Photo: Andrew Reed/EdSource
Sarah La Due, an English teacher at Korematsu Middle School, works one-on-one with a student during silent reading time in her 7th-grade English class.

The California reading instruction test is a major hurdle for many aspiring teachers across the state. 

So much so that about one-third who take the test fail the first time, according to state data of the five-year period between 2012 and 2017. The poor performance is prompting action by the state: The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is assembling a panel to recommend alternatives to the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, or RICA, while state legislators are considering a bill that would replace it. 

The test, which is generally taken after a teacher candidate has completed a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in a teacher preparation program, must be passed before they can earn a credential to teach elementary school and special education.

“In the 18 months I have been on this commission I don’t think I’ve heard a kind word about this RICA test,” Commissioner Kathleen Allavie said. “This test is not serving us well at this time. This is the most important thing I think we need our teachers to do — teaching students to read.” 

Critics say the test is outdated and racially biased while supporters of the current version argue it ensures prospective teachers understand how to teach reading based on phonics.

The RICA is just one of the up to six tests teachers in training must pass to earn a credential. About 40 percent give up because they fail to pass one or more of the required tests at various steps to getting their credential, according to data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. For prospective math or science teachers, that number climbs to 50 percent.

The high failure rate on the tests makes it difficult for the state to make a dent in its persistent teacher shortage. Some 24,000 new teachers were needed in California classrooms in the 2017-18 school year, according to the Learning Policy Institute report written as part of the Getting Down to Facts research initiative. But only about 16,000 received teaching credentials.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is looking to reform all the tests and assessments that teachers have to take to enter the profession. The effort is meant to update the tests to reflect current state academic standards, as well as to ease the teacher shortage by reducing obstacles to earning a credential.

“All assessments are reviewed periodically to ensure that they remain valid and reliable,” said Sasha Horwitz, commission spokesman. “As new standards are adopted by the State Board of Education, the assessments that teacher candidates are required to pass are updated. With the changes over the past 10 years, beginning with Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, inclusion of the focus on the whole child, as only a few examples, it is prudent to review how prospective teachers are assessed to ensure that all new teachers have the knowledge and skills required to be effective.”

At the same time, the commission is considering updates to the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, state legislators are considering Senate Bill 614. If passed, it would eliminate the test and replace it with a basic writing skills test on an exam these teachers are already required to pass — the California Subject Examinations for Teachers: Multiple Subjects.

The commission has not taken a formal position on the bill, Horwitz said. 

Plans to change or eliminate the RICA have ignited a debate over what a new exam or replacement coursework would assess and whether it will be adequate to ensure all California teachers are prepared to teach children to read and to assess, assimilate and analyze information. 

Tobie Meyer, state director of Decoding Dyslexia CA, a grassroots organization started to raise awareness about dyslexia and education, said the problem lies with teacher preparation programs that don’t prepare teachers to adequately teach reading and literacy. 

“The CTC should be addressing why new teachers are having a difficult time in passing the RICA, not lowering our expectations for teachers by eliminating the RICA or minimizing the important focus on these foundational reading skills,” she wrote in a letter to the credentialing commission. “Lowering the bar to make passing rates higher only masks the underlying problem.”

Alonzo Collins has spent more than six years teaching English in China, Switzerland and France because he can’t pass all the tests required to earn a California teaching credential, including the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment. 

He says he is a popular teacher, sought out by families looking for a tutor to teach their children English in preparation for attendance at an international university. 

Collins, 52, would just like to be rid of the RICA. He failed it twice, despite finishing his teacher preparation and earning a master’s degree in education, before packing up and moving to China in 2013. He accepted a job as an English teacher overseas in order to earn money to pay off his school loans, he said.

Collins had quit a career in marketing to return to school to become a teacher. He graduated from Antioch University in Los Angeles in 2010. 

Despite his current schedule that includes teaching English to students on both sides of the Switzerland-France border, Collins recently took the RICA again at a testing center in Paris. He failed again.

Collins has decided to give up on the test.

“I have spent money on books, online tutors and, of course, college tuition that I need to pay back,” said Collins by phone from his home in Geneva. “As of today, I have nothing to show for it. It is really sad and hurtful to have people, who have a desire to become teachers, take a test like this.”

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I love school and I loved learning.”

After hearing that the RICA is likely to be revised or replaced with coursework, Collins said he would be willing to try to pass it again. It would help him avoid taking a year of classes to earn a credential in the state of Washington, where he plans to move this year and where a California credential is transferable. 

The RICA consists of 70 multiple choice items, four essay questions and requires test takers to answer questions based on a case study of a student. A Video Performance Examination is an alternative, although passage rates are considerably lower. Candidates must submit a video demonstrating them instructing an entire class, another showing small-group instruction and a third demonstrating individual instruction.

Although would-be teachers can take the test multiple times, each attempt costs about $200. 

Alesia Fuller, 56, has completed a special education teaching credential program and holds a child development program director permit and a 30-day substitute teaching permit from the state of California. She is working as a substitute teacher in Riverside County schools. Substitutes are required to have a bachelor’s degree, pass a basic skills test and complete a background check.

But Fuller can’t earn her teaching credential because she can’t pass one last test — the RICA. Fuller took the written test first and failed, then tried the video performance assessment twice, failing again. She can’t understand what she is doing wrong and complains the testing company offers little feedback to help her improve.

