Report calls for more teacher training, limiting use of test scores - California's Greatness by Design

Report calls for more teacher training, limiting use of test scores

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The state needs to focus on recruiting, educating and retaining teachers if it wants to improve student academic performance, a state task force has concluded. Recent budget cuts, however, have pushed the state in the opposite direction, according to the task force's report, which was released Monday.

The advisory task force, which was brought together by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, also rejected making any link between students' standardized test scores and teachers' performance evaluations.

The Task Force on Educator Excellence included researchers, academics, elected officials, district officials, labor leaders, parents, teachers and principals.

The 90-page report repeatedly returned to the theme that teachers need better support and training from the beginning to the end of their careers. Such a focus would make them more effective and more likely to remain in a profession in which high turnover wastes money and hinders student learning, participants concluded.

The report also noted inequalities among school districts:

“Low-salary districts serve disproportionately high numbers of minority students and more than twice as many new English learners. These districts also have class sizes that are, on average, about 20% larger than those in high-salary districts, signaling that they also provide poorer working conditions. Furthermore, in both high-minority and high-poverty districts, there are much greater proportions of newly hired, inexperienced and uncredentialed teachers."


The task force suggested that new laws ensure that schools have “expert principals who provide support for instruction, time for collaboration and planning, collaborative leadership, reasonable class sizes, a trusting collegial environment and involvement in decision-making at the school.”

In rejecting the use of test scores for teacher evaluations, which is strongly opposed by many teachers unions, the report said studies show that such efforts produce results that “are very unreliable and often inaccurate at the individual teacher level.” But many districts, including Los Angeles Unified, are pushing to use scores as one measure to determine teacher effectiveness; the teachers union is challenging that effort in court.

The task-force chairs were Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, and Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor.

Steinhauser’s district has enjoyed relatively good relations with its teachers union; he has made no effort to link student test scores to teacher evaluations in Long Beach Unified. 

Darling-Hammond is a longtime education researcher and was among the leading candidates to become U.S. Secretary of Education at the start of the Obama administration. (The job ultimately went to Arne Duncan.)

The full report can be accessed by clicking here.

A segment of the introduction is printed below.

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

The cornerstone of American democracy is an educated citizenry capable of making rational and informed decisions . To accomplish this goal, providing a high-quality teacher in every classroom and effective education leaders in our public school systems is imperative .

Around the world, there is growing recognition that expert teachers and leaders are perhaps the most important resource for improving student learning, and that the highest-achieving nations make substantial investments in teacher quality . A McKinsey study of 25 of the world’s school systems, including 10 of the top performers, found that investments in teachers and teaching are central to improving student outcomes . It found that the top school systems emphasize 1)getting the right people to become teachers; 2)developing them into effective instructors; and 3)ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child .1

Nations that currently lead the world in international rankings of student achievement, such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore, attribute their success to substantial investments in teacher and school leader preparation and development . In these and other top-ranked nations, critical initiatives have taken the form of:

  • Universal high-quality teacher education, completely at government expense including a living stipend . In nations like Finland, this preparation includes at least one year of practice teaching in a model school connected to a university .

  • Mentoring for all beginners in their first years of teaching from expert teachers, coupled with a reduced teaching load and shared planning time .

  • Ongoing professional learning embedded in 15 to 25 hours a week of planning and collaboration time at school, plus an additional two to four weeks of professional learning time to attend institutes and seminars, visit other schools and classrooms, conduct action research and lesson studies and participate in school retreats .

  • Teacher leadership opportunities for expert teachers to be engaged in leading curriculum development, professional development and mentoring/coaching, and for some to be recruited and trained as principals or other school administrators in high-quality programs, also at state expense .

  • Equitable, competitive salaries (often with additional stipends offered at hard-to-staff schools) that are comparable to other professions, such as engineering .2

    By contrast, both United States federal and California state investments in teacher quality are paltry – having declined substantially since the 1970s – and they are highly unequal . As a result:

Teacher education is uneven in duration and quality . While some educators receive excellent preparation, others receive much less in terms of both quality and quantity of coursework and clinical training before they teach or step into leadership posts . Most teachers receive little financial support to prepare for an occupation that will pay them a below-market wage, and the state invests little in preparation institutions . Hence, the quality of preparation depends in part on what candidates can afford to spend and what universities are willing and able to invest . Leadership education is even more uneven in quality . In California, principals may skip preparation altogether by taking a paper-and-pencil test for a license – the only state in the nation to allow this . The least prepared teachers and school principals are typically assigned to the highest need students and schools .

