Wednesday, February 10, 2016


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California’s Commission for Teacher Credentialing reports annually to the California legislature about the future supply of teacher candidates.

This year, the training pipeline has largely run dry.

3.2 Preparation and Certification: How To Make a Teacher

Here’s what a teacher’s credentials can tell you.

Image: CC-NC by MTSOfan
Image: CC-NC by MTSOfan
In California, as elsewhere, most teachers enter their profession by first earning a credential. In California’s public schools a credential is mandatory. Although teacher preparation programs vary, candidates generally spend limited time in actual classrooms. Most new teachers arrive in school with little practical classroom experience. A combination of “sink or swim” experience and formal on-the-job training gets them through the first few years.
In California, about 80% of teachers earn their credentials through the CSU system
About 80% of California’s teachers earn their credentials through the California State University (CSU) system, usually through a four- or five-year course of study. The rules for credentials are set by a combination of legislation and policies of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). The CTC authorizes colleges and universities to offer teacher credential programs in a variety of grade-level and content areas, and for special student populations such as English learners and students with disabilities. Once an institution is accredited, it is responsible for quality control related to student admissions, course content, rigor, and candidate assessment.

Alternative paths to a credential

In addition to attending universities, teachers may obtain credentials through alternative credential providers, or may work in the classroom as interns. The Federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) established in law the expectation that all teachers should be “highly qualified.” In 2010 the education press headlines were consumed for a time with the comical-but-deadly-serious question of under what conditions “intern” teachers could be regarded as “highly qualified” under NCLB.
Having a strong pool of teaching candidates is a concern in California. California’s Commission for Teacher Credentialing reports annually to the California legislature about the future supply of teacher candidates, based on enrollments in teacher preparation programs of any kind. As of 2013, the training pipeline had largely run dry, perhaps largely because candidates understood the job market. Why enroll to become a teacher if the jobs aren’t going to be there at the end of the program?
There is every reason to expect that enrollment in teacher prep programs will show improvement when data for the recovery years after 2013 become available. (Education data, like many other kinds of government data, is delivered by tortoises with a delay of about three years; analysis of the data can take even longer.) Demand and supply are cyclical, and frequently out of alignment: demand can arrive suddenly, with a budget increase, but teacher prep programs cannot respond as quickly. It takes time to recruit and train instructors, secure space, enroll prospective teachers and train them. A 2016 report from Linda Darlng-Hammond, Roberta Furger, Patrick M. Shields, and Leib Sutcher, Addressing California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage: An Analysis of Sources and Solutions (Palo Alto: Learning Policy Institute, 2016) sheds light on the shortage.

Faster certification options

Not all teacher preparation programs are lengthy. Teach for America (TFA), which recruits and certifies more teachers than any other organization in America, started by recruiting top students from selective colleges. Its training program is famously short: in contrast to the usual two-year program offered by education schools, the TFA program lasts only a few weeks. A number of studies, but not all, indicate that Teach for America’s elite rookies perform as well and sometimes better than graduates of longer programs, particularly for middle and high school math. In 2014, TFA announced changes to its training program to provide more extended support for their teachers.
Communities want teachers who understand their children, including strengths, challenges and culture that they bring with them to school. Based on that, some energy and funding has gone into creating “grow your own” approaches to teacher recruitment and education. One example is the California Teacher Pathway program, which identifies young people from low-income neighborhoods who show a passion for teaching. The program is designed to support them in a variety of ways from the time they enter a community college until they earn their teaching credential, with the hope they will stay in their home community and teach.

Do these credentials matter?

