Credentialing Commission receptive to Torlakson's Task Force reforms

October 2, 2012

If “Greatness by Design,” the hot-off-the-press report by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s Task Force on Educator Excellence is going to have any legs, the state Commission on Teaching Credentialing may provide the first, important steps.

The Commission oversees the preparation and initial on-the-job training of teachers and administrators, and, to a lesser extent, the equitable placement of teachers in the classroom. Many of the dozens of recommendations in the Task Force’s report, released last month (see coverage here), would fall within its purview.

At the Commission’s meeting last week, Executive Director Mary Sandy said the Commission’s work was in sync with many of the recommendations.

“A lot of reform reports come out and some seem at cross purposes with this body, but this report represents a harmonic convergence,” Sandy said. “We are already in process with so much of this work.”

Linda Darling-Hammond, co-chair of the Task Force on Educator Excellence and vice chair of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, discusses the Task Force recommendations at a Commission meeting last week.

This is not all that surprising. The co-chair of the Task Force, Stanford University Professor of Education Linda Darling-Hammond, is also vice chair of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), and many of the key recommendations in the report reflect policies she has advocated for years. Beverly Young, vice chancellor of California State University and a CTC commissioner, also served on the Task Force, as did four members of the Teacher Preparation Advisory (TAP) Panel, which advises the Commission.

The report’s recommendations will serve to reinforce what the Commission is already considering and could spur action on areas it’s still discussing, Sandy said. These include:

And BTSA is not alone. As Darling-Hammond noted in summarizing the Task Force report, that California has created model  programs, like BTSA, Leadership Academies, and Peer Assistance and Review, a mentoring program for underperforming teachers, only to see them terminated or reduced in tough budget years. This “yo-yo effect, to start, then yank a program, is incredibly wasteful,” Darling-Hammond said.  “California innovates well but how do we build a system to ensure that teachers and leaders have skills they want and need, and students have access to these staff?”

The state should reinstate its “pioneering” programs as money becomes available, she said, starting with, she said in an interview, funding unemployed teachers’ second credential  in special education and other shortage areas,  and restoring incentives for teachers to complete their National Board Certification and then commit to teach in high-needs areas (they received $20,000 spread out over four years under the previous program).

Teacher training and professional development programs have declined during the past five years, as the Legislature allowed districts flexibility to spend money as they choose. Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to continue local flexibility with the distribution of money through a weighted student formula, even as education funding rises substantially.

Darling-Hammond disagrees. She advocates that the state require districts to spend money on professional development while allowing districts to choose which programs “from a basketful of options.”  Otherwise, she said, the whole system of training and sustaining teachers and leaders will fall apart. “There must be a coherent professional learning plan in this state.”




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