Mentoring for beginners is decreasing . California once led the nation in the design and funding of beginning teacher induction through the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program . Its early successes demonstrated that attrition can be reduced and competence increased for novices who receive skillful mentoring in their first years on the job . However, these funds are no longer protected for this mission . As a result, fewer and fewer teachers receive the benefits of high-quality mentoring in the state . Novice school leaders rarely receive mentoring in California, unlike states that have developed policies to provide it .

  • Professional development time and opportunities are sorely underfunded . The 10 days per year that California once funded for professional development time have long since disappeared, and most state programs supporting professional learning for teachers and administrators have taken deep cuts over the last decade; many have disappeared altogether . California teachers, like those nationally, have little time for professional collaboration or learning – usually only about three to five hours per week of individual planning time, much less than that available to teachers in other countries for joint planning allowing them to share practices and learn from each other . School leaders typically have even fewer opportunities for ongoing professional learning .

  • Evaluation is frequently spotty and rarely designed to give teachers or administrators the feedback and support that would help them improve or provide a fair and focused way to make personnel decisions .

  • Leadership pathways are, in most districts, poorly defined and poorly supported . There are relatively few opportunities for expert teachers to share practices with their peers or to take on leadership roles . Most teachers are still isolated from each other, teaching in egg-crate classrooms and performing the same functions after 30 years as they did when they first entered . A teaching profession has not yet evolved that regularly supports the spread of expertise or enhanced compensation . Pathways to the principalship and other career options for expert teachers with leadership potential are not well-established at the state or district level .

  • Salaries are highly inequitable, with those in the most well-heeled districts paid considerably more and supported with better working conditions . This leads to a highly variable teaching force, with the poorest children with the greatest learning needs typically receiving the least well-prepared teachers . In California, at least three separate lawsuits have pointed to the problems associated with the large-scale assignment of inexperienced and underprepared teachers to minority and low-income students .

    While California has some very well-prepared and supported teachers and principals, especially in forward-looking districts, many others are underprepared and under-supported, especially in schools serving low-income students of color . Indeed, expert teachers and school principals are the most unequally distributed school resources .

    Furthermore, the knowledge teachers need to reach all students in today’s schools has increased considerably . Teachers not only need deep and flexible knowledge of the content areas they teach, they also need to know how children learn at different stages so they can build a productive curriculum that will build on students’ prior knowledge and experiences; how to adapt instruction for the needs of new English language learners and students with special needs; how to assess learning continuously so they can diagnose students’ needs and respond with effective teaching strategies; and how to work collectively with parents and colleagues to build strong school programs .

     

    California has a vibrant, diverse student population that represents families who have had roots in the Golden State for centuries and others who have more recently arrived from virtually every nation on the globe . With high rates of immigration, California also has the highest proportion of English learners (ELs) in the country .

     

     

Approximately 24 percent of California’s students are ELs who are not yet proficient in English, and an additional 12 percent are former English learners (known as Reclassified/Redesignated Fluent English Proficient or RFEP) who need educational supports to improve their English proficiency as they progress through school .

 

Many immigrant families come from poor countries with few educational or economic resources . Most students in California schools (53 percent) come from low-income families . Schools with concentrations of minority and low-income students are among the most under-resourced in the state, with fewer dollars, curriculum resources and well-qualified teachers than others, although the needs they confront are greater .

 

Within this context, expectations for learning are rising . Like most states in the nation, California has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and is participating in the development of new science standards (Next Generation Science Standards) and an ambitious new assessment system, SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) .7 The Common Core standards emphasize higher-level skills and abilities not emphasized in the previous generation of California standards, including more emphasis on writing, research and the use of evidence, careful reading of complex texts, complex problem-solving, reasoning, data management and communication . The CCSS are also interdisciplinary, stressing the use of language and mathematics skills in content disciplines, such as science, history/social studies and the arts . These changes in standards and assessment will require major changes in curriculum and instruction as well if students are to be enabled to succeed .

