This knowledge brief is part of a continuing series designed to inform California education leaders about new research findings on key state policy topics. It summarizes recent findings on improving the access to, and the use of, teacher workforce data in California, and focuses on the importance of instituting a statewide teacher data system that allows for the tracking of individual teachers and groups of teachers over time, from their preparation through their credentialing, induction, placement, and retention on the job.

By Reino Makkonen and Melissa Eiler White, WestEd

Understanding how California’s public school teachers progress into and through the teaching workforce helps education leaders know whether the state’s overall teacher development system is producing the teachers that students need and to what extent efforts intended to strengthen the workforce are functioning as planned and producing desired outcomes. Key to that understanding is having linked, longitudinal data that would enable systems to track teacher candidates, individually and collectively, over time, from when they enter and then complete a preparation program, to when they first take a position in a K–12 school on through their continued work as teachers (fig. 1). Such data could yield helpful insights for state policy leaders, those leading teacher education programs, and others seeking to improve local teacher preparation and readiness.

Having a more comprehensive understanding of the teacher workforce is critical for California education leaders and policymakers. For several years, the state has experienced persistent shortages — both of fully qualified teachers in general and, within that category, of teachers of color. The inequitable distribution of those who are fully qualified has resulted, for example, in students of color being taught by underprepared teachers at much higher rates than their White peers (see, for example, Darling-Hammond et al., 2018). In addition, the relative shortage of teachers of color and their distribution has meant that students of color are taught at higher rates than White students by teachers who do not share their racial or ethnic identities (Carver-Thomas, 2017).

Over past decades, California has invested in various initiatives to remedy such shortages, but without a linked, longitudinal data system to monitor the teacher workforce over time, the state has been unable to answer basic questions about the effectiveness of those efforts. If teacher-related data were more systematically collected, managed, and shared, these data could, for example, reveal entry and exit patterns for teachers of different subjects and training backgrounds and show the productivity — in terms of recruitment and retention — of different pathways into and investments in teaching. To support more effective management of supply and demand, California’s teacher workforce data need to be more consistently collected and to be more accessible for analysis over time, so as to inform policy decisions and improvement efforts.

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