The State of Teacher Education in California
The State of Teacher Education in California
A Report to Faculty, Students, and the Public
Over the last two decades federal and state laws and regulations
were enacted ostensibly to improve academic standards, extend
educational opportunity, and raise the quality of public schools
and teacher education. These laws are not only failing to achieve
these goals; they are obstructing efforts by local communities,
school districts, classroom teachers, and university faculty to
educate. The legacy of intensive control by governments is degradation
of curriculum and learning, and increased educational inequalities.
Mandated standardized curriculum and standardized testing threatens
academic freedom and undermines the ability of universities and
colleges to fulfill their mission to educate teachers and advance
research and learning.
The following paragraphs provide an overview of California
State and federal law that now govern schools and teacher education.
While the summaries are up-to-date as of this writing they are
not to be taken as definitive because the rules are constantly
being modified and redefined. Growing resistance at the state
and national levels to these policies has prompted legislative
action, and administrative and court ordered changes aimed at
righting some of the more egregious problems. However, the assessment
policies and regulatory structures described below remain unchanged.
California Testing and Assessment Regulations for Schools
California's accountability system for public schools is called
STAR for Standardized Testing And Reporting. It requires annual
testing of public school students from second through the eleventh
grades using two tests: the California Standards Test (CST) and
the California Achievement Test (CAT). CST test items are linked
to the State's curriculum standards. These "standards"
are not as many assume guidelines or principles. Rather they
are detailed specifications of the course content to be covered
for each grade level in all basic school subjects --as such subjects
are defined by the State. CAT is a shortened version of the longer
commercially produced, nationally normed, California Achievement
Test. CAT scores are reported in terms of grade level and/or percentile
rank. Proficiency and passing scores for CST are set by a State
panel with the approval of the State Board of Education, whose
members are appointed by the governor. STAR is due for reauthorization
by the California legislature in 2004. If reauthorized, according
to a recently passed law beginning in 2005, the CAT portion of
STAR will be eliminated except for third and eight grades.
Together these tests take an estimated nine to fifteen hours
of class time to administer depending on grade level, and consume
two weeks or more of schooling excluding test prep time. High
school students are also required to take the California High
School Exit Examination (CAHSEE); a six and one half hour standardized
test in English language arts and math. This test also is tied
to the State's mandated curriculum, and passing scores are set
by an appointed panel with State Board approval. The Board in
2003, bowing to strong public pressure, voted to delay use of
CAHSEE as a requirement for the high school diploma until 2006.
All three tests are standardized, multiple-choice format with
the exception of the standardized writing tests.
CAHSEE, CST, and CAT scores are statistically converted to
produce a school's API or Academic Performance Index. The API
is the equivalent of a Dow Jones Average for schools. It is used
to rank order the educational productivity of all the public schools
in the State in order to distribute rewards and inflict punishments
on low-scoring students, schools, and teachers. Each school is
ranked on a scale from 200 to a high of 1000, with 800 set as
the minimally acceptable score. Schools are also classified in
terms of parent incomes and ranked 1-10 in comparison to schools
that serve the same economic class. It is this number that is
often taken as the indicator of a school's quality.
Schools must gain a specified number of points yearly to meet
API targets. Those successfully meeting the targets are eligible
for additional state funds (though none have been allocated for
the last two years). Schools falling short of the annual growth
targets are classified as failing and subject to sanctions or
"corrective action" at the discretion of the State.
After several years of failing to meet targets, a school may be
"reconstituted", which means that the principal, teachers
and school staff are fired or reassigned, and the management of
the newly reconstituted school passes to the State and may be
subcontracted to a management company.
There is near unanimous agreement that this system of accountability
is increasingly, driving the curriculum and schools' educational
priorities At the elementary level it has often led to the near
elimination of time and resources spent on citizenship education,
multicultural curriculum, health and physical education, interdisciplinary
studies, the arts, and critical thinking. At the secondary level
it pushes teachers to focus on mastery of content that can be
assessed by standardized tests at the expense of writing, oral,
analytical and inquiry skills that are fundamental to further
learning and to civic society.