School principals need the knowledge and skills to facilitate this work by understanding and supporting strong instruction and supporting teacher development and ongoing improvement in practice . They must also be able to develop a learning organization with a strong collegial professional community focused on the needs of all students, to create strong relationships with parents and communities and to manage change .

The critical need for investments in teacher and principal learning has been made clear over and over again in efforts aimed at educational change . Those who have worked to improve schools have found that every aspect of school reform – the creation of more challenging curriculum, the use of more thoughtful assessments, the invention of new model schools and programs – depends on highly-skilled educators who are well supported in healthy school organizations . In the final analysis, there are no policies that can improve schools if the people in them are not armed with the knowledge and skills they need .

CALIFORNIA’S EDUCATOR WORKFORCE: CURRENT CONTEXT AND CHALLENGES

“While the road to reform may be difficult, we stand resolute that change is needed . Boosting teaching quality by better preparing, developing, and supporting teachers will improve the educational outcomes for students .”

– Bay Area New Millennium Educators

Many Ways Up, No Reason to Move Out

It is a tremendously difficult time to be an educator in California . In the midst of tight purse strings and drastic cuts to K-12 education, schools have endured increased class sizes, educator layoffs, a reduction in instructional days and a loss of much professional development .  All of these challenges have a direct impact on students’ education and learning as they affect the recruitment, retention and effectiveness of the educators who seek to serve them .

With budget cuts, the size of the K-12 teaching force in California has sharply declined since 2008, while the number of students is now on the increase and projected to grow steadily over the next decade .  Not only are there fewer teachers in the profession, fewer teachers are entering preparation programs as well . The decline in new teacher production is due, in part, to budget cuts that have forced the state’s university

 

systems to cap enrollment and turn qualified applicants away from credential programs . It is also a result of the decrease in demand as budget cuts trigger layoffs and growing discouragement among prospective teachers with the conditions of teaching work .

At the peak in 2003-04, more than 27,000 new preliminary teaching credentials were issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC); by 2009-10, only 16,151 new credentials were issued in the state, a decline of 40 percent .10 Enrollment in teacher preparation programs declined by more than 50 percent between 2001-02 and 2009-10 .

 

Despite the layoffs that appear to create a surplus of teachers, shortages still exist in fields such as special education, mathematics, physical science and bilingual education/English language development (ELD), as well as in many high-poverty schools . However, projected increases in student enrollment and teacher retirements, along with reductions in class size, will likely increase the demand for teachers in coming years . This increased demand could create new teacher shortages unless attrition is also reduced, especially because California is producing far fewer new teachers than it once was .

And although there are more licensed administrators than there are projected job openings in California, there are increasingly fewer applicants for principalships, especially in poorly resourced schools serving high-need students . Citing surveys showing most urban superintendents having difficulty recruiting strong principals, a recent report noted:

Ongoing reports of underperforming schools, an awareness of the growing demands placed on principals and media coverage of an impending national “principal shortage” have brought issues of administrative recruitment, credentialing, training and support to the attention of policymakers . . .Analyses of principal shortages have identified the pressures of new accountability systems, expanding responsibilities, reforms removing principal tenure and inadequate compensation as among the factors discouraging individuals certified for administration from seeking or remaining in principalships . . . To many, the job as it is currently configured in many districts does not seem doable or adequately supported .


Greatness by Design

 

A report in the Los Angeles Times put it this way:
Fifteen-hour work days . Unending paperwork . And the ever-increasing role of school board politics...

Plenty have the credentials for the job . Many don’t want it .

Research has found that these problems can be addressed . For example, principals who are hand-picked from among excellent, dynamic teachers demonstrating leadership capacity – and who are well-prepared for the job – enter and stay in principalships at higher rates, feel more capable to deal with the challenges of the job and are more effective . And when principals are effective, they recruit, develop and retain good teachers by creating higher-functioning schools that improve collective capacity for good teaching .So these problems are both solvable and essential to solve in a purposeful way – rather than allowing the system to bounce around in a rudderless fashion, growing ever weaker for lack of attention and care . 

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It would  make some sense, before you randomly harvest state reports, to MENTION THE STATE!

Dear Joe:

Point taken.  I'll watch that in the future.

Regards,

Mike

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