The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing signaled Thursday its intention to increase training requirements for intern teachers, including Teach for America members, before they’re allowed to teach any of the state’s 1.4 million students who are English learners.

Bill Lucia, president and CEO of EdVoice in Sacramento, called the Commission's decision to create a stakeholder panel to work out a compromise, "refreshing." (Click to enlarge).

Bill Lucia, president and CEO of EdVoice in Sacramento, called the Commission’s decision to create a stakeholder panel to work out a compromise, “refreshing.”

At a packed, highly charged meeting in Sacramento, Commission members staked out a compromise position to avert threatened lawsuits from supporters, who had urged the Commission to severely restrict districts’ ability to hire intern teachers, and opponents, who argued that intern teachers, while comprising less than a quarter of the new teachers in California, play an important role, especially where there are shortages, and have proven to be effective.  

Instead, the Commission agreed to create a stakeholders panel to advise CTC staff on ways to ensure that the state’s more than 2,200 intern teachers are held to the same standards for teaching English learners as are fully certified teachers.

“The idea that for one small group of people we make an exception, especially when it’s English learners, demands our immediate attention,” said Commission Vice Chair Kathleen Harris.

 

Last year, California had 2,252 teachers with intern credentials, this includes about 700 members of Teach for America.  Source:  California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.  (Click to enlarge).

Last year, California had 2,252 teachers with intern credentials, this includes about 700 members of Teach for America. Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. (Click to enlarge).

Most aspiring teachers enroll in a full-time, year-long teacher preparation program after college to earn a preliminary teaching credential. Intern programs, run by universities and some school districts, provide an alternative route that allows teachers to earn a preliminary credential at night and on weekends while teaching full-time. They were created with the goal of diversifying the workforce and meeting the need for math, science and special education teachers by appealing to local residents and mid-career professionals who can’t afford to go a year without earning a salary. 

Intern teachers already are required by state law to take 120 hours of pre-service training before they’re allowed into a classroom as a lead teacher. One possible recommendation, which both sides indicated they could accept, would require more substantial training for teaching English learners during the pre-service period. Other options included in a draft proposal released by the CTC would allow interns to earn their English learner authorization by passing the California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL) exam, require them to be supervised by fully credentialed teachers until they complete their training, and require districts or charter schools to seek emergency waivers or restricted EL authorization until the intern is certified.

The commission is putting this on the fast track; Commission Chair and Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond said she expects to receive the recommendations by June at the latest.

Truth in labeling

The emergency waiver option, in particular, riles charter schools, Teach for America and district administrators who see it as a “scarlet letter” that publicly labels a teacher as unqualified. Parents must be notified if their child’s teacher has an emergency credential. Supporters countered that parents have a right to know.

In 2009-2010, 3 percent of people enrolled in teacher preparation programs in California were in district intern programs.  Source:  California commission on Teacher Credentialing, (Click to enlarge).

In 2009-2010, 3 percent of people enrolled in teacher preparation programs in California were in district intern programs. Source: California commission on Teacher Credentialing, (Click to enlarge).

The notification requirement doesn’t exist for interns because Congress attached a rider designating interns as “highly qualified” teachers under the No Child Left Behind law to two appropriations bills. The rider is set to expire at the end of this year.

The debate reached ominous levels in the days leading up to yesterday’s hearing, including a series of clashing letters to the Commission that seemed to indicate whatever decision they reached would wind up in the courts.

A letter signed by Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, along with fifty charter school operators and supporters, Teach for America and school administrator organizations, asserted that the Commission has no authority to change the regulations for interns. “Hastily adopting regulations which do not align with a longstanding understanding of the law regarding Intern Credentials is both unwarranted and invites unnecessary future action,” they wrote.

“Interns should be an option of last resort,” wrote backers of the proposal. Their letter, signed by more than two dozen civil right groups, parent organizations and the California Federation of Teachers, reaches a wholly opposite interpretation of the law.

“I think it’s public that we threatened litigation,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney at Public Advocates Law Firm, which has argued a number of high-profile education equity cases in California, including Williams v. California, which requires teachers to be authorized to teach English learners.

By the time Thursday’s hearing arrived, the anticipated drama drew dozens of people who waited for up to two-and-a-half hours in a line that snaked from the hearing room into the hallway.

Speaking in Spanish, Juan Carlos Martinez, a father of three, two of whom are autistic, said his special-needs children learned nothing in school until he transferred them to Rocketship Charter, which hires almost exclusively from Teach for America. Now his children are not in the special education program anymore, said Martinez, and he hopes one day they’ll be professionals in the workforce.

