Up (or Down?) and Out in California

By Stephen Sawchuk — August 12, 2008 1 min read
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California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing just announced that there are more than 11,000 out-of-field English-language-learner instructors in the state. That’s an increase of 800 percent since the commission’s last review, when the state reported only 1,450 out-of-field teachers for those students. (UPDATE -- A commenter below pointed out that the percentage increase is much higher than the figure listed in the report. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t cover math education.)

The data cover the years 2003 to 2007; the previous review covered 1999 to 2003.

Commission officials, though, said the larger number does not necessarily reflect an increase in the number of out-of-field teachers over those years, merely better data-reporting instituted in the wake of the 2004 settlement in the Williams v. State of California educational-adequacy lawsuit. (You can read more about the settlement’s effects here .)

“The significant rise in numbers for this report cycle is a result of more rigorous monitoring conducted by county offices of education,” commission officials stated.

This reminds me a little bit of one of the problems with our data-driven school environments: As data-quality and data-reporting procedures improve, the picture in question often looks even grimmer (or better) than ever (consider states’ “highly qualified teacher” counts, for instance). It can, therefore, be hard to isolate improvements in state practices.

But in 2005, California began reporting annual data on teacher qualifications of certified employees in schools that score poorly on the state accountability model. The report finds a substantial decrease in misassignments after a year.

So, does that mean things are actually getting better? What do you think?

You can find the full report here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.