“How can I have failed this and have been an educator for 20 years?” she asked. 

Fuller said teachers who fail the test are generally just bad test takers, not bad teachers. She hopes the credentialing commission and state legislators will consider replacing the test with coursework. 

The credentialing commission discussed three options for replacing the RICA proposed by its staff at the November meeting. The first is an assessment aligned with the state’s English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework that would vary depending on whether the individual was trying to earn a multiple subject or special education credential. 

Single-subject credential candidates are not currently required to pass the RICA, but the board could opt to include them in the testing requirement, according to the proposal. Staff also proposed allowing candidates who do not pass one or more parts of the test to complete approved courses instead of retaking the test.

The second option, and the one that garnered the most support at the meeting, was to replace the test with coursework that includes assignments and exercises that can be used to assess students’ knowledge of reading instruction and literacy.

The third option would be to include questions that assess reading and literacy in the Teaching Performance Assessments, which all teaching candidates seeking multiple subject and single subject credentials must pass. 

The commission asked its staff to assemble a working group of experts to study the test and to offer recommendations about its elimination or replacement. 

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  1. Will 4 days ago4 days ago

    The test is a scam, as is the whole idea of a teaching credential.

    According to California law, Paul McCartney is unqualified to teach band, Albert Einstein would not have been allowed to teach high school physics, and Lebron James is considered unqualified to teach PE in our public schools.

  2. Michelle 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This test is a joke. I passed all 3 CSET sections in one try and have been working with students for four years and know how to help them read and write but I can’t pass this test and it is going to wreck my chances of finally making my dream come true of being in the classroom with my students and helping them succeed. Please do something before you lose more valuable teachers with … Read More

    This test is a joke. I passed all 3 CSET sections in one try and have been working with students for four years and know how to help them read and write but I can’t pass this test and it is going to wreck my chances of finally making my dream come true of being in the classroom with my students and helping them succeed.

    Please do something before you lose more valuable teachers with the passion to teach. That is all I want. And I don’t have the money to keep doing it especially with all the money for the TPA cycles and all the test and hoops we already have to jump through. Please help us all!!

  3. Chris 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Are there any educators of teachers that have been more successful in preparing folks to pass this exam? Are there any best practice principles that could be applied in less successful credential programs?

  4. Marc 1 month ago1 month ago

    I was recently in a RICA test prep class. The instructor was talking about a case study for a student who had a particular reading difficulty. The instructor shared strategies about how to help with that difficulty. One of the other people in the test prep class told the instructor that she had put 2 of the strategies that the instructor had given and was still marked wrong. It's ludicrous to think that even when … Read More

    I was recently in a RICA test prep class. The instructor was talking about a case study for a student who had a particular reading difficulty. The instructor shared strategies about how to help with that difficulty. One of the other people in the test prep class told the instructor that she had put 2 of the strategies that the instructor had given and was still marked wrong.

    It’s ludicrous to think that even when paying to take the test prep classes they are giving information that is considered wrong by the test graders. How do they expect us to pass when the information that is supposed to be helping us, is viewed as wrong by the testing evaluators. The fact that it hasn’t been revised in over a decade is ridiculous!!!

  5. Teacher LC 1 month ago1 month ago

    I completed a program at a CSU, it was really great. I got all A's and had great reviews on all my teaching, videos, and I know my students learned a lot from me. But due to not being able to pass the RICA, I will not teach. This test does not reflect how well a person can teach, nor can reflect the impact they can have in the classroom. The test needs to be … Read More

    I completed a program at a CSU, it was really great. I got all A’s and had great reviews on all my teaching, videos, and I know my students learned a lot from me. But due to not being able to pass the RICA, I will not teach. This test does not reflect how well a person can teach, nor can reflect the impact they can have in the classroom. The test needs to be changed or eliminated. I would love to teach, but clearly California thinks otherwise.

  6. Heather 1 month ago1 month ago

    I have taken the RICA multiple times both written and video version of the test. I feel defeated over this test and it saddens me that my passion is working with special needs students and my biggest struggle in life has been this RICA exam. It saddens me that I may have to change my whole career direction. I spent a lot of money on my bachelor's degree and credential program; and for what? … Read More

    I have taken the RICA multiple times both written and video version of the test. I feel defeated over this test and it saddens me that my passion is working with special needs students and my biggest struggle in life has been this RICA exam. It saddens me that I may have to change my whole career direction. I spent a lot of money on my bachelor’s degree and credential program; and for what?

    I hope California wakes up and realizes during this teacher shortage that a test shouldn’t determine how well of a teacher an individual is, and that people are not wanting to be a teacher because of the money.

  7. Scott 2 months ago2 months ago

    As an educator for over 20 years, I have seen the teacher quality before RICA and the high standards of teacher quality expectations and after. Since 2004, I have seen the high quality of new teachers coming out of preparation programs. RICA and the other higher-bar assessments required of new teachers did raise student achievement. We forget how low student achievement was before requiring more from new teachers. I am so proud of the new … Read More

    As an educator for over 20 years, I have seen the teacher quality before RICA and the high standards of teacher quality expectations and after. Since 2004, I have seen the high quality of new teachers coming out of preparation programs. RICA and the other higher-bar assessments required of new teachers did raise student achievement. We forget how low student achievement was before requiring more from new teachers. I am so proud of the new teachers that I work with and their knowledge and skills that have been properly vetted.