Parent Juliet Barraza told a very different story. Her 16-year-old son is severely disabled and in special ed in Castro Valley Unified School District. Barraza learned that his teacher was an intern when she was removed from the class for reprimanding a bilingual child with autism by taking away her coloring book and music, which were used to keep the student calm. When the student became agitated and tried to leave, the teacher chased her around the table and forced her back into her seat.

The teacher wasn’t a bad person, said Barraza, who works at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund as an advocate for Spanish-speaking parents of special-needs children. “This intern just didn’t have the preparation, training or skills to deal with a student with the most severe form of autism, who is nonverbal and an English learner.”

About 60 percent of all intern teachers are in special education classes, where most of them have rudimentary training in both teaching students with disabilities and teaching English learners. However, about 17 percent are veteran teachers, fully credentialed and English language authorized, who enrolled in intern programs to become special education teachers.

Although a number of schools, such as Rocketship Education charter school, have had significant success in raising student achievement with TFA members, research generally shows that experience counts in the classroom. A study by the Houston Independent School District found that students taught by TFA teachers scored lower on state exams than students taught by new teachers not part of TFA. It was not until the TFA teachers completed their certification that their students did as well or better than students with new non-TFA teachers.

That was Rigel Massaro’s experience. She taught in Phoenix for two years as a TFA member, where about a third of her students were English learners. Massaro, now an

Former TFA teacher Rigel Massaro, now a civil rights attorney with Public Advocates, said despite TFA's rigorous training it took her three years to feel fully competent as a teacher.  (Click to enlarge).

Former TFA teacher Rigel Massaro, now a civil rights attorney with Public Advocates, said despite TFA’s rigorous training it took her three years to feel fully competent as a teacher. (Click to enlarge).

attorney with Public Advocates, told the Commission that as rigorous as the TFA training was, it wasn’t enough to give her students what they needed. She said it wasn’t until her third year teaching that she had the knowledge and skills to teach English learners properly without watering down the content in an effort to make it more accessible to them.

“I wish my first-year students had the third year of me as a teacher,” Massaro testified.

Still, few people at the meeting seemed surprised by the Commission’s action. They expected an effort to tamp down the emotion and seek common ground. “I think they took the right action to seek more information and to get the experts from all perspectives to come together,” said Bill Lucia, CEO of EdVoice, and a vocal opponent of the proposal to require emergency waivers for interns. “It’s refreshing that the commission is exercising leadership in recognizing not only the needs of children but the importance of maintaining the intern credential.”

 


Filed under: Commission on Teacher Credentialing, English learners, Equity issues, Featured, K-12 Reform, Reporting & Analysis, Students, Teachers and Admin · Tags: , , , , ,

Comment Policy

EdSource encourages a robust debate on education issues and welcomes comments from our readers. The level of thoughtfulness of our community of readers is rare among online news sites. To preserve a civil dialogue, writers should avoid personal, gratuitous attacks and invective. Comments should be relevant to the subject of the article responded to. EdSource retains the right not to publish inappropriate and non-germaine comments.


EdSource encourages commenters to use their real names. Commenters who do decide to use a pseudonym should use it consistently.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  1. Paul says:

    Hello, Navigio. Thanks for your response, which I appreciate.

    For the record, TFA teachers in California work under internship credentials, subject to the many requirements that I listed. There is a lingering misconception — fed by the popular press and by certain interest groups — that TFA teachers have a special avenue to the classroom. That’s not true in this state. As it happens, the internship credential, California’s alternative certification vehicle, dates back to the Teacher Internship Act of 1967!

    Your argument that even some “fully-credentialed” teachers are not worthy of being called “highly qualified” is sound. The legal definition and the reality may diverge, but in ways that go far beyond, and affect a much larger portion of the teacher workforce than, the intern question. It’s funny that others have lavished so much attention on 2,500 out of 280,000 public school teachers in California. Let’s turn now to the “fully-credentialed” segment of the teacher workforce…

    What criteria would you use to replace the ones in the NCLB Act? Would only those teachers who had completed induction (two years of BTSA in California), in states that offer it, be qualified? In other words, should only clear credentials be accepted?

    Should only those teachers with a district’s imprimatur be deemed qualified? In other words, should only teachers who have received permanent status (“tenure”) be accepted?

    Or, should both requirements be combined, such that only a clear credential AND permanent status render a teacher “highly qualified”. (This is similar to the proposal from Accomplished California Teachers.)

