Monday, February 12, 2007

California legislative meddling and pandering

About each decade someone in the legislature decides to re-write the rules for teacher preparation. They write in response to a view that teacher preparation programs need revision and that they will not change without outside pressure. In the case of SB 2042 (2000) and SB 1209 (2006) the California legislature has mandated a precisely controlled curriculum for colleges and universities. They have the power to re-write programs because the programs lead to a state credential (license). The state’s right to issue credentials gives them the power to control the teacher preparation curriculum.
In the case of SB 2042 (2000) and SB 1209 (2006) the California legislature has mandated a precisely controlled curriculum for colleges and universities. ( See prior posts)
Note that the legislature does not yet mandate such curriculum in other fields, such as history, sociology, chemistry, etc.
The legislature and staff members presume to know what is best for teacher preparation with little consultation with professionals in the field. And, they have made major destructive errors.
Part of the problem seems to be the presumption of the legislative staff that they can make these decisions. Of course they are aided by advocacy groups, including education professionals who want to advance an idea, a program, and/or their personal careers. For example, less contested items of both 2042 and 1209 were supported by advocates of BITSA, the beginning teacher support system and by advocates of conservative school control ( Emory, 2004). This allows legislators and staff to get testimony on their side for interventions into the curriculum of higher education institutions.
To some degree then teacher preparation is being treated as an troubled step child of the university. The legislature will intervene here while not intervening in other academic fields. And, the governor has an large bureaucracy to assist with this intervention in the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Once established, the pattern of legislative meddling is likely to grow. By extension the current legislation could well be interpreted to say that the academic preparation of future teachers (usually the B.A.) will cover the standards for the disciplines as developed by the California State Dept. of Education. You can argue from the current law that all teachers must take a U.S. history course or courses which cover the material in the California K -12 standards for history and government classes covering precisely the k-12 government standards. In fact people are already making this argument. And similar arguments are being made by Margaret Spelling, the Secretary of Education, on a national level.
These legislative interventions in the university curriculum may well be the proverbial camel with his nose under the tent.
With reflection upon this specific intervention we, the faculty, made a strategic error which we should recognize as we go forward. We were recruited into an extensive process of developing curriculum and an assessment model (PACT) in response to the state intervention and the “leadership” of private and elite universities. This took hundreds of hours of time. We could have instead spent our time more effectively developing a political resistance to the legislative/bureaucratic intervention.
Although the political power of the neo conservatives in politics has eclipsed as a result of the 2006 elections, the persons whom they placed in administrative and policy positions remain well entrenched. There will be additional interventions. If you read the statements of Margaret Spelling on higher education you can see the outlines of what is coming.
Our experience with SB 1209 and SB 2042 teach me that we need to intervene politically at an earlier stage. Early interventions require an improved policy development and monitoring apparatus and the development of legislative skills among faculty. Here is an example of developing new legislative/policy vehicles.
Duane Campbell
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