Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Meddling, pandering and muddling in California Teacher preparation

The recent history of “school reform” efforts clearly reveals that legislatures at both the state and federal level can be a tool for change or as a tool for meddling, pandering, and muddling. (http://nochildleft.com/2006/aug06pandering.html) A small , united group of people can advance their personal careers by pushing an over simplified reform strategies but the problems which they create may extend far beyond the original intentions or understandings. Moving the legislature is particularly easy since legislators and their staff seek headlines and are so busy with other tasks. Selling a “reform” to the legislature is easy if your package your “reform” as a scientific process. Legislators seldom scrutinize the claim that a proposed “reform” is backed by scientific research. The abuse of claims of scientific research has been well documented in California described in Cornbleth and Waugh, “The Great Speckled Bird: Multicultural Politics and Education Policymaking. “ (1995) and in Taylor, “Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science; The Political Campaign to Change America’s Mind about How Children Learn to Read. (1998).

School achievement has –at best-been stagnant for the last twenty five years. The achievement gap between mostly middle class and white students and the growing working class Latino and Black student populations, whether measured by test scores, drop out rates, or college attendance narrowed slightly in the early 1980’s, and has begun to widen to pre ESEA levels.
School improvement is important to parents and other voters. As a consequence legislators often look for education bills as a mechanism for “ making a difference.”
One choice would be to provide adequate funding for public schools, particularly those serving low income areas. However the adequate funding approach would cost money and perhaps raise taxes.

When politicians don’t know what to do, or when the obvious solutions cost money, they often blame teachers for the problems of the society. As teacher unions mobilized to defend their members, a focus shifted to criticism of teacher preparation programs
The blame the teacher preparation program approach was organized and mobilized by advocacy groups working with and within the Commission on Teacher Preparation. They offered a (false) solution to the problem of stagnate achievement by seeking to redesign teacher preparation.
In 1998 the California Legislature passed SB 2042, which restructured and re designed the teacher credentialing process. In September of 2001, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) adopted Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Professional Teacher Education Programs. The law and the standards changed the requirements for earning a Preliminary teaching credential, adding passage of a teaching performance assessment to measure the teacher candidate’s knowledge and skill with respect to the Commission’s adopted Teaching Performance Expectations (TPE). The California legislature passed SB 1209, an omnibus bill of several measures, in July 2006 that among other provisions mandated implementation of the teacher performance assessment system in all credential programs as of July 1,2008.
The legislature comes back to work next week. Lets see what they do this year.
Duane Campbell
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