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California Faces Critical Shortage of Math and Science Teachers

March 5, 2007

California faces a persistent and critical shortage of fully prepared math and science teachers and lacks the capacity to produce enough math and science teachers to meet future needs, according to a new report released today by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) and the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

"The shortage of fully prepared math and science teachers is undermining the quality of the state's education system and hampering the ability to produce college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Susan Hackwood, Executive Director of the California Council on Science and Technology. "Already, more than a third of novice high school math and science teachers are teaching before completing a preliminary teaching credential for the subjects they teach. Without focused action, California will continue to fall far short of producing the skilled and knowledgeable math and science teachers it desperately needs over the next decade."

"Unfortunately, the shortage of math and science teachers hits hardest at low performing schools serving poor and minority students," added Margaret Gaston, Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. "It is exactly these students that most need a chance to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in the higher paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that drive our economy."

The report, Critical Path Analysis of California's Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation System, reveals that more than ten percent of all math and science teachers are underprepared, meaning they lack the training and experience necessary for a teaching credential in the subject they teach. More than one third of novice teachers (those in their first or second year) teaching math or science are underprepared. The report also finds that the percentage of underprepared math and science teachers is much higher in low performing schools. The report projects that due to attrition and retirement, the state will need to produce more than 16,000 new math and science teachers within five years and more than 33,000 over the next decade. At the current rate of teacher preparation, California will fall short by 30 percent of the fully prepared math and science teachers needed by California schools.

Citing recent data projecting significant declines in personal income and a low rate of STEM degrees produced in California, the report concludes that strengthening the teaching of mathematics and science is critical if California is to maintain its competitive edge and economic growth.

"California literally cannot afford to fail to increase the number and qualifications of math and science teachers in California," said Lawrence Papay, CEO and Principal, PQR, LLC and CCST Council Chair. "If we are to remain a leader in science, technology, and engineering, if we want to maintain our economic vitality, California must make high quality math and science instruction a top priority."

"California's system of science and mathematics teacher development, from the recruitment of candidates to the support of experienced teachers is not meeting the current or future needs of our state," said Karl Pister, Board Chair of the California Council on Science and Technology and past Board Chair of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. "Prompt and concrete action is needed by the state's policymakers to ensure that all students have access to the high quality math and science instruction needed in the 21st Century."

Critical Path Analysis of California's Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation System is a project of the California Council on Science and Technology in collaboration with the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. Key findings of the report include:

  • California faces a critical and persistent shortage of fully prepared mathematics and science teachers.
  • The percentage of underprepared science and mathematics teachers is much higher in low-performing schools serving poor and minority students.
  • California is not producing enough fully prepared math and science teachers to meet current and future needs.
  • Currently available professional development to help math and science teachers is underfunded.
  • The shortage of fully prepared mathematics and science teachers is undermining California's competitive edge and threatening the California economy.

While acknowledging important progress made by policymakers in strengthening teaching in California in recent years, the report calls for concrete action to ensure high quality math and science instruction for all students in all grades. The report offers a series of recommendations to state-wide education leadership and policy organizations, institutions of higher education, school districts, industry, federal laboratories and informal science learning centers to increase the quantity and strengthen the qualifications of math and science teachers in California.

  • Support the development of programs designed to bolster the supply of fully prepared science and mathematics teachers.
  • Reinforce efforts of the state's public universities and community colleges to streamline and strengthen pathways for aspiring science and mathematics teachers.
  • Build on progress made in the last legislative session to establish a coherent system to recruit, prepare, assign and retain K-12 science and mathematics teachers
  • Increase support for professional development for science and mathematics teachers, especially through the California Science and Mathematics Projects and summer institutes.
  • Ensure a coordinated, cohesive induction into the profession for all new science and mathematics teachers by using the new Mentor Teacher Support Program provided in SB 1209.
  • Expand support by industry, federal labs and informal science learning centers for high quality professional development for science and mathematics teachers.

The report, Critical Path Analysis of California's Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation System, including the recommendations, is available from the online CCST publications catalogue and at the CFTL website, http://www.cftl.org. Print copies of the report may be obtained from the California Council on Science and Technology via email at ccst@ccst.us or by phone at 916-492-0996.




"California literally cannot afford to fail to increase the number and quality of math and science teachers in California... If we are to remain a leader in science, technology, and engineering, if we want to maintain our economic vitality, California must make high quality math and science instruction a top priority."

-Lawrence Papay
CEO and Principal, PQR, LLC and CCST Council Chair


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