Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Legislative meddling and teacher preparation


California State Senate

Dear Senator X,

We are faculty in teacher preparation in State Universities in California with over 40 years of experience between us. In our professional work we have focused on issues of democracy, race and class, and we have worked to prepare language minority students and students of color for careers in teaching.
In the last three years we have seen our credential programs deteriorate as we responded to the mandates of Senate Bill 2042 which require all teacher credential candidates to engage in teacher performance assessments (TPA) that claim to assess whether teachers have in fact achieved state designed and mandated teacher performance expectations (TPE s). Few teacher educators believe that the TPA process in any of its various forms will actually improve the quality of teachers and contribute to closing the achievement gap, but most teacher educators are too overwhelmed with adjusting their curriculum and program to conform to the state demands to resist.
The 1998 legislation SB 2042 became an opportunity for persons working with the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing , including Alan Bersin and Margaret Fortune, to advance an accountability model of reform (SB2042, 2000). These two opinion shapers did not write the legislation. They were advocates and leaders in parallel parts of the conservative “school reform” movement. They have never been teachers and have never completed a teacher preparation program, yet they have vigorously asserted an business/corporate model of teacher preparation and they both advocate “alternative” routes to teacher credentialing. Like many advocates of the corporate/testing model these two opinion shapers had not, in fact, worked in corporations. Their prior work was government sponsored positions where they talked about corporate decision making.
In 2006 an omnibus Education bill SB 1209 was passed by the legislature with a long list of provisions, two of which are very troubling. SB 1209 includes a the mandate for Colleges of Education in the state to move forward with performance assessment of future teachers without additional funding to perform this required assessment. The focus in the hearing on SB 1209 was a number of other provisions designed to increase the number of teachers in California. The Governor’s office was a central player in bringing this bill together.
SB 1209 mandates the implementation of one part of SB 2042 (2000). The Legislative mandates of SB 2042 Standards for Program Quality Effectiveness in teacher preparation became an opportunity for persons working with the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing to reform credential programs in California without funding. As part of the recent SB 1209 mandates, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing has required that all teacher education programs implement Teacher Performance Assessments for credentialing candidates (TPA) by July, 2008.
The Teaching Performance Assessments (TPAs) of SB 2042 and SB 1209 are based on reductive, corporate-driven teacher performance expectations (TPEs). They are even more simplistic and rigid than prior expectations. TPEs requires that teacher preparation become the development of lower-level teaching skills needed to teach the scripted curriculum promoted by the high stakes tests required under No Child Left Behind. I have a longer paper on this problem if you are interested.
With the TPA system of CTC, teacher education programs and teacher educators are going through contortions trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to comply with an ill-conceived and misguided state law.
There are a number of ideologically conservative groups who mis use education research to promote their own ideologies, charter schools and usually keep their taxes low. They have gained a major step forward in the unfunded mandates of SB 1209. This provision of SB 1209 was presented to the legislature as a way to increase the number of teachers in California. It will, in fact, decrease the number. And, it is driving many professors out of teacher preparation.
This process of manipulated legislative mandates 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) as well as my own book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education (2004).

I would like to talk with you about these problems. As an intermediate process,we should repeal provisions 5 & 12 of SB 1209 which imposed an unfunded mandate on teacher preparation in California.
( Your name and address)

Duane Campbell
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