    Also, what to do with HOUSSE, the legal provision under which teachers trained before NCLB were able to demonstrate their qualifications? HOUSSE assigned points for years of experience, academic units, awards, foreign language knowledge, and so on. Arguably, new teachers are stronger because English Language Development, Special Education inclusion, standards-based instruction and now, technology, were built-in to their training. On the other hand, the old-timers have more years of practical experience.

    It’s not easy to define, in legal terms suitable for all states and all scenarios, what makes a teacher “highly qualified”. I think it’s a rather silly exercise, since there will always be lousy teachers who meet the criteria and good ones who don’t — or don’t want to bother. We lack empirical evidence that any one of the teacher selection criteria I’ve proposed above correlates with, let alone causes, improved academic performance in students.

    Perhaps this is why California, as an example, has developed a widely-distributed teacher talent system. The state sets broad certification requirements, universities interpret the requirements to create a wide variety of certification programs, and school districts decide which certificate-holders to hire (and, my cinycal side tells me, how quickly to cycle through a large pool of overeager certificate-holders).

  2. Corinne says:

    Paul above gave an accurate description of the requirements. Teachers prepared through alternative certification pathways must complete as much, if not more, than the traditionally prepared teachers. I say “more” because an intern in the trenches completes the district required professional development as well as their credential requirements. Interns receive ongoing support from their university or district preparation program and they work alongside a qualified and trained mentor teacher who is assigned to provide support and guidance throughout the two-year period.

    There are many reasons that interns are needed in California and one of the most important reasons is that they are helping to close the ethnic diversity gap in the teaching force. Forty-seven percent of those obtaining their credential through the alternative certification pathway are from diverse ethnic populations, including 23.4% Hispanic. There are more males and people from STEM second-careers who go into alternative certification programs. These teacher candidates are passionate and have a strong desire to teach in areas where they are needed the most.

    The California Teacher Corps believes that all children should have the best possible teacher. We also believe strongly that the 70 plus alternative certification credential programs in California are already working hard to ensure that all of their teachers are prepared to teach our English Learners. Without adding additional barriers for interns, their employing districts, and alternative certification programs, we support and will contribute to crafting a carefully designed plan that will ensure transparency.

    1. Gary Ravani says:

      Getting specialized training is not a “barrier.” To suggest the traning an intern receives is comparable to, or exceeds, the one year program a regularly credentialed teacher goes through is just silly.

  3. D says:

    CarolineSF,
    I have a child who the public school wanted to put in the resource center. I kept trying to tell them that he needed more than the rote and repetative learning that was offered in the classroom and THAT is why he was tapping his pencil and rolling on the floor (so to speak). It all fell on deaf ears…all the way to the superintendent. COMPLETELY frustrated with his needs not being met, as I saw it, I pulled him. I found a school that let him work at his own pace. He falls in the Top 3% of students in the nation and has been accepted to a national gifted program. His behavior in class is now extremely satifactory across the board. So I would have to say that I fully believe in that father’s testament of his experience. Also I would shout from the mountaintops with no qualms and definately not being pushed into saying that Montessori saved my child’s future!!! Complete God send to this family. Lord knows where he would have ended up if I would have let the public school disable him by boring this child strait into special education. Press release on this one anyone? lol

    1. CarolineSF says:

      That’s great, D. I’m so happy your child is doing well.

      However, there are layers of issues with the practice of simply reporting that a child is no longer receiving special education services, with no further information, with the implication that it’s just a good thing in and of itself.

  4. Paul says:

    Navigio and Bea, I’m curious whether you know the requirements for teacher preparation in California. Specifically, what distinguishes an intern from a “fully credentialed” (preliminary or clear) teacher?

    The only circumstance under which someone with little (no) training could teach your child is if the position were filled by a 30-day substitute permit-holder. Substitutes will become even more common if limits are placed on the kinds of service that an intern teacher can provide (likely), and if the teacher supply happens to tighten in the future (unlikely but possible).

    The difference between a preliminary credential and an internship credential can be substantial, or immaterial, depending on the person. No one receives an internship credential after just 5 weeks of training, as you allege. By law, an intern must: have established basic competence (CBEST), have established subject matter competence (CSET), have gained admission to a teacher credential program, have completed 120 clock hours of training, and have received an offer of employment, before even applying for the internship credential. If the university’s and the employer’s confidence are not sufficient for you, note that the law also contains a hierarchy: interns can never be hired over “fully credentialed” (preliminary or clear) teachers. Look up “coded correspondence 13-01″.

