Thursday, October 9, 2014

Preparing World-Class Teachers: Essential Reforms of Teacher Preparation and Credentialing in California

Teachers are routinely blamed for almost every underperforming child and every shortcoming of the 
nation’s public school system. The length of time it takes them to get tenure, seniority protections in 
the layoff process, and the regulations protecting them from dismissal have all come under attack.

EdSource has reviewed key reports along with thousands of pages of studies and background 
documents on redesigning the state’s system of teacher preparation and credentialing. They have 
interviewed key experts as well as new teachers who have recently gone through the credentialing 

This EdSourcereport is intended to highlight the most promising reforms that would contribute to a 
more effective teaching force. Its purpose is to draw attention to reforms that are arguably as 
important as those dealing with school financing, curriculum, and testing and accountability.

EdSource has identified seven key challenges— and the most promising strategies to address them 
at a local and statewide level.

Key Findings:

CHALLENGE #1: California largely separates academic study—“what” to teach—from 
professional training— “how” to teach.

Addressing the Challenge:

Expand undergraduate “blended” programs that combine academic course- work with teacher training.

Develop more opportunities for undergraduates to get exposure to the teach- ing profession.

CHALLENGE #2: With virtually no state oversight, student teaching, a critically important part 
of the teacher preparation process, varies widely in quality. Finding appropriate placements and 
skilled master teachers to supervise teachers-in-training is becoming increasingly difficult.

Addressing the Challenge:

Set statewide standards regulating the duration, content and quality of student teaching.

Encourage close school-university partnerships that connect theory and practice.

Provide professional development and stipends/release time for master teachers at a district level.

CHALLENGE #3: California’s teaching credentials don’t focus on early childhood or middle 
school, leaving many teachers less prepared for these critical periods in a child’s development.

Addressing the Challenge:

Require middle school teachers to hold an emphasis—earned during prepa- ration or on the job—
that ensures age-specific expertise while allowing for staffing flexibility.

Create a preK-3 emphasis and credential, ensuring early childhood expertise.

CHALLENGE #4: With no state-level professional develop- ment requirements for credential 
renewal, training opportunities vary widely by district. There are no external incentives for 
districts to provide them.

Addressing the Challenge:

Establish meaningful renewal requirements that promote teacher growth and leadership, with 
professional learning completed at the local level counting toward those requirements.

Provide incentives for teachers to engage in professional learning that leads to advanced teaching 
credentials and greater remuneration.

CHALLENGE #5: Due in part to a longstanding shortage, the training requirements for special 
education teachers have been relaxed. Many today are not trained in the basics of classroom 
teaching before being charged with serving the most challenging students. The preparation of 
special education teachers is also unnecessarily separated from that of general education teachers
—a divide that can carry over into the classroom.

Addressing the Challenge:

Integratespecialeducationteacherpreparationwithgeneralteacherpreparation to ensure that all have 
adequate grounding in both the fundamentals of regular classroom instruction and strategies to 
meet the special needs of all students.

Retrain credentialed general education teachers to teach special education— and provide incentives 
to keep them in this high-needs field.

Ensure new special education teachers have access to mentoring and support programs focused on 
this specialized field.

CHALLENGE #6: New teachers are having increasing difficulty getting access to high-quality support programs with experienced mentors, also known as “induction” programs. Such support is crucial to ensure that they are effective in the classroom and that they stay in the profession.

Addressing the Challenge:

Ensure that all teachers, including interns and those in temporary positions (such as long-term substitutes), are eligible for and participate in quality sup- port programs.

Restore targeted state support to ensure that the Beginning Teachers Support and Assessment (BTSA) program or a comparable program is available to all new teachers and that cost is not a barrier to participation.

CHALLENGE #7: During the past decade, teaching has become an increasingly unattractive career option. Enrollments in teacher preparation programs have plummeted

.Addressing the Challenge:

Design reforms of teacher preparation and credentialing to attract new teachers—especially those reflecting the diversity of the student body—rather than impose additional hurdles that discourage candidates from entering the profession.

Implement strategies aimed at retention and growth among new teachers, such as a reduced workload during the first and second years.

Leaders in business, education, and civic life should implement an aggressive communications campaign aimed at attracting new teachers to the profession.

Devote more government, business, and philanthropic support to underwrite the cost of becoming a teacher for talented individuals willing to commit to teaching in high-need schools and subject areas.
What is crucial is that reforms to teacher preparation and credentialing not be carried out in isolation. Instead, they need to be fully integrated and synchronized with the other major reforms now being rolled out in California, including the Local Control Funding Formula, the Common Core State Standards, and dramatically revised new assessment and accountability systems. 

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