Saturday, May 23, 2009

California Teacher Certfication Story - Earning a Credential While Teaching

A California teacher describes his time in teacher training classes...

During my first year of teaching, I found a way to teach and receive my credential at the same time. I enrolled in a preliminary credential program which required a weekly meeting of 3 hours each. During class, I would have to sit through stories of teachers frustrated with their schools, colleagues, and even students. I doubt most of those new teachers had the desired passion and dreams to teach because they obviously didn’t know what they had gotten themselves into. So I would go to class with student work to grade and lessons to plan. At the end of each semester, I was required to do two teaching performance assessments (TPA), which were supposedly used to determine whether I knew how to modify my curriculum and teach ELLs and special-needs students. I usually start my TPAs the night before they’re due and it took me about 2-3 hours to fill out 20 pages of nonsense.

After I received my preliminary credential, I was told that it was not renewable and I had 5 years to complete a two-year induction program to clear it. So in my third year of teaching, I am in an induction program where I have to meet with a group for 3 hours once a month, meet with my coach twice a month, and turn in homework assignments to show my growth as a teacher. None of it is much different from the preliminary program, except I’m only required to attend class once a month instead of once a week. Next year, I will be teaching AP Calculus and hopefully be able to clear my credential and be done with it all. The only problem is that I doubt my mentor will be able to do much to help me prepare my students for their AP exams. I’m sure it won’t be so different from the last two years.


  1. Okay... I had a whole comment and then it got deleted, so here it goes again, but any typos or grammatical errors should be chalked up to the fact that this is a salvage operation.

    SO... These classes sound horrible, as does the experience in Massachusetts described below.

    At the same time though, is it horrible because it is inherently stupid to train teachers or because it is just left to big stupid state bureaucracies to organize it all?

    Doctors have to re-certify regularly, why not teachers? Isn't there an ever-expanding body of information on how best to teach which we would like our educators to be familiar with? And isn't it possible that a teacher's math skills get stale as they get farther away from their time in college?

    Again, I'm not saying all these experiences are positive or should be encouraged, they are obviously total wastes of time. I guess I'm just wondering what the conclusion of all this should be - Would we be better off scrapping all certification programs? That seems a little bit much to me.

    Or should we just handle them more intelligently? But is that possible since most state departments of education are stupid state bureaucracies (see above)?

    Curious for your thoughts...


  2. Dave, I think your analogy to the medical profession is both appropriate and useful. There is indeed research on what constitutes good teacher, and we should certainly be forcing our teachers to stay on top of that research.

    In response to your essential question - scrap certification entirely or hand it more intelligently - I'd obviously go for the latter. As for what that might mean, here's a two-step start:

    -Establish a national certification program, rather than relying on 51 separate certification paths

    -Emphasize demonstrated competencies more and credits attained less. At the moment, earning and maintaining certification typically involves paying for and earning a host of education credits. I would like to see a shift towards asking teachers to prove their knowledge - subject area and pedagogical - in rigorous and regularly scheduled assessments. This is particularly crucial to opening the profession to those who did not intend to teach throughout their undergraduate years. In the system, as presently constituted, it is nearly impossible to attain the necessary mix of undergraduate credits without either an education major.

  3. Seems reasonable enough, but is it really going to happen? Again, I'm not a teacher, so maybe there are movements in this direction that I don't know about.

    I do have some experience working in education policy in DC though, from which I learned that that world is so political that the actual interests of teachers are so rarely of concern.

    I don't know, maybe I'm being too cynical, but I wonder if the debate on these issues is really intelligent enough to ever do what's right...

  4. Well, I share your overall cynicism, but I actually thing the problem is that the interests of teachers are of too much concern. Teachers unions and their credentialed/tenured members are against truly intelligent reform of credentialling, because they have everything to lose.

    The ones whose concerns really are not being heard here are intelligent people who might otherwise choose to enter teaching. So long as the barriers are substantial enough that they look elsewhere for work, we will remain short on talent in the teaching world.

  5. In several areas I agree with Mr. Brown. The problem is the teachers unions who try to protect the interests of the the teachers (I am a teacher by the way). Good teachers are willing and would like to see a more intelligent system for credentialing teachers. We don't want to go through a useless credential program and then repeat the same things to get our "official" clear credential (which I just did).

    However, I would like to say that people who wouldn't have considered teaching can enter the field. In California a credential is a year on top of having a bachelor's degree. It doesn't matter what the undergrad work was in. There are also intern programs so that you can work while earning a credential (at least there used to be before California stopped giving money to schools).

    Don't forget the intelligent people who chose teaching and leave the field because of hte same substantial barriers. There are many problems and teachers aren't happy with the current system either.

  6. I am an Autism teacher who is planning to leave CA after this year due to ridiculous costs and barriers to obtaining my Level II clear credential. I have an MA and 7 years of experience with excellent recommendations and performance evals. However, the CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing still insists that I take $9000 worth of classes that are equivalent to the MA program that I already completed in Chicago. The parents of my students are upset but I have no choice since the state of CA would rather replace intelligent and valuable teachers with low cost uncertified interns. CA continues its downward slide into the bottom of the education quality pile.