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State’s D in teacher prep nearly average


EDSOURCE. JANUARY 24, 2013.  There’s no sign of a bell curve in the latest scores of state teacher preparation programs.  California received an overall grade of D on the 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).  No, that’s not great, but it may be easier to bear knowing that the national average was a whopping D+.

“With so much attention on the issue of teacher effectiveness, the relative lack of attention to how candidates for teaching are prepared for the job in the first place is puzzling,” said Kate Walsh, president of the NCTQ, a private research and advocacy organization.

Puzzling is also the operative word from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. “Some of their information is just wrong,” said CTC spokesperson Erin Sullivan.

For example, the section of the report on California cites the state for not requiring middle school teachers to pass content area tests in each subject they’re licensed to teach and doesn’t require high school science teachers to pass a test for each discipline – such as biology, chemistry, etc. – that they’re licensed to teach.

Sullivan said the state does require those exams.  “It’s a little bit perplexing where they got some of this information,” she said.

California received its other low scores in special education teacher preparation, student teaching, accountability of teacher preparation programs, and for not having high enough standards for admission into teacher preparation programs.

“California should require candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, mathematics and writing prior to program admission. Importantly, candidates should be permitted to submit comparable scores on such rigorous tests as the SAT/ACT/GRE,” according to the Council’s report.

Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, the new chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, acknowledged that California needs to improve some aspects of its teacher training programs. “I saw some stretches of truth in the California analysis, she said, noting that there is no admissions test for teacher training programs. The CBEST exam doesn’t determine whether students get into credential programs, only whether they can begin student teaching.

But Darling-Hammond said the report’s key measures are flawed and aren’t even supported by its own findings.

Foremost, Darling-Hammond said “the ratings are based on criteria that show no relationship to successful teaching and learning.”  She points out that top achieving states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New Jersey, all received grades of C or D, while Alabama, which received a B-, the top rating from the Council, ranked second to last on both the 2011 NAEP science test and fourth grade math test.