    RICA is about assessment and pedagogy to teach reading. Knowing how to teach reading is how to raise student success. If a new teacher does not know how to effectively teach reading our diverse students, then they should not be in the classroom. Just because a teacher is ‘liked’ by administrators, students, and/or parents does not equal a good or effective classroom teacher.

  8. Stephanie Kreidt 2 months ago2 months ago

    I had the most difficult time passing the RICA. I finally just passed it November 2019, after 5 written exams and 2 video assessments, and almost three years wasted without a permanent position. I am now an Education Specialist (special education teacher) with my credential focus for students with Moderate to Severe disabilities. I lost my dream job of teaching an Autism Specific class due to not passing the RICA by one point! It was … Read More

    I had the most difficult time passing the RICA. I finally just passed it November 2019, after 5 written exams and 2 video assessments, and almost three years wasted without a permanent position. I am now an Education Specialist (special education teacher) with my credential focus for students with Moderate to Severe disabilities. I lost my dream job of teaching an Autism Specific class due to not passing the RICA by one point! It was mentally, emotionally, and financially drained from this exam ($171 each time to take it).

    This exam has nothing to do with how to teach students with disabilities how to read. I know I am a good special education teacher and this exam does not prove it! This exam is ruining the market of talented, quality, and compassionate teachers. It is discouraging the future teacher hopefuls! get rid of this exam!

  9. Dawn 2 months ago2 months ago

    Improve the test; don't eliminate it! This is yet another example of the public school system spouting "quality," "best practices," "evidenced based" and the other misnomers to fool parents into believing California Dept of Ed actually wants children to succeed. They don't, the purpose is to restrict school choice, parental rights, and then force all children into this single-minded institution. Horrible! Read More

    Improve the test; don’t eliminate it!
    This is yet another example of the public school system spouting “quality,” “best practices,” “evidenced based” and the other misnomers to fool parents into believing California Dept of Ed actually wants children to succeed. They don’t, the purpose is to restrict school choice, parental rights, and then force all children into this single-minded institution. Horrible!

  10. LUZ ESTELA LUJAN 2 months ago2 months ago

    I’m an elementary school teacher from Arizona. I was trying to obtain a job in California, but CBEST writing section also is an obstacle to obtain a teaching certification there. They must revised the CBEST test as well. I personally believed that all this is about money, and Pearson (agency in charge to assess the tests) takes advantage of this situation.

  11. Starla A. Reynolds 2 months ago2 months ago

    This is my story … nevertheless, my story is one of many: One of the major problems I have with the RICA is not the fact that I need to take the test to be recommended for credentialing but the fact that I have not received any training specific to the requirements of the RICA in order to pass said RICA. I have a BA in Secondary Education with endorsements in English Language Arts and Theatre … Read More

    This is my story … nevertheless, my story is one of many:

    One of the major problems I have with the RICA is not the fact that I need to take the test to be recommended for credentialing but the fact that I have not received any training specific to the requirements of the RICA in order to pass said RICA. I have a BA in Secondary Education with endorsements in English Language Arts and Theatre Arts and have been teaching for over 15 years. I have also completed all required courses for my Special Education degree (with a 3.98) as well as completed a MS in Special Education with Mild/Moderate Disabilities remaining in honors status. The point is: I know my stuff.

    However, I have not passed the RICA (twice) and am required to take/pay for a “filler” course at $1,000 a pop with the university for which I attend (this course does not help me with my need of passing the RICA – hence the title “filler” – and is the same exact course each time taken) each time I do not pass the RICA, in order to keep my “internship status” (as required by CTC) in my current position of RSP teacher at a high school (still not “teaching” reading which is done primarily in elementary schools).

    I have taken an on-line course ($300), Teachers Test Prep Course ($100), the RICA twice ($400), the required university course twice ($2,000). When I called Pearson to ask for more in-depth feedback on what was lacking in my test results so I would know how to/what to study in order to properly prepare a different approach for the next RICA test, I was actually told directly, “We’re not here to help you pass.”
    Though all college coursework was completed with honors, my university will not recommend me for credentialing until I pass the RICA. When I asked why I was required to continue taking the exact same course each time I do not pass the RICA, I was told that taking the course was a choice yet needed in order to keep my internship status (doesn’t sound like a choice to me). I begged for help and/or a required course that would actually help me and explained I am a high school teacher who has never had extensive training (courses) pertaining to teaching reading (training primarily given to elementary school teachers). Their response was that I had to take the university course and pass the RICA because they are CTC requirements besides once I am credentialed I “could” teach K-12. I responded, “I am a high school teacher, I have always taught high school, I will never teach elementary. So, why do I need the RICA in order to be recommended for credentialing when I have successfully completed all of my courses with honors?” Their response, “Because you could teach elementary.”

    So, I am getting thousands of dollars in debt trying to continue working in a field, with which I am passionate (teaching high school students), all because I “could” teach elementary. What? Does anyone see the problem here?

    Currently, I find myself in the process of preparing to take yet another Teachers Test Prep Course (this time $435 with guaranteed results or my money back). I honestly hope, with all my heart, there will be no need to get my money back. I need to pass the RICA! I am a good teacher with proven results and a myriad of high school graduates lives with which I have impacted.