Oversimplifying greatly, there are two schools of thought about teacher credentials: less is more, and more is more.
  • The “more is more” school argues that credentials are vital: they should be hard to get, and narrowly defined. This point of view was generally ascendant in the first decade of the 21st century, partly driven by the requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that every teacher be certified as “highly qualified.” It takes several years to obtain a teaching credential through normal channels, and teacher credentials became increasingly subject specific when the meaning of “highly qualified” was hotly debated. The rationale for such credential requirements is to protect children from unqualified teachers.
  • The “less is more” reformers argue that teaching is a skill more general than the subject matter being taught. In this view, complex credential requirements do more to deter good people from teaching than they do to weed out unprepared candidates. These reformers look to speed the path to a credential for those with the right stuff. Perhaps the most pure example of this concept is the recommendation of the Education Excellence committee that county superintendents should have the authority to write credential waivers for individuals, but should lose that authority if the teachers they waive into the classroom fail to perform to expectations. (The recommendation, made at a time when the supply of teacher candidates was ample, might surface again when supply is tight.)
In 2010, a scathing report argued that many teacher preparation programs lack rigor.
In 2010, a scathing report of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) argued that many teacher preparation programs lack rigor. The report called for sweeping changes in accreditation of teacher preparation programs to make them more relevant. Others, in contrast to the NCATE report, argue that the best course is to make the training program as short and inexpensive as possible in order to invest the savings in support of new teachers on the job.
In 2013, the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) evaluated teacher preparation programs in California. The state was graded a D, up from a D- the prior year. The Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (yes, there really is an association for everything in education) collected objections to the low grade.
Partly in response to this national conversation, California’s CTC convened a high-profile advisory panel in 2013, which generated a thick report with forty recommendations for change.
Join the Discussion
  • How can teacher preparation programs make sure they admit the “best and brightest”?
  • To what extent can alternative approaches to teacher recruitment and certification, such as Teach for America, influence the caliber of people who enter the profession?
  • Ask teachers you know: what did they think of the certification process?
  • Where did the teachers in your school earn their certification?


Patt Morrison | LA Times |

Feb 10, 2016  ::  It bears repeating that the beleaguered Los Angeles Unified School District – the nation’s second largest, with two-thirds of a million school-kids – is on its ninth change of superintendent in 20 years [one man served three different times]. After some off-the-chart outsiders, like a Colorado governor and a former vice admiral, the newest superintendent couldn’t be more of an insider. Michelle King has worked nearly 40 years in the district, as student aide, teacher, parent, principal, and chief deputy superintendent. After working in the shadow of so many others, what light of her own will she shine?

As you know, there are many people -- some of them are parents, some of them are public officials, there are even some teachers – who think that the LA Unified School District is a mess. One of the candidates for the job that you got used the word “mess” when he took himself out of the running. Why do they think that, and what can you say to help change their minds?

I think they might say that because they’re on the outside, and they’re not actually immersed or part of the LAUSD family. And so like any family you don’t know necessarily the inner workings until you are engaged and involved in it. And as you know, I’ve been part of this district for a very long time, from a teacher through the administrator ranks, and I would say no, it isn’t a mess.

As a matter of fact, I think LA has some of the most efficient processes and systems in place, and I believe in our district, I believe in our teachers, and I believe we’re going to be able to get it done. Yes, it’s the second largest school district, it’s complex, it’s a complex place to be, but it’s a great district, and I look forward to the challenge

Yours is the ninth time in twenty years that the district has had a new superintendent. How have these course changes affected the district?

You know I think when you don’t have stability, it’s impactful. And when you have change that is occurring every two or three years, that’s difficult for the system and instead of moving forward, I think it’s more of a stop and start, a stop and start. And so to be able to bring sensibility to the system I think is important. It’s important for the morale of the employees, it helps them have a sense of comfort so they can focus on what I need them to do which is teaching and learning in the classroom. Otherwise you’re always looking for the next thing that’s going to happen, and that’s disruptive.

Parents want the best for their kids, of course, and there are parents who want the best for their kids who have gone to charter schools , charter school options – about 100,000 students in six years. What is your take on charter schools and how they fit into the LAUSD plan?
LA, as you know, authorizes more charters than anywhere else in the country, and charter schools and charter schools students are part of LAUSD. It’s one LAUSD family, and all the kids, all the students -- we want the best for them. I think that it’s detrimental for us to have entities pitted against one another when our common goal is to have our kids be successful and prepare for the 21st century.

