Why is my union campaigning to gut teacher prep?

I’ve been one of California Teacher Association’s 325,000 members for the past 13 years and I have appreciated its protection and passionate advocacy. Nationwide, advocacy groups are pushing to better prepare teachers and to support us in delivering effective reading instruction, so I was shocked to see that my union is doing the opposite.

CTA and other unions (CCSESA, CFT, Public Advocates, CABE, CABTE, ACSA) support SB-614, which strikes from the requirements for teacher credentialing the Reading Instruction Competence Test and:

The reasons my union cites for the revision appear progressive and practical:

  • “The pathway to becoming a teacher in California loses a significant share of candidates at each testing juncture…Given that candidates also reported that the tests are a financial hurdle and a logistical challenge, there is no doubt that they have a noticeable impact on the pipeline for becoming a teacher in the state.”
  • “The abysmal first-time pass rates for native Spanish speakers, African Americans, and male teacher candidates”

However, SB-614 is a short-sighted approach to solving these legitimate problems and lowering the bar for teacher preparation will further weaken public education in California. 

The language on the chopping-block, written during the Reading First-era, was intended to ensure every child has highly-qualified teachers skilled in reading instruction, assessment, and intervention. Now that California is a local-control state and districts are no longer required to provide teachers effective curricula nor valid and reliable assessments, it is more critical than ever that teaching candidates are well-prepared.

While SB-614 aims to credential more teachers, especially those of color, it ignores some very important facts.

  1. The cost of RICA ($171) is dwarfed by the other costs of becoming a teacher. Teaching candidates would be better served by advocacy towards reducing the cost of credentialing programs, student loan forgiveness, and sliding-scales for the many required assessments. 
  2. The scores on RICA reflect the notoriously weak training teachers receive. Teachers unions should advocate on behalf of their future members to improve teacher preparation programs. Data like RICA scores can help with the push.
  3. Lowering the bar for teacher preparation will disproportionately impact students of color (who are less likely to have experienced teachers), resulting in lower quality instruction and student achievement, thus reducing the number of future teaching candidates who are of color.
  4. There has been an uptick in enrollment in credentialing programs and an increase in the number of credentials issued in the past several years. The teacher-shortage is not due to the RICA but rather to teacher turnover, which accounts for 88 percent of the demand for new teachers. 

“Research shows that the percentage of teachers of color in the workforce grew at twice the rate of White teachers from 1987 to 2012. But while leaders have been busy trying to pour teachers of color into the profession, they have not plugged the drain through which too many exit. Indeed, teachers of color, are exiting the profession at higher rates than other teachers.”

Through Our Eyes, an EdTrust publication

The teacher retention crisis will not be solved by lowering the quality of teacher preparation programs or by avoiding an assessment that shows candidates are underprepared. A union truly advocating for me, my colleagues (present and future) and our students would maintain high expectations for our profession, increase professional supports to reach those expectations, and improve conditions in our schools.

3 Replies to “Why is my union campaigning to gut teacher prep?”

  1. Thank you for publishing this. It is disheartening and troubling that this specific language would be removed from teacher prep criteria.

  2. Martina says:

    California is one of the richest states but education it ranks low. Reading and math skills are far below unless you live in a affluent area. San Bernardino county is my area and educational we need highly qualified teachers in general education. In special education the SELPAs litigate against parents when are we want is our children to have the life skills such as reading,comprehension and math to get them ready for higher education, vocational training or a career. The ability to read is a life skill.

  3. Rachel Hurd says:

    Thank you for writing this! It is troubling that SB 614 removes accountability for adequately preparing teachers to teach reading and then strikes from Ed Code the references to the critical components of evidence-aligned instruction. Because these were struck, I am concerned that whatever kind of assessment replaces the RICA as outlined in the lasted revision of the bill (July 1) will not include teacher mastery of the knowledge and skills critical for teaching ALL students to read.

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