    After this next endeavor, if I do not pass RICA, I honestly do not know what I will do. If I do not pass, I will most likely not have a job. However, I will have acquired a debt of over $94,000+ in which case the state of California, the University I attended for my SPED degree, Teachers Test Prep, Pearson and CTC will be the only benefactors.

    This has got to stop! I would have preferred and welcomed the opportunity to pay all of this money towards something with which I actually directly benefitted such as the second option noted within the article: “replacing the test with coursework that includes assignments and exercises that can be used to assess students’ knowledge of reading instruction and literacy.”

    In fact, why did I not receive this type of instruction in the first place? And why did CTC not require it of the institution from which my degree is being held?

  12. Mary Ellen 2 months ago2 months ago

    “Critics say the test is…racially biased…”
    Could someone give examples of the racial bias of the test?

    Replies

    • Shauna 2 months ago2 months ago

      Most questions are vague and even a proficient native English speaker is guessing between the two best options but if a question such as 1. While performing the breast stroke a person relies on ____ to propel themselves? A. Velocity B. Buoyancy C. Thrust D. Friction Now imagine you don't know how to swim and wouldn't know the breast stroke if it splashed in front of you. It had nothing to do with vocabulary proficiency. It has to do with being … Read More

      Most questions are vague and even a proficient native English speaker is guessing between the two best options but if a question such as
      1. While performing the breast stroke a person relies on ____ to propel themselves?
      A. Velocity
      B. Buoyancy
      C. Thrust
      D. Friction

      Now imagine you don’t know how to swim and wouldn’t know the breast stroke if it splashed in front of you. It had nothing to do with vocabulary proficiency. It has to do with being African American, and water sports have no scope in your world or the lives of any of the children you are teaching.

  13. Marvi 2 months ago2 months ago

    It is clear to me our California colleges of education are falling short and doing a disservice to their prospective teachers. The current English Language Arts (ELA) Framework clearly states, "Teachers use what they know about their students to design lessons and learning experiences that, from the outset, are appropriate for all students in the setting." (p. 95) How in the world are teachers who have clearly not learned the science of reading to a … Read More

    It is clear to me our California colleges of education are falling short and doing a disservice to their prospective teachers. The current English Language Arts (ELA) Framework clearly states, “Teachers use what they know about their students to design lessons and learning experiences that, from the outset, are appropriate for all students in the setting.” (p. 95)

    How in the world are teachers who have clearly not learned the science of reading to a sufficient degree to pass the RICA going to create and deliver an effective curriculum in the classroom? I am calling my representatives, the Curriculum Commission, the Board of Education, the Senate and Assembly Education Committees, and the Governor.

    Replies

    • Marvi 2 months ago2 months ago

      After reading the 3 proposed options proposed Curriculum Commission staff at the November meeting, I have serious concerns. The current focus of the RICA is on Foundational Skills; one proposal is to revise the test. Staff suggests that, consistent with the five-theme literacy approach promoted by the current ELA/ELD Framework, all five literacy themes should be considered and appropriately assessed at the program level and in any statewide assessments developed in the future. The five broad … Read More

      After reading the 3 proposed options proposed Curriculum Commission staff at the November meeting, I have serious concerns. The current focus of the RICA is on Foundational Skills; one proposal is to revise the test. Staff suggests that, consistent with the five-theme literacy approach promoted by the current ELA/ELD Framework, all five literacy themes should be considered and appropriately assessed at the program level and in any statewide assessments developed in the future.
      The five broad and interrelated themes are:
      • Meaning Making
      • Language Development
      • Effective Expression
      • Content Knowledge
      • Foundational Skills
      A considerable amount of the content in California’s ELA/ELD Framework is based upon a Balanced Literacy. Research has demonstrated Balanced Literacy is not based on the science of reading. The Frameworks has been in place since 2014. Our children are not learning to read. Doubling down on what does not work does not make sense. Our teachers need to be taught the science of reading and how children learn to read. The RICA should assess aspiring teachers on these Foundational Skills. Colleges of education need to do a better job preparing them for their important work.

  14. Minnie Alsof 2 months ago2 months ago

    There is, of course, another important variable that should be taken into account before deciding to eliminate or replace the test: test students who have been taught reading by credentialed and un-credentialed teachers, and see what, if any, the difference is.

  15. SD Parent 2 months ago2 months ago

    Allowing a person who cannot pass a proficiency test to teach would be like allowing a student who cannot pass a proficiency test to graduate high school. Oh, wait, the state eliminated the CAHSEE, and now, based on the 2018 CAASPP, 34% of last year's high school seniors didn't meet standards in ELA and 69% didn't meet standards in Math. So should the state get rid of the CAASPP, too? Actually, the CAASPP results … Read More

    Allowing a person who cannot pass a proficiency test to teach would be like allowing a student who cannot pass a proficiency test to graduate high school. Oh, wait, the state eliminated the CAHSEE, and now, based on the 2018 CAASPP, 34% of last year’s high school seniors didn’t meet standards in ELA and 69% didn’t meet standards in Math. So should the state get rid of the CAASPP, too?

    Actually, the CAASPP results indicate that what we really need are quality teachers, not just warm bodies who graduated from a teacher prep program.

