Trends in California Teacher Demand: A County and Regional Perspective

Primary Researchers: Melissa Eiler White, Anthony Fong

Publication Date: July 2008


If every California K-12 classroom is to have a fully credentialed teacher, state policymakers and other education decisionmakers must monitor the teacher labor market and take action when possible to ensure an adequate supply of teachers. Previous analyses of California's teacher supply and demand have contributed substantially to the understanding of the overall dynamics of the teacher labor force at a statewide level.

However, finer grained analyses of labor market variables could provide valuable information for addressing the teacher supply issue, especially considering research that suggests the local nature of teacher labor markets and the regional variation in certain key labor market variables.

This study, conducted by researchers in WestEd's Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West), highlights the differences among California's counties and regions in their use of underprepared teachers and their need for new teachers in the coming decade, as driven by projected student enrollment and teacher retirement. Although this study does not analyze projected county-level attrition or new teacher supply, its findings highlight county and regional variations in key factors that influence teacher labor markets.

Research Questions

REL West researchers addressed the following key questions:

  • How do existing patterns in the use of underprepared teachers vary at the county level?
  • How will projected teacher retirements and projected changes in student enrollment intersect in particular counties to produce differential demand for teachers over the next decade?

Methodology

To explore how existing patterns in the use of underprepared teachers vary at the county level, analyses were conducted of data from the California Department of Education's Personnel Assignment Information Form (PAIF), which reports the credential status of all K-12 teachers in the state's public schools, as well as their age.

To project county-level teacher retirements for the next decade, California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS, 2006) data on county-level retirement rates over several years were combined with PAIF data from the California Department of Education (2005) showing the age distribution of the current K-12 teacher force in each county. To show how projected changes in enrollment in specific counties would translate into demand for new teachers, student enrollment projections from California's Department of Finance (2006) were combined with county-level pupil-teacher ratios. These two demand factors were then combined to examine how projected teacher retirements and projected changes in student enrollment could intersect in particular counties to produce differential demand for teachers over the next decade and to catalog projected needs for new teachers in the 58 California counties. The projected need for new teachers is based on the current mix of teaching staff, irrespective of teachers' credential status.

Key Findings

The findings reveal differences in how these variables play out across California counties and regions. For example, while the use of underprepared teachers averaged 6% statewide in 2005/06, in 2 counties underprepared teachers accounted for more than 10% of the teacher workforce and in 16 for less than 2%. Likewise, while 21 of California's 58 counties will likely experience double-digit enrollment growth as a percentage of current enrollment over the next decade, 22 counties are expected to see declining student numbers. Finally, more than 40 percentage points divide counties with the highest projected teacher retirement rates from those with the lowest. When the two sets of projections were combined to show the net effect of retirement growth and student enrollment growth, there was a spread of 64 percentage points between the county facing the highest projected demand (68%) and the county facing the lowest demand (4%).

Conclusions

The analyses, based on expected teacher retirements and student enrollment growth, suggest that California's Central Valley and Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties) will face some of the highest demand for new teachers in the coming decade. This demand will come on top of other challenges facing most of these regions, including high poverty rates, low educational attainment, and diverse student populations. It is not possible to predict any resulting teacher supply-demand imbalances, however, without a complete analysis of all the teacher labor market variables in these and other regions, which this study does not provide.

Limitations

The accuracy of the analyses and projections depends on the quality of the data and the assumptions used in the projections. The assumptions depend on several current conditions remaining the same in the future. If these assumed conditions were to change, the projections would either under- or overstate demand for teachers. Also, because the future demand analyses were unable to account for nonretirement attrition, the estimates may not reflect the total number of teachers needed over the decade.

  • Published: July 2008
  • Research Type: Issues & Answers
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Melissa Eiler White 916.492.4057


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