Many parents, particularly when your kids get older -- you seek what their interests are and you try to find the best fit for them. And so I believe that should be available for all parents. Some folks are interested in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math studies], some are in the performing arts, some are interested in a different approach, the way of project-based learning. And so I think it behooves us as educators to make sure that we have the variety of options so that our kids are able to connect. Because what we don’t want to happen is [for] our kids not to connect to any of the organizations or institutions and to find themselves dropping out of school.

You studied biology; you were a science teacher, and you’re unusual in that you’re an African-American woman in the sciences. What would you like to do about enhancing STEM study and getting students excited about that?

I think we have to instill it at a younger age. I think we have to go to the elementary school and we have to reintroduce the idea of inquiry and curiosity and exploration because that’s what’s fun about science.

Is that what got you excited?

It did. Because it’s hands-on.

Cutting up frogs?

I did! In my classes they did that, they did dissection and they loved that. But we have to go back to that because I think children are naturally inquisitive, they naturally want to know about things and how they happen, about the animal kingdom and what’s happening in astronomy, and we have to really tap into that and build on that at a young age.

And then, as they move through middle school and certainly into high school, afford them those opportunities for engagement and exploration and inquiry – hands on, not just about the textbook and what we read in textbooks. But you’ve got to really make it what I call real science. Real science is digging into it and not necessarily always coming to the answer, which is a piece that folks don’t really realize: it’s really about the search for answers and it’s that process of searching and not necessarily, like in math, ending up with the right answer.

We have a number of STEM schools opening. We have an all-girls STEM school opening up in the fall which I am excited about. I met with a group of students yesterday, and one of the things they said is, Ms. King, what can we do about girls getting more involved in STEM and how can we push girls?

And when I told them about the school, they were so excited that we were going to have this opportunity. And one of the girls said, You see, this is important because sometimes it’s hard for us to perform when we have boys around us.
Why is that?

Well, you know, it’s girls. Girls want to be thought of as a different way from guys, and they want guys to see them a different way, and sometimes they don’t want to be perceived, I think, as the smart one, the know-it-all. Girls, I think, behave differently sometimes when they’re in the company of boys, particularly boys they might like.
There are problems with test scores, problems with graduation rates compared to other districts.
Actually our graduation rate is up and it has been increasing steadily. So when we say problems, I think when you see movement in a forward direction and a trajectory upward, I wouldn’t say that there are problems. But is there work to be done? Certainly. Our goal is 100 percent graduation.

You’re confronting this proposal that’s coming, to enroll half the students in charter schools in eight years. You said, ‘’I’m not for or against the plan, I’m about LA Unified’s plan.’’ But that proposal could affect LA Unified’s plans.

It could, and that’s why as I said before I’m not about either/or. I don’t support anything that says, This is the way, this is the only way, because I don’t believe there is such a thing, that you can say if you just do X, this is what will happen, this is the best thing. I again feel that it’s important to have a variety of possibilities.

And so I don’t feel it’s right to promote something like that because I don’t want parents to believe, If I just go here then this is the silver bullet that will solve all of the ills and the problems.
We know that, like all schools, there are really outstanding charters and there are some that need a lot of work. There are outstanding traditional schools and some that need some work.

The goal of making all the graduates eligible for admission to state colleges -- there are a lot of good and important jobs in society that aren’t college jobs. So why do you think that goal is important?

It’s about making sure that students, when they leave LAUSD, have the choice to go to a Cal State or a UC if they select to apply to them or go to a career. But it’s not okay, I don’t believe, to put them on a track where once they get to the time for graduation in the 12th grade, that that option’s not available to them if they so choose.

You know, teenagers change their mind every day, almost, and so in ninth grade I might not want to go, [but] in eleventh grade I might decide, Hey, I want to do this.
Such a range of students in LAUSD: kids who have just arrived from Central America who may not even speak Spanish, kids who come from homes where they don’t know their colors or their numbers, and don’t have clothes to wear, versus kids in the West Valley who are very well off. One size fits all doesn’t work for that.