  16. L. Carbajal 2 months ago2 months ago

    I am a retired educator: 17 yrs teaching, 18 yrs elementary/jr. high principal. I lost many fine teachers because they were unable to pass CSET and RICA. Elementary teachers are the hardest hit. I suggest dump the CBEST and implement a combination of Option 2 and 3. Furthermore, recruit the hundreds of teachers who left the profession back into classrooms. Many of them excelled in the profession. I refer to those teachers as the ones … Read More

    I am a retired educator: 17 yrs teaching, 18 yrs elementary/jr. high principal. I lost many fine teachers because they were unable to pass CSET and RICA. Elementary teachers are the hardest hit. I suggest dump the CBEST and implement a combination of Option 2 and 3. Furthermore, recruit the hundreds of teachers who left the profession back into classrooms. Many of them excelled in the profession. I refer to those teachers as the ones in the “donut hole,” the forgotten teachers.

  17. Kathleen Garcia-Horlor 2 months ago2 months ago

    Now I understand why new teachers have difficulty teaching reading. If this test is based on phonics, there’s the rub. Yes, one needs to know the phonics base of teaching reading. What’s left out is the phonology bases of speaking/reading. The proper way to correct/adjust the teaching of reading for the student to get from here to there on the reading road. To know when it can’t be fixed and different intervention is … Read More

    Now I understand why new teachers have difficulty teaching reading. If this test is based on phonics, there’s the rub. Yes, one needs to know the phonics base of teaching reading. What’s left out is the phonology bases of speaking/reading. The proper way to correct/adjust the teaching of reading for the student to get from here to there on the reading road. To know when it can’t be fixed and different intervention is needed. As well as reading environment necessary for student growth.

  18. Barbara Stoff 2 months ago2 months ago

    As an ESOL teacher I returned to school to get two additional degrees in teaching my students how to read. When reading is the most important subject in school, I can’t believe you are thinking of lowering your standards.

    Replies

    • Elizabeth F. Bennett 2 months ago2 months ago

      Here, here, Barbara!

  19. Kathy 2 months ago2 months ago

    For anyone that has not taken any of the teacher prep tests, you have no idea what you are talking about. I have taken and passed all of them but the RICA. I will attempt it this summer. None of these tests are clear. That is the problem. The questions are vague and confusing while the answers require you to choose the best answer. This means that all of most of the answers have some … Read More

    For anyone that has not taken any of the teacher prep tests, you have no idea what you are talking about. I have taken and passed all of them but the RICA. I will attempt it this summer. None of these tests are clear. That is the problem. The questions are vague and confusing while the answers require you to choose the best answer. This means that all of most of the answers have some truth, but what is the most correct. These are not good tests if they try to trick you. They do not show your true knowledge.

    The amount of testing we go through is ridiculous. I know many teachers that are wonderful and amazing that got in before all of these tests. Every one of them have said they would never have gone through what we now have to to become a teacher. Passing tests do not make you a good teacher, passion for teaching does, and the hoops we have to jump through suck out a lot of that passion and make many quit. And while we are at it, if you want to talk about a teaching shortage, talk about how 50% of teachers quit after teaching only a handful of years. So we spend thousands and thousands of dollars for school and tests and go into a job that is unsupportive of teachers. It is the whole system that is messed up…

  20. Lynn 2 months ago2 months ago

    People are stating this RICA “weeds out the incompetent ones,” but what about the competent ones? Where’s their pay? Instead of paying the “competent ones” a living wage, you then give an excuse that “teachers are just glorified babysitters” and “how hard can the job be?” Arguing for higher pay for teachers wouldn’t fit into your narrative. Sad when retail workers and janitors are receiving higher wages than a teacher with a 4 year degree … Read More

    People are stating this RICA “weeds out the incompetent ones,” but what about the competent ones? Where’s their pay? Instead of paying the “competent ones” a living wage, you then give an excuse that “teachers are just glorified babysitters” and “how hard can the job be?” Arguing for higher pay for teachers wouldn’t fit into your narrative. Sad when retail workers and janitors are receiving higher wages than a teacher with a 4 year degree plus an extra 2 years that would account for a master’s degree. If you state that “it weeds out the incompetent ones,” then what about Betsy DeVos, the ultimate incompetent one?

    So, if people who have never stepped foot in an educational setting are arguing that we need to keep these tests in order to “weed out the incompetent ones,” then you should also be pushing for higher teacher pay.

  21. Linda Diamond 2 months ago2 months ago

    The passing failure rate is due to inadequate preparation of teachers by the schools of education. Throwing out a test because of low passing rates probably means throw out the Bar exam for lawyers since many do not pass, the Medical exam for doctors and even more similar the state’s SBAC test since so many students do poorly. Really? Throwing out a good test because folks have not learned the content? This is madness. Teach the content.

  22. Ken 2 months ago2 months ago

    As a teacher who has passed the RICA many years ago, I totally support them looking at other options for teachers to prove that they can teach. I know that some students have difficulties taking tests. They know the material but have difficulty on regular tests proving it.

    The same thing goes for adults that are teachers.

    I have worked with some great teachers that had incredible difficulties taking tests.Some had to leave teaching because they could not pass.

  23. Carrie 2 months ago2 months ago

    For those keyboard warrior commenters that state "has blocked thousands of INCOMPETENTS from teaching credential” and “Let’s stop making excuses for folks who can’t pass minimal competency tests and instead improve the rigor of our tests so we are assured that our teachers are truly prepared to teach fundamental topics like Reading,” have never stepped foot in education. Teachers have already proven their worth with Pearson tests like CBEST, CSET, 4 TPAs and over … Read More

    For those keyboard warrior commenters that state “has blocked thousands of INCOMPETENTS from teaching credential” and “Let’s stop making excuses for folks who can’t pass minimal competency tests and instead improve the rigor of our tests so we are assured that our teachers are truly prepared to teach fundamental topics like Reading,” have never stepped foot in education.