    Internship credentials are valid for two years, with the possibility of a one-year extension. Second- and third-year interns will typically have completed most or all credential coursework.

    A few highly-skilled candidates qualify for the S.B. 57 Early Completion Option. Just one assignment — the Teaching Performance Assessment — separates these interns from their preliminary credentials. Since the TPA is an evaluation tool, not a training tool, and since it has a very high passing rate (credential programs are advised not to let candidates reach this stage if they are not likely to succeed), it is safe to say that an S.B. 57 ECO intern is equivalent to a preliminary credential-holder.

    You are making a big assumption in deciding that a traditionally-prepared teacher is always better. A first-year traditionally-prepared teacher has never served as teacher of record. Student teaching is done under the auspices of a cooperating teacher; the responsibilities given to the student teacher, and the relevance and length of the student teaching placement, vary greatly.

    Here is the story on compensation, evaluation and retention:

    It would be rare indeed for a California public school district to compensate a teacher other than on the basis of number of years of teaching experience, number of post-baccalaureate credits, and level of graduate degree(s) held. Interns are generally paid on the same salary scale as “fully-credentialed” (preliminary or clear) teachers. In other words, they earn very little ($37 to $42K would be typical), owing to their limited experience. As a hold-over from the days when emergency permits were common, some districts do maintain a lower salary scale, today applicable only to interns (down to $30K).

    Charter schools have complete flexibility in setting teachers’ salaries. Some charters hire large numbers of interns.

    The Stull Act mandates annual evaluations for probationary teachers [CA Ed Code 44664(a)(1)] and by law, most interns should be classified as probationary. In practice, many interns are misclassified as temporary. (The law says that temporary means just that: replacing a teacher on a long-term leave, or teaching for just the first semester, when enrollment is declining.)

    School districts need not put much effort into evaluating temporary employees, since those employees will, by definition, be dropped at the end of the school year. In practice, districts inappropriately keep teachers on temporary contracts year after year, so it might be worth spending time evaluating temporary teachers.

    School districts might or might not put much effort into evaluating probationary employees, since they too can easily be let go. A district can drop a probationary teacher without cause, as late as March 15 of the teacher’s second probationary year (which may be later than the person’s second year of teaching).

    Districts also have complete discretion to reduce “particular kinds of service”, in other words, to lay off teachers. We’ve heard a lot about how the March 15 preliminary layoff deadline forces districts to give a few more layoff notices than necessary. But some districts will go even farther, using excessive layoffs as a way to encourage turnover and keep the average teacher salary low. One district I know of has only two high schools, and has eliminated enough teachers for an entire high school, though there is no financial pressure to close a high school, and no such decision is being contemplated.

    I would encourage you to see that new teachers, whether interns, or traditionally-prepared teachers in their first year, bring varied experience and skills to the table. Look at the person, not the piece of paper that he or she holds. Be aware of the difficult conditions under which all new teachers labor: they are given the toughest classes, in the toughest schools, in the toughest districts. Finally, be grateful that new teachers are willing to take the risk of serving, given revolving-door personnel management practices (overuse of temporary status; possibility of non-reelection without cause; overuse of layoff provisions).

    1. navigio says:

      Hi Paul.

      First of all you seem to be assuming I equate ‘highly qualified’ with ‘fully credentialed’. While I might be more willing to do that, I think the term ‘highly qualified’ should have some meaning that relates to the words it contains. Clearly, I dont think it does.

      If no one receives an intern credential after just 5 weeks then are you saying that TFA teachers are not even considered interns?

      I don’t know that it matters that interns cannot be hired over credentialed teachers since they are clearly being hired anyway.

      I agree with you on the trickery pulled with temps or long term subs and overly aggressive layoff policies. I wont start on that one or I wont be able to stop..

      I agree that it is a big assumption that traditionally prepared teachers are always better, though I would say exactly the same thing about assuming they are always worse. Regardless, if they are not better we are doing something wrong. But I dont think the solution to that would be to remove all traditional preparation.

      Most laws I’ve seen related to evaluations exclude certain types of early teachers (I guess the terminology differs by state). I even think the agreement between UTLA and LAUSD related to the stull act had some exclusions, though perhaps I’m remembering from a different district.

      And thanks for your last paragraph. On one hand, I am grateful that those people are willing to risk serving (though I doubt that is really how they see it). However, I am not grateful that we are in a position where we have to rely on that fact. Nor am I grateful that districts do summersaults to figure out ways to get them over other, more traditionally trained, and more experienced and/or expensive teachers.