That’s a significant piece that it’s not a one size fits all. I believe in a decentralization and really empowering school sites for school site decision making and designing and creating what works best for the community just for that reason. And so what might work in the West Valley might not work at a Hawkins [high school in South LA] or an LA High. You really have to go in and understand the culture and the stakeholders in a community, and then build the program that works best for them.

Does that address questions of breaking up the district because it’s simply too big?

I don’t agree that it’s too big. Maybe it’s because I have been in this district and it’s served me well and served certainly my children well. And small doesn’t necessarily mean it works better.

You’ve been an LAUSD parent, LAUSD teacher – what are the most profound differences from those days to now?

What I remember most as a student, I had choices like electives in school.

And so when I was in junior high, I remember I took cooking, and I remember I took some other things –painting, I think, things that were interesting, of interest to me. But over the years, with budget reductions being one and the need to try to put in many intervention programs, those started to disappear to the point where students didn’t have opportunities for those types of choices any more. That’s a big shift that I see that happened.

In addition to some of the extracurricular opportunities, I remember a plethora of clubs that would happen when I was there – activities. We have some at some schools, but not like it was for my memory when I was growing up. So I think we want to certainly and -- as I talk to the students, that’s something we need to recapture, because that’s what made school, school for kids. It engaged them, made them want to come, made them want to be involved, and I think it helped to create a more well-rounded individual. So the academic piece is important, but I think so is the other social, emotional, extracurricular pieces because I think they also contribute to your education as a student.


Howard Blume
Feb 9, 2016  ::  Caprice Young thought the worst was behind her, that her group's charter schools would be free to grow after straightening out the poor financial record-keeping that prompted a recent state audit.

She was wrong.

The school district still found fault with her organization's petitions to open new campuses. District officials told her to expect rejection.

Young's group, Magnolia Public Schools, eventually abandoned the effort.

 Her experience is becoming more common as the Los Angeles Unified School District's administrators and board of education become increasingly resistant to greenlighting new charter schools.

Charter supporters say the district is unfairly scrutinizing their independently run campuses because it sees them as a threat.
At Tuesday's board meeting, members are poised to reject two new charters — this in addition to the three charter petitions that Young withdrew from consideration.

Since July 1, L.A. Unified has denied six petitions and approved five others, according to figures from the California Charter Schools Assn.

That's less than a 50% approval rate. Two years ago it was 89% and last year it was 77%, according to the association.

In a letter emailed to the board Monday, leaders of charter groups accused the district of obstructing their efforts to improve public education:

"We are concerned that this district is looking for reasons to prevent new charter schools from opening, even those proposed by the most respected, successful charter operators. Issues that in the past were seen as minor or correctable are now elevated to significant issues that somehow warrant denial."
Twenty-one charter organizations, enrolling 56,000 students, signed the letter, which continued:
"Given the measurable drop in approvals for new petitions, the inconsistent and non-transparent review processes, and the backroom pressure to abandon our efforts to grow, we all feel it is appropriate to bring these concerns into the light of day."

The school district has not analyzed its approval rate, said Jose Cole-Gutierrez, head of the charter-school division, and he denied any wrongdoing or change in policy.

"The process has remained the same, and the findings are there for the board and the public to review," he said. "Our office continues to be focused on quality for students and putting students first."

Charters' rapid growth — to about 101,000 students in L.A. — is responsible for about half of a precipitous drop in district enrollment and the funding that comes with it.

Charter operators said that families who want to take advantage of charters should not be thwarted. The charter association also points to regulations indicating that charters can't be blocked because of harm to the district budget.

The issue with Magnolia included problems with signatures on the petition and under-enrollment at some of its 11 campuses, Cole-Gutierriez said.

It also may be noteworthy that Magnolia is the subject of a long-running review by the district's inspector general. No allegations of significant wrongdoing have emerged.

For Young, the justifications sound more like excuses.

"Despite bending over backward to answer all of their questions, they were going to turn down our charters," said Young, who signed the letter.

Another charter group facing a thumbs down for new petitions Tuesday is Partnerships to Uplift Communities. It was co-founded by recently elected school board member Ref Rodriguez, who is expected to recuse himself from issues involving his former schools.