    Teachers have already proven their worth with Pearson tests like CBEST, CSET, 4 TPAs and over 1000 hours on classroom work and teaching. RICA has been designed by Pearson lobbyists to fail. You state how this “weeds out incompetent teachers,” but have you ever figured out who’s grading them? They aren’t professionals. They are college kids who are not licensed to teach, grading RICA tests. Have you taken any of these tests? Have you worked in Title 1 populations?

    You want to make teaching reading scientific? That’s laughable. Every 7 years, Pearson and other educational lobbyists come out with the next best thing in teaching reading and math, but their data and new shinny “scientifically based” evidence falls flat when you put their crap to use in a real classroom setting.

    So, you say that because a teacher can pass RICA that they are deemed “worthy and competent”? Again, you know nothing about this tests. I’ve seen many a teacher that have passed the test and failed in the classroom.

    These tests that non-educators and Pearson lobbyists keep adding, fixing and promoting as the “new and improved” save all for education. Meanwhile, we have DeVos, who has never been in a classroom setting and would probably fail every test and teaching assessment, run the Dept. of Education.

    Replies

    • Dr. Bill Conrad 2 months ago2 months ago

      When you cannot adequately rebut the argument, you resort to ad hominem attacks. For the record, I was an award winning middle school and high school science teacher in Illinois, I have spent many hours successfully within classrooms both as a teacher, coach, and coordinator. I know of what I speak. The facts speak for themselves. When over half of the third graders in California cannot read by the end of the year … Read More

      When you cannot adequately rebut the argument, you resort to ad hominem attacks. For the record, I was an award winning middle school and high school science teacher in Illinois, I have spent many hours successfully within classrooms both as a teacher, coach, and coordinator. I know of what I speak.

      The facts speak for themselves. When over half of the third graders in California cannot read by the end of the year with even worse results for children of color, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English Learners then there must be a problem with the teaching of Reading in California. If Amazon only delivered half of their packages, they would not be long in business! Amazon fires people like crazy for almost any reason. They have no problem securing needy American workers!

      I participated in collaborative meetings with elementary teachers in Santa Clara Unified District where they candidly told me that they did not know the difference between phonemic awareness and phonics. Could I help them? I went back to the ELA Director and Coordinator to address the issue and was told to mind my nobesse oblige. They pulled out a dog-eared binder with one paragraph definitions of phonemic awareness and phonics and told me that of course the teachers know these ideas, we gave them these binders!

      You make a good point though about the skullduggery of many testing companies who easily fleece lost in the fog school administrators with all manner of assessment products.

      The bottom line is that we need to become more scientific and systematic in the teaching of reading. We need teachers who fully understand the fundamental reading ideas of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Teachers also need to understand and be able to effectively use instructional practices and monitoring and screening assessments to make sure that all students under their care are on the path to reading by the end of third grade! We need both selected response and performance assessments where teachers can demonstrate their understanding of the fundamentals of reading.

      I make this argument from a systems’ perspective fully recognizing that there are many teachers who are superb at teaching reading.

  24. Dr. Bill Conrad 2 months ago2 months ago

    More than half of 3rd graders in California are unable to read at the end of the year as measured by the 2019-2020 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). Maybe we should consider eliminating this assessment as the kids do not seem to be doing well on it. Raging against the thermometers is all the rage these days especially when we get results we don’t like! Actually the scientists who design … Read More

    More than half of 3rd graders in California are unable to read at the end of the year as measured by the 2019-2020 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). Maybe we should consider eliminating this assessment as the kids do not seem to be doing well on it.

    Raging against the thermometers is all the rage these days especially when we get results we don’t like! Actually the scientists who design high stakes summative assessments like the RICA use a variety of classical and Item Response Theory to design, evaluate, and improve the assessments. If our raconteur educators would apply even 1/10th of the science that goes into developing these valid and reliable assessments toward the scientific improvement of instructional reading practices, we would see vast improvements in both adult and student performance. However, our educators for the most part are assessment illiterate as well as illiterate in how to actually teach reading.

    It is not a good idea to cherry pick a few practice test items to characterize an overall assessment. Practice test items are rejected for use on the official assessment forms because they do not meet validity and reliability standards. Practice items are useful to give potential test takers a feel for the overall assessment but should never be used to actually judge the quality of the assessment.

    In reality, the assessments are built around several key fundamental ideas. Assessment items of increasing complexity are built for each fundamental idea. Candidates are presented with generally less complex items first and if they get these items (more than one) correct, they progress to the next level of complexity. Scale scores are assigned based on the level of complexity that a candidate achieves after reaching a certain error of measure. Candidates are not evaluated on how many items they answer correctly but on the level of complexity that they achieve for the key fundamental ideas.

    The National Reading Panel in 2002 provided a scientific explanation for how kids learn to read. Kids do not learn reading in the same way that they learn how to speak. Noam Chomsky, the famous linguist, taught us that learning to speak is hard wired in the brain and requires only a few exposures of sound for a child to learn how to speak. Reading on the other hand needs to actually be taught to children. Exposure to “leveled” books as is done in the Balanced Reading System does not work. Students must progress from phonemic awareness (hearing the discrete sounds of language) to relating the sounds to graphemes or words, to fluency. Comprehension and vocabulary are also important elements of the learning to read process.

