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Bilingual-Ed. Advocates Lambaste New Calif. Credentialing Measure

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A new California law that allows some teachers with lesser credentials to teach limited-English-proficient students has drawn sharp criticism from bilingual-education advocates.

Gov. Pete Wilson recently signed the bill, which was sponsored by the powerful California Teachers Association, over the objections of such groups as the California Association for Bilingual Education and the California School Boards Association.

California's 1.2 million L.E.P. students make up about a quarter of the state's enrollment.

Groups such as CABE charge that the law undermines a new credentialing system for teachers of L.E.P. students and serves to protect veteran teachers who are not interested in certification.

Union officials said that the new system, which would have required many teachers of L.E.P. students to obtain special credentials, would have exacerbated a shortage of teachers for L.E.P. students, because teachers without the certification would be transferred to other classrooms or lose their jobs.

The c.t.a. estimates that about 50,000 teachers who hold only a basic teaching certificate are now teaching L.E.P. students.

The state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing started developing the new certification system in 1990. It requires that many teachers of L.E.P. students--not just those in bilingual classrooms--earn a crosscultural language and academic development certificate, popularly known as a clad certificate. Because the law authorizing the new system was not specific, educators are still debating which teachers it applies to, and there is no set deadline for obtaining the certificate.

Removing Incentives

Teacher education programs across the state have used the clad program since 1992, and an exam for veteran teachers is to be available by spring. Many districts have already invested time and money in training their teachers to earn clad certificates.

Approximately 180 hours of training covers second-language-acquisition theories, English-language-development techniques, and multicultural education.

However, the new law would allow teachers with at least nine years of classroom experience and experience in teaching L.E.P. students to gain an alternative credential after only 45 hours of professional-development instruction. Teachers with fewer than nine years of classroom experience or with no experience in teaching L.E.P. students would need 90 hours of training.

Training standards would be set by the commission and the state education department. Teachers who have begun the professional-development training can be assigned to teach L.E.P. students.

Although teachers could apply credits earned in professional-development courses toward the requirements for a clad certificate--and the legislation calls on districts to make "reasonable efforts" to hire teachers with the clad certification--many observers said there would be little incentive to earn the certificate or to require it of teachers.

"At the bargaining table, teachers with more experience will be able to say that they don't need the clad," said Sal Villase¤or, a legislative advocate for the C.S.B.A.

At the same time that he signed the certification law, Mr. Wilson further angered advocates for L.E.P. students by vetoing a bilingual-education bill that would have restored, in modified form, a state law that expired in 1987. Since then, districts have followed less explicit federal rules.

This is the second time Mr. Wilson has vetoed such legislation, which he said does not give districts enough flexibility. (See Education Week, Oct. 14, 1994.)

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