Partnerships to Uplift Communities' petitions have sailed through in the past, but its handling of food contracts has been under district investigation.

"It appears that the emerging new policy may be that you get no new charters if your existing charters have any problems," said one district insider who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Another charter group, Ingenium Schools, is being threatened with revocation of its authority to operate three of its campuses, based on construction work that allegedly posed a safety risk to students.

CAVEAT/ LA Times Editor's note: Education Matters receives funding from a number of foundations, including one mentioned in this article. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles administer grants from the Baxter Family Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the California Endowment and the Wasserman Foundation. Under terms of the grants, The Times retains complete control over editorial content.


Advocates say LAUSD unduly scrutinizing charter applications

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February 09, 06:53 PM  ::  Tuesday’s Los Angeles Unified school board meeting was like most others: a batch of charter school applications were up for renewal and approval.

But on this day, charter school advocates said, L.A. Unified’s administrators had shifted previous support for the independent campuses and are now giving undue scrutiny to several petitions.

“We are seeing an unprecedented uptick in the recommendation of denials of charter schools,” said Sarah Angel, the managing director of advocacy for the California Charter Schools Association.

She said the school board approved 89 percent of the charter school petitions it received in 2013, while this year, that rate has been cut in half.

Angel argues that the shift came last year after a plan to double the number of charter schools in L.A. became public.

Tuesday’s school board agenda included seven charter school petitions. Staff recommended three of them be denied. The denial recommendations included concerns about academics and financial resources.

Angel said the best example of a charter petition L.A. Unified got wrong is the renewal of the 10-year-old Excel Charter Academy.

“We’re one of the best options around our community and we have a big waiting list,” said Apolo Trujillo, whose two sons attended the school. “We have built a reputation because students want to go to our school. We have a very strong academic program.”

In documents submitted to the L.A. Unified school board staff criticized Excel’s academic performance in recent years, citing large decreases in academic performance among most students. API scores for Latino students fell by 75 points in 2013.

Trujillo is also a math teacher at the school. Like many schools, Trujillo said, the shift to more critical thinking learning standards contributed to the drop. The school, he said, is trying to help students overcome the challenges of home.

“We work in a community that’s one of the lowest income communities around,” Trujillo said.
Excel won renewal of its charter for five years after a 3-3 vote by school board members. Denial of the charter renewal required four votes, according to school board rules.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of L.A. Unified’s teachers union, says the charter school approval process has been too lax in recent years. He urged the school board to be more selective.

“California has one of the most lax, generous structures of law for charter schools so it’s hardly that there is a microscope on charter schools," he said. "There hasn’t been enough regulation on charter schools."


by Mike Szymanski | LA School Report | 

Posted on February 9, 2016 9:29 pm  ::  In dual votes Tuesday about a long-vacant school in the west San Fernando Valley, the LA Unified school board halted a charter school that was previously proposed for the site and instead allowed a district school to pursue it.

The school board gave a unanimous thumbs-up for Hale Charter Academy to pursue a proposal to develop a performing arts school on the campus of Highlander Elementary School in West Hills. Hale Charter Academy, named after the astronomer George Ellery Hale, is now 6th through 8th grades in Woodland Hills. The expansion, which would be called Hale Charter Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, would go through high school graduation and continue into two college level grades (grade 14), allowing for an Associate in Arts degree.

Then, in a cliff-hanger vote an hour later, the board voted 4-3 against allowing an El Camino Real Alliance charter school to be built at the site after the charter held some meetings with the Woodland Hills community over the past year to replace Highlander, which had been vacant for three decades.

It’s an area of the LAUSD district where students have few options to attend a public high school and many move to private schools or charter schools, according to district staff.

Vivian Ekchian, Local District Northwest superintendent

“I am puzzled with the misperceptions about this plan, but I’m thrilled that we will be able to expand the arts and other wonderful programs already going on at Hale,” said Vivian Ekchian, the local district northwest superintendent for LAUSD, after the first vote was taken authorizing an estimated $500,000 for Hale to pursue the expansion. She was instrumental in clearing up some of the issues to the school board about the district school’s expansion. She said that the plan for expanding into the space was discussed for nearly a decade.