    Roland Good from the University of Oregon provided our educational community with a beautiful reading assessment monitoring system called the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills or DIBELS to monitor student progression in the essential elements of reading. Educators for the most part are never taught how this assessment system is supposed to be used and administrators have no use for knowing how well students are progressing on the 5 key elements of reading. The DIBELS test, like so many good ideas in education, has been thrown on the trash heap because it was never taught well to prospective teachers or used well in the classroom to monitor student progression in reading.

    Education needs to become more like science than alchemy where we chase after whatever glittering educational bauble pops up within our fog of education. It would behoove us to buckle down and learn how to teach some of the fundamental courses like reading. Let’s stop making excuses for folks who can’t pass minimal competency tests and instead improve the rigor of our tests so we are assured that our teachers are truly prepared to teach fundamental topics like Reading.

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    • el 2 months ago2 months ago

      As the person who posted a practice test item, I welcome the opportunity to learn more about the purpose and value of this test. While it was cherry-picked as an item that seemed problematic, it was cherry-picked from the first 5 test questions, and the style of it is not rare on the practice test. If the practice test is significantly different from the actual test, this could point to another reason that test-takers struggle … Read More

      As the person who posted a practice test item, I welcome the opportunity to learn more about the purpose and value of this test. While it was cherry-picked as an item that seemed problematic, it was cherry-picked from the first 5 test questions, and the style of it is not rare on the practice test. If the practice test is significantly different from the actual test, this could point to another reason that test-takers struggle with it.

      Seriously: if you’re saying this is just one bad question that isn’t at all like what is really asked, who the heck is doing quality control there? (FWIW from my layperson reading there are many more like it.)

      I am fine with the idea of a standardized test for reading theory … though I have to ask why we don’t think our required university coursework doesn’t ensure this knowledge is gained. But just because it’s a standardized test doesn’t mean it’s good at its intended purpose. Given that the exam is intended to be given to prepared, trained, individuals who are highly motivated to pass it, you should expect something like a 90% pass rate. That it is not suggests to me that the exam is either not aligned with the training or that the questions are designed to stack-rank and produce differentiation – ie that the designers of the test, when evaluating questions, are throwing out questions that too many students get right as not being valid or interesting, instead of judging that it is a good question and showing that indeed our candidates have mastery of the subject.

      You’re right: I don’t have access to the full live test. The people who pay for and regulate the test – we the customer – need our representatives to look at each question and ask, “Is this question, viewed in the entirety of the answer choices, important to me in deciding whether to allow the candidate to teach children?” We’re very strict about that in interview questions: We can’t ask things that are irrelevant like if the candidate has biological children at home. We need to be as strict about that in our standardized test questions. Every single question should be clear and relevant to the need.

      • Dr. Bill Conrad 2 months ago2 months ago

        The RICA should be organized around the fundamental scientifically validated reading elements of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. The test should interrogate prospective teacher understanding of these fundamental ideas at increasing levels of complexity. Candidates should be given multiple questions at increasing levels of complexity for each fundamental idea. Scale scores will be assigned for the level of complexity achieved and not the number of assessment items answered correctly. A cut scale … Read More

        The RICA should be organized around the fundamental scientifically validated reading elements of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. The test should interrogate prospective teacher understanding of these fundamental ideas at increasing levels of complexity. Candidates should be given multiple questions at increasing levels of complexity for each fundamental idea. Scale scores will be assigned for the level of complexity achieved and not the number of assessment items answered correctly. A cut scale score is established to determine whether the candidate passed.

        K-12 education is chaotic though. It tries to maintain a non-scientifically validated theory of how students learn to read and will include magical fundamental ideas around the notion of Balanced Reading. This theory of action posits that students learn to read by being exposed to ever increasing levels of reading complexity – similar to the way students learned to speak. Cognitive experts have debunked this theory but the alchemistic K-12 education system continues to hold on to this fallacious belief. This manufactured reading crisis clouds the teacher preparation assessments and also is reflected in the student outcomes with fewer than half of 3rd graders being able to read. The laughable colleges of education continue to teach students incorrect reading instruction to their students. This is a real problem and is reflected in teacher certification test results.

        An assessment is more than just a collection of discrete items. You need to consider the overall assessment theory of action, validity, and reliability. Validating and checking for test reliability are powerful tools and do work. It is not magic as is so prevalent in K-12 education.

        I addition to understanding the fundamental ideas of how kids learn to read, the assessment should also assess whether or not prospective teachers can effectively use key instructional practices like explicit instruction as well as formative and summative assessment techniques to gauge student reading understanding, diagnose student reading needs, design interventions, and then monitor for the success of those reading interventions. Certainly this could be addressed by a pencil and paper assessment as well as a performance assessments.

        The student data clearly demonstrates that teachers have problems teaching reading. It is not a student problem so we should not be blaming or labeling the students as we are fond of doing in K-12 education. It is time to recognize that the assessments are really doing their job and that it is time we looked in the mirror and fixed our knowledge of how children learn to read, how to teach it well, and how to assess it well. Our children deserve no less. Who is looking out for the children?

