Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource

Intern teachers in programs like Teach for America who earn their preliminary credential while on the job will not have the scarlet letter of being labeled an “ineffective teacher” in California.

In adopting the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act on Wednesday, the State Board of Education resolved a remaining contentious issue: the definition of an “ineffective teacher.” It decided not to include teachers with intern credentials in the definition after much testimony from former intern teachers and districts that readily hire them. All teachers with a teaching credential — including the standard “preliminary” teaching credential through a traditional teacher preparation program or an intern credential — will now meet the definition of “effective.”

Defining and “effective” and “ineffective” and teachers is new under ESSA. It’s a replacement for “highly qualified” teachers, the term used under No Child Left Behind to define those teachers qualified to teach core academic subjects.

Many states are defining “ineffective” and “effective” based on teachers’ evaluations, but California legislators have deadlocked in efforts to rewrite the state’s 40-year-old teacher evaluation law, with teachers unions and administrators unable to reach a compromise. Without a better law in place, the state board steered clear of defining effectiveness by a teacher’s performance.

The definition of ineffective is important because, as board member Patricia Rucker said, intern teachers “tend to be collectively placed at some of the lowest-performing schools, at some of the hardest-to-staff schools, and some of the hardest-to-teach subjects with students who would be considered our priority students.” The same is true for teachers with even less training — those with “emergency” credentials — along with teachers who aren’t qualified to teach the subjects they’re assigned. They too are disproportionately assigned to high-poverty schools, as the state Department of Education has documented.

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to collect and monitor data from districts and schools in all of these categories. What the state will do with the data it has gathered is vague under the state’s ESSA plan, which has been one of the strongest criticisms by civil rights and student advocacy groups. The nonprofit law firm Public Advocates detailed its criticism and suggestions in a lengthy June 30 letter to the state board.

David Sapp, the state board’s deputy policy director, said that under the state plan, an inequitable distribution of teachers will be one area that county offices of education can raise when they provide assistance to low-performing schools. Civil rights groups argue the state should take a stronger role.

Intern teachers speak out

The staff of the state Department of Education initially recommended in a July draft of the ESSA plan that those teachers who were misassigned and who lacked a “full” credential should be considered ineffective. Teachers who had completed a traditional teacher preparation program, in which they took coursework and served as student teachers before getting a job in the classroom, would be considered “full” but intern teachers would not.

Then, in an August memo, staff reversed itself and recommended deleting “full” from the credential requirement. Intern teachers, who earn their preliminary credential during their first two years of teaching, would be considered effective.

In 2014-15, the state issued 3,415 intern credential permits and 4,081 in 2015-16. Intern teachers still constitute less than 3 percent of the state’s teachers but, with a teacher shortage, the number has been growing.

In a letter this month to the state board, Public Advocates and two other nonprofits — the student advocacy group Californians for Justice and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment — characterized intern teachers as “less than fully trained and only partially prepared” and urged the board to include them as “ineffective.”

The board should “ensure our highest need students have full and equitable access to such fully prepared teachers, not a concentration of teachers-in-training masquerading as equivalent to fully trained teachers,” the letter said.

But the board also received nearly 150 comments from districts and former Teach for America intern teachers who argued that “ineffective” should be based on the quality of a teacher’s actual performance, not a category based on training and preparation.

Among them was Hsuanwei Fan, a 5-year middle and high school science teacher in downtown Los Angeles who began as an intern teacher. “Some of the best teachers I’ve met in my short career as an educator have been teachers with intern credentials. They are passionate, energetic, and fully intent on getting fully certified while already delivering great instruction,” she wrote.

“Effectiveness should be defined by measures of teacher impact on student performance,” not by credential type, leaders of four regional California Teach for America operations wrote. They cited research that concluded that teachers in Teach for America, which recruits top college graduates who commit to a minimum of two years in the classroom, perform at least as well as other novice teachers, and sometimes better.

Intern programs also provide an alternative path for career changers and others who can’t afford to take out loans to spend a year or two in a standard university-run credentialing program. Many African-American and Hispanic teachers have become teachers through intern programs. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing reports that nearly half of intern credential teachers “identify as people of color, compared to 34 percent of all teachers and 76 percent of our students.”

Defining intern teachers as ineffective would not have prevented districts from hiring them. Instead, Public Advocates argued, lumping intern teachers in with effective teachers would “hide critical data inequities during our severe teacher shortage,” and would “erode our state’s commitment that all students be taught by fully prepared teachers.”

