Credentialing body’s new focusDarling-Hammond discusses her ideas
Last summer, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Stanford University School of Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond to what the state auditor called one of the state’s worst-run agencies, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Now, as the newly elected CTC vice chair, Darling-Hammond, a national authority on preparing new teachers, shared her thoughts on how the Commission should view its role as overseer of the state’s teacher training programs.
Start, she said in a video interview, by identifying “high quality, intellectually rigorous, and exciting” credentialing programs in California (UC Berkeley, Cal State Long Beach and Northridge, and, of course, Stanford, to name a few) and then requiring weaker programs to rise to their level of excellence. The state lacks uniform standards, she said, particularly in the area of the length of time teachers must do practice teaching under the eyes of master teachers. (Go here for a transcript of the Linda Darling-Hammond interview.)
One way to leverage improvement is to focus on the back end – by measuring what newly licensed teachers can do. The state has pioneered the creation of teacher-performance assessment. All program graduates must demonstrate a range of skills that new teachers are expected to know: “that they can plan a curriculum, that they can adapt that curriculum for English learners, special-education students; that they can be videotaped teaching; that they collect evidence of student learning and can demonstrate how their students are learning, and analyze what to do next.”
The requirement that new teachers show what they know is already forcing schools of education to take a hard look at what they do; it’s leading to “very productive, very high-quality innovation and reform.” The next steps, she said, are to standardize the scoring of the assessments and to use the data from them in program accreditation.
Over the long term, she said, the state should consider using gains in student achievement as a measure of teacher training programs. This is an intensely controversial area, and Darling-Hammond joins those critical of using student test results to evaluate individual teachers.
“We have seen that looking at the student results for individual teachers is much more problematic, much more error-prone, very unstable,” she said. But using aggregate data “across a number of graduates over time, you can get some potentially useful information” about programs, she said.
CTC, schools of ed under fire
Darling-Hammond was elected vice chair last month, four months after Brown nominated her to a four-year term. She will serve with newly elected chairman Charles Gahagan, an English teacher for 40 years at Moreno Valley’s Canyon Springs High School. His term expires in November.
They will lead a troubled agency that has undergone a turnover in administration following revelations that the Commission had failed to quickly investigate complaints of misconduct and follow up on criminal charges against teachers. Policing of the profession is one of the CTC’s responsibilities.
Schools of education have faced increasing criticism nationwide for failing to adequately train teachers. In September, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan called for holding programs more accountable, with more reporting requirements for the federal money they receive, so the CTC faces urgency in focusing its attention on California programs.
In response to budget cuts and teacher layoffs, fewer college graduates are pursing teaching as a career, with the number of new credentialed teachers falling 40 percent since 2003, according to a recent report from the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd.
But Darling-Hammond said that there remains a shortage of well-prepared science, math, and special education teachers in high-needs areas with lower salaries and poorer working conditions. The state and the Commission should turn special attention and focus limited resources there. One way is through year-long residency programs, placing aspiring teachers and principals under the tutelage of skilled practitioners. Districts like San Francisco Unified and the charter organization Aspire Public Schools have set up residency programs, which should be encouraged, Darling-Hammond said.
Such programs will help attract high-ability teaching candidates to the profession, and better trained teachers will find the work more satisfying. That will help with teacher retention in the long run.
“If we get programs that people want to be in because they are intellectually exciting, and help them be successful with kids, they will also stay,” she said.