  25. Zeev Wurman 2 months ago2 months ago

    Methinks the headline missed a word: "has blocked thousands of INCOMPETENTS from teaching credential." Reminds me of the infamous 6th-7th grade-level CBEST that was attacked because some incompetent teachers couldn't pass it after multiple tries. If California wants to increase its number of teachers, it should increase college enrollment thresholds and improve college expectations. Instead it does just the opposite, so why it surprises anyone that now it wants to remove it dumb-down this test too? Back-to-Future California ... … Read More

    Methinks the headline missed a word:

    “has blocked thousands of INCOMPETENTS from teaching credential.”

    Reminds me of the infamous 6th-7th grade-level CBEST that was attacked because some incompetent teachers couldn’t pass it after multiple tries.

    If California wants to increase its number of teachers, it should increase college enrollment thresholds and improve college expectations. Instead it does just the opposite, so why it surprises anyone that now it wants to remove it dumb-down this test too?

    Back-to-Future California … Regressing to the 1990s. In reading instruction, in bilingual teaching, in number of Algebra takers in grade 8. A Banana Republic.

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    • Bruce William Smith 2 months ago2 months ago

      It saddens me that I have to agree with Zeev and most of the others. The key word in his comment is “too”: California’s legislature and state board have already shown their incompetence by establishing the Common Core academic standards, whose retarded learning pace renders ineffective the Next Generation Science Standards aligned to them, so the lowering of its teaching qualification standards is perfectly consistent with this state government’s disastrous K-12 record.

    • Carrie 2 months ago2 months ago

      6-7th grade CBEST? Lol. You have no clue what you are talking about. CBEST covers material from kindergarten through 12th grade. The only “incompetence” that I am seeing is the dribble you just wrote.

  26. Suzanne Coutchie, MA (education) 2 months ago2 months ago

    Teacher candidates will pass the tests if you teach them the necessary information. Change the preparation and you will produce qualified teachers. Do not eliminate quality standards for our teachers.

  27. Jo Anne McClelland 2 months ago2 months ago

    Seriously? People can't pass it so let's eliminate it? Why doesn't the state do something about the issues in schools so we can attract qualified people who can pass a reading instruction exam? The "dumbing" down of teacher requirements is just going to lead to less effective classroom instruction. Don't get me started about the CBEST, which all candidates have to pass to receive a credential It is tests at … Read More

    Seriously? People can’t pass it so let’s eliminate it? Why doesn’t the state do something about the issues in schools so we can attract qualified people who can pass a reading instruction exam? The “dumbing” down of teacher requirements is just going to lead to less effective classroom instruction. Don’t get me started about the CBEST, which all candidates have to pass to receive a credential It is tests at about a 7th-grade level.

  28. Megan Potente 2 months ago2 months ago

    Legislators should not eliminate the RICA! The most important job of schools is to teach children to read. All teachers need to be prepared to do this job and need to have an understanding of foundational reading skills. We need a closer examination of teacher preparation programs if candidates are having difficulty passing the test. Lowering the bar is not the answer

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    • Bill smith 2 months ago2 months ago

      I think this is excellent! The test is outdated.

  29. Angela Crowther 2 months ago2 months ago

    Yes, let us just “dumb-down” the test so more unqualified people will be eligible to become teachers. While the state is at it; let them get rid of the CBEST as well. Putting the burden of weeding out unqualified, ill-prepared, and out-of-state reject applicants through school site administrators’ evaluation processes. There was a reason, we have stringent credential standards.

  30. Gregory Lin Lipford 2 months ago2 months ago

    That’s what we want? More teachers who can’t pass a test? Test-taking skills are not unrelated to teaching skill. Let’s consider why the profession is not drawing more competent applicants, but let’s not lower the standards. That’s not the lesson we teach students in class.

  31. el 2 months ago2 months ago

    I'm not trained as an educator, so that likely is reflected in my comment here, but I recommend anyone who thinks the RICA is important to sit down and take the practice test that is provided http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/content/docs/RICA_Practice_Test.pdf . I can certainly see how smart, capable people might not choose the correct answer ... and more to the point, I can see how people with actual experience teaching might not agree with the One True Correct Answer. … Read More

    I’m not trained as an educator, so that likely is reflected in my comment here, but I recommend anyone who thinks the RICA is important to sit down and take the practice test that is provided http://www.ctcexams.nesinc.com/content/docs/RICA_Practice_Test.pdf .

    I can certainly see how smart, capable people might not choose the correct answer … and more to the point, I can see how people with actual experience teaching might not agree with the One True Correct Answer. These questions are not based on any Absolute Truth but on a specific philosophy of process.

    I think we’re better off with this material being coursework as part of the credential with its own local evaluation rather than a separately administered standardized exam.

    This is a sample question:

    2. When creating lesson plans to promote specific reading skills, a teacher should make sure that:
    A. each planned activity for students is designed to strengthen two or more specific reading skills.
    B. the targeted reading skills relate to an appropriate instructional progression and reflect students’ needs.
    C. each planned activity connects students’ reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
    D. the targeted reading skills are grade-appropriate and taught to all students using the same instructional methods.

    I’m guessing that the answer is B but it took me a long time to decide that, and there are elements of value in all the answers. Why is this question valuable in deciding whether or not someone can be a teacher? Why would getting this question wrong mean they shouldn’t be a teacher?