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Teachers-To-Be: Efforts to Upgrade Their Training Continue

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Sacramento--An advisory committee to the trustees of the 19-campus California State University system has recommended that the system--the nation's leading producer of teachers--substantially tighten its standards for the selection and training of candidates for the profession.

The report of the 18-member advisory committee to W. Ann Reynolds, chancellor of the California State University (csu) system, calls for more rigorous admissions requirements for teacher-education programs, for requirements that students demonstrate competence in college-level ''basic skills" upon completion of the programs, and for the establishment of a re-certification system for teachers based on graduate work.

The csu system trains the majority of teachers and administrators in California schools and about one of every 12 teachers in the nation, according to the committee. In the last six years, csu campuses have recommended nearly 80,000 men and women for teaching credentials and awarded almost 20,000 master's degrees.

The advisory panel, appointed by Ms. Reynolds's predecessor, Glenn S. Dumke, included 18 faculty members and administrators from various institutions within the csu system. Members were drawn from education as well as other disciplines.

Before preparing its report, the committee interviewed over a two-year period more than 400 csu faculty members, administrators, and students, as well as 250 public-school teachers, administrators, and representatives from educational agencies.

It recommended that students admitted to the professional-education programs on csu campuses be in the upper half of the undergraduate population on each campus.

In addition, students would be required to demonstrate prior to their admission to the programs "appropriate competency" in the subject they would be preparing to teach as well as college-level proficiency in written and oral communication, mathematical computation and reasoning, and reading.

Each csu campus would establish standards to assure that students completing its teacher-education programs "are competent to teach both basic skills and higher- level cognitive processes [problem solving, critical thinking, and effective communication] as appropriate to the age and intellectual maturity of the children being taught."

The advisory committee's report--"Excellence in Professional Education,"--also recommends that the evaluation of students "be made a continuing part of all teacher-education programs, with grades for coursework considered as only one aspect of a comprehensive system of appraisal."

"The system should begin," the report states, "with rigorous initial screening, followed by systematic evaluation during the program, and culminating in rigorous evaluation prior to exit."

The advisory committee also urged that beginning teachers be issued a "provisional" credential if they have completed studies at regionally accredited institutions of higher education. In order to obtain a ''full professional" credential, they would need to complete successfully "a minimum of two years of full-time teaching or its equivalent and a structured inservice program consisting of a minimum of 18 semester units of college-level coursework or its equivalent within 5 years of receiving the most recent provisional credential."

The full professional credential would be renewed every five years if the teachers successfully completed a specified amount of inservice education. These licensing provisions, which would necessitate changes in state law, are similar to those adopted by a number of states in recent years.

Currently, the majority of California's beginning teachers complete an additional year of teacher-training courses in college after earning their bachelor's degree and receive a "clear" credential before stepping into their own classrooms. Upon completion of two years of successful teaching, they are issued a "life" credential. There is no continuing-education requirement for holders of life credentials.

The committee's major recommendations also included these:

Added to the foundation that teacher candidates now receive in general education, in their major field, and in professional education would be a new component--"preprofessional" studies focusing on human development, human learning, and American society and its institutions.

csu officials would be urged to "convey to appropriate agencies and to the public the relationship between the talent pool of prospective teachers and teacher salaries" and the push for federal and state merit-based fellowships to attract the most capable students into teacher education.

"Given the multi-ethnic school population in California, the csu shall make special effort to establish and then maintain appropriate ethnic diversity among students and faculty in programs in education."

Recent Poor Performance

The committee's recommendations follow the recent poor performance of students at some csu campuses on a new basic-academic-skills test required of all California teacher candidates.

In the first statewide administration of the test, the passing rate varied--from 57 percent among full-time teachers seeking a new credential, to 58 percent among substitute teachers, to 71 percent among teacher candidates still in college, to 75 percent for educators looking for an administrative credential.

Scores generally were lowest in college-level mathematical reasoning, higher in reading comprehension, and highest in English composition.

The percentage of education students at csu campuses who passed the test ranged from a low of 31 percent at Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles County, to a high of 77 percent at Sonoma State University.

Among the eight general campuses of the University of California, the percentage of students passing the test ranged from 75 percent at the University of California at Los Angeles to 91 percent at the University of California at Davis.

No significant differences in performance on the test emerged among students who had received bachelor's degrees from California universities and those who had graduated from universities outside of California. The passing rates were 66 percent for out-of-state students, and 67 percent for instate students.

The advisory group's report has already drawn the support of the csu board of trustees, which will be asked in May to consider a policy that incorporates many of its recommendations.

The state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the csu Academic Senate, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bill Honig, also have endorsed the committee's recommendations.

Homer M. Johnson, dean of the school of education at csu-Fresno Fresno and president of a statewide organization of csu education deans, said they all considered the report "extremely important" and strongly supported it.

The committee's proposals for changing the state's teacher-licensing regulations are similar to those made in a bill that was defeated in the state legislature last year. The legislation was supported by all segments of public education in the state except the California Teacher's Association (cta), the state's largest teachers' union. Opposition from the 150,000-member group defeated the measure.

However, Ralph Flynn, executive director of the cta, said that the organization has been reconsidering its stand.

"Our position is that we recognize that there is a climate for change," Mr. Flynn said. "If we're going to get increased funding for schools, which they desperately need, we've got to accommodate some changes."

He suggested that the cta was willing to consider inservice education as a condition for license renewal.

"The key to that is what constitutes acceptable inservice education," Mr. Flynn said. "If what is contemplated is a string of Mickey Mouse courses, then we're going to be violently opposed. Or if it were left for local school boards arbitrarily to set standards, we'd be opposed also."

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