California Teacher Credential Regulations.
Before 1998 to be accepted to an elementary education credential
program at a California university or college, applicants had
to have completed a Liberal Studies or equivalent program with
an average of B or better, or passed a battery of standardized
tests. Candidates for secondary programs had to have completed
a major in their teaching field(s) with a B or better record or
passed one or more standardized tests. All completed a BA prior
to admission to a teacher education program that met the standards,
prerequisites, and requirements set and monitored by the California
Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC). Programs included
courses on social foundations of education, psychology of teaching
and learning, teaching reading, linguistic and cultural diversity,
and the equivalent of a semester of supervised student teaching.
(Bilingual and special education teachers meet a host of other
requirements.) In 1983, passing CBEST, a standardized basic English
literacy, writing, and math test, was added by the CCTC as a precondition
to admission to a teacher credential program. This eliminated
from the pool of otherwise qualified candidates as many as 62%,
of African-Americans, 50% of Latinos, 47% of Asian-Americans,
2O% of whites.
In 1998 the legislature passed Senate Bill 2042 which forced
colleges and universities in California to make massive changes
in teacher education programs. The chief architects of the Act
argued that it provided the missing piece in California's "Master
Plan" for education.
The Act adopts an approach to organizational management called
"Total Quality Control" borrowed from the corporate
world and touted as the answer to failing schools and poor teaching
by Louis Gerstner and Donald Fisher, former CEOs of IBM and the
Gap respectively, by the Business Roundtable, Achieve Inc., the
Education Trust, the Broad Foundation, and numerous other corporate
The Act discarded the requirement that candidates earn a BA
before admission to a credential program. It requires that programs
be in compliance with a set of thirteen Teacher Performance Expectations
(TPEs) written by experts and consultants selected by the State
Department of Education with input from education professionals
and the public.
On their face there is nothing remarkable nor apparently controversial
in the language of these broadly stated standards or TPE's. What,
however, is remarkable and controversial is the extraordinary
degree of control over what these require in practice. For each
TPE there is a catalogue of skills, abilities, and bodies of knowledge
specified for satisfying that standard. In addition, new regulations
issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC)
specify in even greater detail the expectations (TPEs) that each
candidate must meet to be eligible for a teaching credential.
Key to "Total Quality Control" is standardized assessment
of results or outcomes. CCTC rules require each program to develop
and install a system of Teacher Performance Assessments (TPAs)
to identify who is qualified to become a certified teacher. Though
each institution defines the components of its own program and
devises the specific assessment tasks that candidates must perform,
highly detailed descriptions of the syllabi, and proposed assessment
tasks must be submitted in advance to State officials in order
for programs to be approved to certify teachers.
The TPEs mandate that credential candidates demonstrate their
knowledge of and ability to teach the State's required curriculum,
and to prepare students for the California Standards Test (CST),
the California Achievement Test (CAT), and the exit exam (CAHSEE).
The State, in effect, exercises control of the content and methods
of elementary and secondary school curriculum in two ways: Directly
through the states' mandated testing program, and indirectly by
controlling how colleges and universities educate teachers --
the content of the courses, required readings and field experiences,
and how candidates' progress is to be assessed and evaluated.
Note that regulatory reach of the State extends far beyond professional
education requirements and includes courses and programs in the
humanities, arts, and sciences.
Six years after SB2042, the disruptions and complexities wrought
by the bill continue and are becoming increasingly troublesome
in teacher credential programs across the State. The development
of the Teacher Performance Assessment tasks (TPAs) and a system
of record keeping by each institution is key if the entire system
is to function. It is also by far the most complex task and most
consuming of faculty time and energy. To date no State funds have
been allocated except to the State Department of Education for
training and administrative purposes. Yet State officials continue
to press for "voluntary" compliance in the face of unprecedented
cuts in the State's education budget.
The effect of these regulations has been to marginalize issues
related to cultural and language diversity and social justice.
