Sacramento) – Legislation that would prohibit untrained teacher trainees from teaching in low income schools was today introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). The bill, AB 221, seeks to prevent additional education disparities that persist in Title 1 (low income) funded schools and are often exacerbated by poor educator training and retention seen with trainee’s placed through Teach for America (TFA).
“Title 1 funded school kids already face multiple disadvantages because of their ethnicity, zip code and socio-economic status, that are further compounded when you have an inexperienced educator in the classroom,” said Garcia, who taught math at the high school and college level prior to being elected to the Assembly. “I’ve been that new teacher. I’ve seen how my own inabilities affected my students. And I saw how much my skillset and effectiveness changed once I had received the proper training and got a mentor. We must remove barriers to quality education for our most vulnerable students and not add problems that contribute to our achievement gap and create systemic inequities that follow kids their entire lives.”
California’s achievement gap, particularly with students of color, is well documented and historic particularly in math and science. Although the state has made attempts to closing the gap, policies and resources have struggled to close it significantly with vulnerable populations. New standards and strategies, such as requiring better educator training and preparation, have proven effective and practical at creating a foundation that creates an equitable education system for all of California’s children.
Teach for America trainee’s lack crucial training before entering a classroom; receiving only five weeks of training before entering the classroom and do not need to have a degree in education. For traditional teacher credentialing programs, hopeful educators take two years to complete their educational training and serve as a student teacher for another year before entering the classroom as its sole instructor as a credentialed teacher. Further, more than 50 percent of TFA trainee’s leave after two years and 80 percent leave after three years creating retention problems for the most vulnerable schools and their students.
California has also struggled with a teacher shortage for decades. The answer to addressing that shortage and closing the gap in low-income schools is not placing untrained educators in them. The solution must be increased support for our teacher workforce, adequate compensation and to populate our low-income schools with trained teachers.
“We can’t use our kids’ classrooms as training grounds when we know it has long-lasting and detrimental effects on a child’s future,” added Garcia. “Experience is necessary. Proper training is necessary. That’s why California mandated a year of student teaching prior to credentialing our public school teachers. This is not a profession where one can just learn on the job without significant repercussions. And we certainly shouldn’t be allowing it with our most vulnerable students who are already dealing with systemic challenges entirely outside their control.”
The purpose of Title I designation is to address systemic educational challenges facing high-poverty communities by providing more resources to school districts and schools with the highest concentrations of poverty. The state’s goals for high quality education will be undermined if it continues to supplement an inadequate teacher supply with underprepared teachers who leave the profession at very high rates.