Nothing is more important to the success of California’s recent educational reforms than how we recruit, train and support our teachers. Although Louis Freedberg’s commentary (“School reform in California must include better training of teachers,” Viewpoints, Oct. 15) raises important concerns, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has a comprehensive plan to improve teacher recruitment and performance.
It is true that in the face of recent budget cuts and layoffs, teacher education enrollments have declined significantly. But the state is not ignoring teacher recruitment and training needs. With enrollments in teacher training programs now increasing, the commission has set in motion several initiatives to rebuild professional excellence and produce enough teachers.
To prepare and retain a diverse, talented teaching force, improving licensing and overhauling accreditation are among the highest priorities. Research shows that better prepared teachers are more likely to stay and to be effective. The commission is working to ensure that only effective programs are offered, and only competent teachers enter the profession.
We have strengths on which to build. California was the first state in the nation to require performance assessments for licenses, requiring teachers to show that they can plan, instruct, assess and adapt their teaching. The commission is now refining these assessments so they measure teachers’ ability to teach the state’s new standards to a wide range of students. In addition, we are launching a performance assessment for administrators that will strengthen leadership training.
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Although California has some of the nation’s strongest preparation programs, some candidates do not get the quality of training they need and deserve. The commission is overhauling program accreditation to focus more on results – candidate preparedness and performance, as well as entry and retention in teaching.
To improve quality and reduce attrition, the commission also is updating support for new teachers. Our immediate agenda includes supporting quality mentoring and allowing districts to integrate existing programs.
Education is on the move in California, and ensuring the highest quality standards, preparation and mentoring for our new teachers and principals is a critical linchpin of our state’s renaissance.
Linda Darling-Hammond is chairwoman of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.