One of the most explicit intrusions on faculty and university
prerogatives is written into the language of the Act itself. The
law specifies that all courses in the teaching of reading be scientifically
based, and cites as scientific a particular approach to reading
instruction --direct instruction, structured, phonics. There are
few areas in the social, behavioral and educational research
sciences as complex and contested as early language acquisition
and the development of reading literacy. Questions surrounding
these issues have been and will continue to be studied and debated
by numerous research traditions in anthropology, sociology, linguistics,
psychology and education. There is also a large body of practical
teacher knowledge to draw upon. The claim that final scientific
truth is so firmly established as to warrant a claim to scientific
legitimacy for one perspective is absurd on its face and without
foundation. It also should not be left to governments to make
The No Child Left Behind Act
The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) signed into law
in 2002 by George W. Bush was a revision of ESEA, the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act of 1965. It runs to 700 pages with
ten titles that authorize the vast majority of federal aid to
schools. Included under the Act are Indian education, teacher
education, early literacy, school libraries, bilingual education,
technology, school safety, and charter schools. Title I of the
Act funds programs that serve the poor, providing in 2004 about
$12.5 billion federal tax dollars to approximately 53% of the
nation's public schools. Almost 65% of children served are of
color, predominantly African-American and Latinos.
NCLB overlays a federal regulatory structure atop the State's
existing structure. It requires that states accepting federal
funds adopt content standards in basic school subjects, and test
students in reading and math in grades three through eight and
once in grades 10-12, plus once each in grades 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12
in science. Using 2001-02 as the base year, each school and district
has twelve years for all students to attain the "proficient"
level in reading and math. Levels are set by each state in accord
with federal guidelines. There are very limited exceptions for
students with disabilities or who are recent non-English speaking
Schools receiving NCLB funds are required to make Adequate
Yearly Progress (AYP) toward that goal. After two years of failure,
numerous restrictions and sanctions begin to apply. After failing
to improve by the required number of points for five consecutive
years, a school is subject to state takeover and "reconstitution".
In California, as in other states, schools live under a maze
of regulations and threat of sanctions using two entirely different
formulas for measuring educational performance and productivity
-- the federal government's AYP and the states' -- in California,
the Academic Performance Index or API. Numerous California schools,
some celebrated by their communities as success stories under
state API rules, are now considered as failing schools according
to No Child Left Behind 's AYP rules.
Another provision of NCLB appears at first glance to be an
admirable effort to improve teaching quality. By the end of the
2005-06 all teachers must be "highly qualified", defined
as meeting full certification requirements in the school subject(s)
they teach. This burdens states and districts with another set
of requirements, imposing what are impossible goals without significant
investments by federal and state government in educating teachers.
One provision of NCLB seeks to undercut state certification laws
by authorizing development of a fast track, web-based certification
process that requires almost no practical school experience and
relies almost entirely on standardized testing.
Finally NCLB uses language also contained in state certification
law mandating, for example, that all materials for teachers or
students purchased with government fund be "scientifically
based ". The Bush Administration uses this authority to impose
its particular view of teaching and learning as scientific truth
on teachers and university faculty.
However well intentioned, the effort of state and federal governments
to control school curriculum and teacher education is ill considered
and a failure. The inordinate reliance on multiple-choice, standardized
testing coupled to government regulations degrades teaching and
learning and increases educational inequalities. It also serves
as a barrier to recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, particularly
teachers of color. Government regulation of content of courses
and programs not only fails to achieve its avowed purpose, it
erodes the academic integrity of the university, undermines academic
freedom and the critical role institutions of higher learning
must play in educating teachers in a democratic society.
Roberta Ahlquist; Secondary Teacher Education; San Jose State
Ann Berlak, Elementary Education, San Francisco State University
Lillian Vega Castaneda; Language, Literacy and Culture, CSU Channel
Virginia Lea; Literacy Studies and Elementary Education, Sonoma
Therersa Montano; Chicana/o Studies. California State University,
Members Teacher Education Caucus, California Faculty Association
Dafted by Harold Berlak, independent researcher; senior research
fellow, Applied Research Center, Oakland CA; fellow, Educational
Policy Research Unit, Arizona State Univ., Tempe AZ
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