But Fan and others saw the issue differently. “I believe that to inspire the next generation of students of color to succeed, they need to see educator role models who look like them in the classroom. We should be coming up with new, creative and untraditional ways of encouraging young college graduates of color to enter the profession instead of narrowing the gate into the teaching profession even more.”

Public Advocates and others had urged the board to consider additional criteria to define ineffective. The California School Boards Association said it was “disappointed that California has not been bolder” in its definition. In a letter, it suggested additional measures: teachers’ chronic absences, their participation in continuing professional development, measures of student growth and teachers’ evaluations by both supervisors and students.

The board didn’t consider those, in part because the state doesn’t collect that information.

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  1. Don 1 month ago1 month ago

    The unions don’t want effectiveness assigned at all. So it comes as a relief to see a leftist group like Public Advocates, which normally does the union’s bidding, put students before union members in siding with assigning “ineffective” to inexperienced new teachers.

  2. Bill 1 month ago1 month ago

    Eventually California will be forced to give up the harmful and unnecessary teaching credentialing process. Good teachers are sick of the bureaucratic hoops that prohibit them from educating our kids. The destructive process of prohibiting good teachers from the classroom because they won’t pay $50,000 to an unnecessary bureaucratic college run by failed teachers and administrators has to stop. Let schools hire who they want. Let schools hire the best teachers, not just from the … Read More

    Eventually California will be forced to give up the harmful and unnecessary teaching credentialing process. Good teachers are sick of the bureaucratic hoops that prohibit them from educating our kids. The destructive process of prohibiting good teachers from the classroom because they won’t pay $50,000 to an unnecessary bureaucratic college run by failed teachers and administrators has to stop. Let schools hire who they want. Let schools hire the best teachers, not just from the dumbed-down California credentialing programs that stunt a teacher’s growth.

  3. Tom McDonald 1 month ago1 month ago

    Why don’t you define all teachers initially as ineffective, because in a one size fits all teaching environment, all teachers are ineffective. Then turn them into effective teachers once they have proven that they are measurably able to advance relevant student success outcomes for all students.

  4. Bruce William Smith 1 month ago1 month ago

    This absurd debate provides yet more reason for both families and teachers to avoid California's state schools wherever and whenever possible: the authorities responsible cannot even distinguish between "qualified" and "effective," whereas most states in the developed world find the former straightforward to identify (as they legally define qualifications for other professions, as well), while they do not pretend to come up with a single definition of "effective," since teachers' jobs and the effects intended … Read More

    This absurd debate provides yet more reason for both families and teachers to avoid California’s state schools wherever and whenever possible: the authorities responsible cannot even distinguish between “qualified” and “effective,” whereas most states in the developed world find the former straightforward to identify (as they legally define qualifications for other professions, as well), while they do not pretend to come up with a single definition of “effective,” since teachers’ jobs and the effects intended for them to achieve can be so various depending upon the grade levels and subjects they teach and the many other contexts in which they are employed.

    Replies

    • Charter Reality 1 month ago1 month ago

      The measures of teacher effectiveness already being used in other states, some of which have been ruled unfair in court, are equally ridiculous. There are huge problems with using student test score achievement and student evaluations to rate teacher effectiveness. These things can be helpful in personal evaluation and to inform an individual's instruction, but they depend on way too many other factors to be dependable. Ultimately, I think it is worth hiring promising intern … Read More

      The measures of teacher effectiveness already being used in other states, some of which have been ruled unfair in court, are equally ridiculous. There are huge problems with using student test score achievement and student evaluations to rate teacher effectiveness. These things can be helpful in personal evaluation and to inform an individual’s instruction, but they depend on way too many other factors to be dependable. Ultimately, I think it is worth hiring promising intern candidates, but administrators need to be help accountable for getting into those classrooms and knowing what is going on, and taking action to dismiss those who need to be dismissed in the first two years while they can do so easily.

    • ann 1 month ago1 month ago

      Can it get any worse? Effective vs. credentialed. The difference is pretty clear in the classroom.

      • FloydThursby 1 month ago1 month ago

        Qualified means you can be effective with reasonable effort. Qualified teachers could become ineffective if they are not giving their best. This is why tenure and seniority are dumb. Teachers can be effective for a long time then ineffective. Put kids first, not adults.