The Highlander school site was a rundown encampment for homeless for decades, and El Camino Real Alliance offered to build a charter school there for 550 students in grades kindergarten through 8th. But that plan was delayed in October when school board member Scott Schmerelson pointed out that there were plans for the same site for a public school that would keep the students under the LAUSD funding umbrella.

It would also ensure that the teachers at the school would fall under the LA Unified union contract. In an unusual move, four labor leaders on Tuesday spoke in favor of the Hale Charter expansion during their own reports to the board.

“It is a well-rounded curriculum that serves the community needs, we urge you support it,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. After the vote, he said he was happy with the decision.

The president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, Juan Flecha, who represents principals and administrators, said he previously worked in the area and said, “This is a definite need, and it’s an innovative and exciting project forward.”

Jackie Keen, a community volunteer on the El Camino board and resident near the Highlander site, said, “You can approve the charter school and let’s work together.” She, and the representatives of El Camino, were voted down.

The vote wasn’t for a complete commitment to the charter school at the site, but when the board was asked to approve it, only Monica Garcia, Ref Rodriguez and Monica Ratliff voted for it. Ultimately, school board president Steve Zimmer, George McKenna, Richard Vladovic and Schmerelson voted against it.

“I’m concerned about the process,” Garcia said before the vote. “In October, the response around what to do with Highlander was mostly that we were told we do not have money to operate that site. What’s not here is how we’re going to pay for this.”

Vacant Highlander ES campus - from Google Maps
LAUSD facilities director Mark Hovatter said that no promises were made to the charter school applicant and made it clear that its proposal could be canceled at any time. He did also point out that if a school is planned for the site, its funding will have to come from some other projects that are already planned by the district.

Ratliff said, “I’m a fan of being as transparent and straightforward as possible,” but she said before the vote against the charter organization, “I would wonder why they would ever want to work with us again.”

Students, parents and teachers from Hale spoke about its successes, as did new principal Chris Perdigao, where there are 2,000 6th through 8th graders. He said the school has a 400-pupil waiting list for their performing arts program. Teachers talked about the school’s jazz band, mariachi band, cheerleaders and dance and acting performances and how they are sharing their work with the community.

Hale teacher Hank Amigo talked about writing plays for students and raising money from the community to help with programs. He recently had 563 students audition for 22 spots in a show. He now also teaches an early morning class where he said 150 students come to dance.

Rodriguez, who previously co-founded charter schools, said, “I’m impressed that the community is galvanized for the plan. I’m concerned where the money is going to come from.”

Zimmer added, “We need to grow enrollment in the district and this is a creative way, and it can permeate the entire district.”


From the office of the California Attorney General: INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM QUALIFICATION STATUS AS OF FEBRUARY 8, 2016

Posted: 08 Feb 2016 04:20 PM PST

Initiatives and Referenda Cleared for Circulation

1774. (15-0114A1)
Elimination of Charter Schools. Initiative Statute.
Summary Date: 02/08/16 | Circulation Deadline: 08/08/16 | Signatures Required: 365,880
contact: Diana Mansker (916) 391-3384

Repeals laws governing charter schools effective July 1, 2017. Requires charter schools to convert to traditional public schools or close, at local school districts’ discretion. Requires charter schools to return all unencumbered public funds to the state and to transfer all real property purchased with public funds to their local school districts. Authorizes state audits of school assets. Provides penalties for violations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: About $5 billion in state funding and operational costs would shift from charter schools to school districts. Ongoing facility costs also would shift from charter schools to school districts, with the exact effect depending upon the decisions made by state policymakers and districts. Transition costs totaling hundreds of millions of dollars statewide for school districts to dispose of charter school property, recruit and train staff, replace textbooks, determine appropriate instructional placements for incoming students, and repurpose facilities. (15-0114.) (Full Text)