      The bummer about this discussion is that we assume we need alternative certification at all. I know there are all sorts of arguments for why thats the case, but that doesnt make it a good thing that we are in that position. Rather, it makes me think we are doing something else wrong.

  5. Bea says:

    Thank you @navigio. It’s a “through the looking glass” argument isn’t it?

    Just curious: does anyone know if these interns are evaluated, retained and compensated by the measure of their students’ test scores?

    Ostensibly, the entire point of all of this grading of our schools through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc., is to better inform parents of the quality of their child’s school. One requirement is that these schools have highly qualified teachers. If the powers that be assert that a brand new college grad with 5 weeks of workshops is “highly qualified” to teach my child, how can I possibly trust in the other metrics by which they measure a school or teacher?

  6. navigio says:

    The notification requirement doesn’t exist for interns because Congress attached a rider designating interns as “highly qualified” teachers under the No Child Left Behind law

    So let me get this straight. Interns are, by definition, highly qualified? Can someone please direct me to the time-warp portal that gets me out of this parallel universe of insanity?

    The emergency waiver option, in particular, riles charter schools, Teach for America and district administrators who see it as a “scarlet letter” that publicly labels a teacher as unqualified.

    Normally, the idea of having qualification barriers is so people can use things like certificates or similar to understand what kind of appropriate background someone has for a particular job. I guess the thing that ‘riles up’ these people is the belief that certificates or qualification definitions are a waste of time? Ostensibly, the ‘free market’ can just weed out those people who shouldn’t be teachers… or surgeons… or lawyers… or superintendents…

    1. Manuel says:

      Actually, there is another reason why TFAers believe they should be able to skip certification. In my opinion, it is the arrogant belief that an Ivy League (or equivalent) degree trumps the multiple-year training received by someone at a “state school.” Exhibit A is this letter published by the LA Times on today’s (March 11, 2013) print and on-line edition and included here for your information:

      ——

      Teach for America channels bright, ambitious young people into classrooms. Many of them are willing to forgo better-paying careers to serve public school students.

      As a former educator, I worked with Teach for America instructors. Intellectually, professionally and even personally, some were a cut above those who graduated from education schools and had credentials.

      By proposing to eliminate the intern credential program upon which Teach for America relies, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has shown it is ideologically aligned with the teachers unions to keep promising young instructors out of schools and preserve the jobs of mediocre teachers. It is time to stop the charade. Let capable people teach.

      Henry Tse
      Rosemead

      —–

      So there you have it: it is those good-for-nothing teachers and their unions that want to keep out the smart and self-sacrificing graduates of great universities out of our schools.

  7. It is so encouraging to see us look deeply into how we are training and supporting teachers. I personally do not support President Obama’s initiative to map the brain. I think that if we spent that money in order to use the brain knowledge we have now we would launch education by fifty years. Please note that the Finns use a lot of games to teach and don’t give homework. Finnish students are among the most qualified in the world.

  8. Manuel says:

    What I’d like to know is why is Bill Lucia in the mix? Who is he representing? His former employers or his current funders? Why is he against greater training for TFAers? Oh, wait, five weeks of rote training should be enough for them to learn how to teach as well as deal with Special Ed issues? Really? Really? This is insulting to those who take the long and arduous road of a regular credential.

  9. Eric Premack says:

    Though I support the intern credential as an option to the more traditional route, I did not attend yesterday’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing meeting. The quote attributed to me above was likely spoken by some other middle-aged white guy who looks a bit like me.

    1. Kathryn Baron says:

      Eric,
      I am so sorry. For some inexcusable reason -possibly lack of sleep – I confused you and Bill Lucia of EdVoice. The article has been corrected. Please accept my apology. Kathy

  10. CarolineSF says:

    “…he transferred them to Rocketship Charter, which hires almost exclusively from Teach for America. Now his children are not in the special education program anymore…”

    This could imply that Rocketship is denying the students the support they need for their disabilities. I wonder if the parent gave evidence of improved achievement. It would also be interesting to know if Rocketship has a parent volunteer hours requirement and the parent’s testifying counted as part of the volunteer hours. This is an ongoing issue with charter schools, required parent volunteer hours and parent testimonial in public in support of those schools. I wonder if that’s something the press should be addressing.

    1. el says:

      Or maybe Rocketship is that magical, in which case I’d love to know more about their strategies to move ELL autistic kids to the point where they no longer need special ed services. We want to replicate that!

    2. MatherVa says:

      I agree that it doesn’t make sense that his students “aren’t in special education anymore,” and I reckon it means they aren’t in special day class anymore.