Tuesday, November 18, 2008

California Education Cuts

A million dollars here, a million dollars there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.
We know that California faces a serious budget crisis and that K-12 and higher education will face severe budget cuts.
We are shocked by the governor’s proposals to cut $31.6 million from the CSU as of Oct 20, and the cut last year of 3.1 billion from K-12 education for 2008/2009. Now the governor plans an addition k-12 budget cut of over $ 2.1 Billion. California can not accept such an abandonment of its educational infrastructure. . We still consider ourselves bound by the promise of the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, and these cuts would break that promise.

It is a mystery to me why is the Governor and the legislature not looking for reasonable budget cuts rather than cutting education and health care.
Last year the Governor added $ 10 million to the CSU budget to pay for a Teacher Performance Assessment program (TPA). The TPA and/or PACT is a poorly designed, redundant and invalid process for assessing the quality of teacher credential candidates. The supporters of TPA seek to fix a problem that does not exist.

Background:
SB 2042, in 2000, required a major revision of teacher preparation in California based upon a new set of state standards and a set of teacher performance expectations (TPEs) . The universities have responded by revising their programs. In 2042 The legislature created a system where the state must continually train new teachers to replace those driven out by inadequate working conditions. One element of 2042 required the development of high stakes performance assessment of California teachers (TPA) based upon the teacher performance expectations (TPE) to be developed by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
The problems with this are several. There is no evidence that TPAs are valid measures of good teaching. To the contrary, our experience tells us that one-time all-or-nothing tests like the TPA are among the poorest possible ways to predict the likelihood that a test-taker will be an excellent California teacher. Beyond this overwhelming substantive concern about the damage to teacher education, we must also point out that the implementation of TPA assessment was initially contingent upon state funding. But SB 1209 in 2006 removed the funding requirement and required implementation of the TPA throughout the CSU effective July 1, 2008, imposing a new low quality accountability system on teacher preparation programs in addition to the performance assessments currently in place, without providing the funding needed to pay for the new program.
In the May revise the Governor added $91 million to the CSU budget and asserted that $10 million was for TPA. There was no controlling legislative language.
Thus the legislature and CTC have imposed an expensive, redundant accountability system – one the state cannot afford in its current budget crisis. Not that we want the TPA program funded -- it would be a gross injustice to add funding for performance assessment into the budget when our schools are having to increase class sizes, lay off teachers, reduce career technical education, cancel transportation, and delay long needed school reforms.

In place of the current system of on-site supervision of student teachers, future teachers would be measured ultimately on how well they produce a twenty minute video tape of a classroom; not at all an authentic assessment of teaching performance.
CSU Campuses who have tried early pilot versions of this system –TPA and PACT- have found that the system angers and frustrates teachers and our students, and limits the quality of the credential process and therefore is likely to discourage many potential candidates from entering a credential program.
It is frustrating to try to understand why TPA and PACT have not been cut from the budget to save money for essentials. Last year Senator Jack Scott was the primary supporter of TPA, and few wished to offend this powerful senator. But, now he is termed out. Several of his education staff remain on the education committee and they are clearly committed to TPA.
Is it just that the bureaucracy can not admit that it was wrong? Or, since the CSU is preparing to pass the costs along to the student, they think that it is off their budget. But, that is clearly a tax on future teachers. If any reader can explain this lack of interest in saving budget money, please let me know.

Duane Campbell
Sacramento
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