In the next decade, California will need at least 200,000 new teachers. That is 20,000 teachers a year, or one new teacher every 26 minutes. All districts face an urgent need for recruiting great teachers, but America’s urban districts like Sacramento City Unified face an added difficulty of recruiting instructors for their classrooms—considered America’s most challenging teaching assignments. Now new laws require a serious effort to hire only fully credentialed teachers.
In October 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 837 into law. It requires school districts to conduct a diligent search for fully credentialed teachers before they hire emergency permit teachers. At the beginning of this year, Congress passed the “No Child Left Behind Act,” mandating all teachers nationwide to be fully credentialed by 2005. As of that date, emergency permits are prohibited, no exceptions.
Critics may complain this is an impossible goal, but Sacramento City Unified is proving them wrong. Five years ago, we had between 250 to 300 emergency teachers. Last year we had 77 emergency waiver teachers. By the start of this new school year, we will be virtually at zero. We are not the only urban district to make this kind of progress. Oakland Unified School District reduced by half the number of teachers they hired with emergency waivers.
How did we accomplish this? Our first step was to meet with all of our emergency permit teachers one Saturday afternoon in March. We discussed both the state and federal legislation and our need to comply with the law. Although some teachers were hesitant, we discovered many were eager to complete their credentialing requirements. The district, in turn, demonstrated its willingness to help them every step of the way.
The second step, of course, was helping these teachers enroll in a credentialing program. Sacramento City Unified, for instance, joined with Project Pipeline and local colleges and universities to offer district programs that allow interns to gain expertise in their subject area. This program allows intern teachers to attend classes in the evening while acquiring valuable classroom experience during the day.
Third, we work with local colleges and universities to spread the word about financial aid. When teachers realize they can finance their education without busting their budget, many more are receptive about earning their credentials.
We plan to continue to be very aggressive in recruiting credentialed teachers and in providing the support they need. Our children deserve it.