lessons taught by teachers with the required qualifications and 23% with incomplete or non-existent data.

Britt said she was concerned about the number of assignments with missing data in part because eventually at least some of that data will be used to judge the quality of schools in the California School Dashboard, the system for rating of state schools.

The state has not yet decided exactly how data on teacher assignments will be incorporated into the dashboard, said Maria Clayton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education. She added that at least two years of data is needed before moving forward.

Schools had nearly six months to submit, review, correct and certify their data, Clayton said. Schools had an additional four months to review and edit their data after teachers’ credentials were compared to teaching assignments, Clayton added.

Clayton said the state Department of Education has held more than 30 in-person training sessions and helped host several webinars on how to properly submit data. More than 3,000 people took part, she said.

“(School districts and charters) have time to learn from this data and improve their local data submission and review practices for years to come,” Clayton said.

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