Governor suspends California teacher testing requirements for candidates impacted by coronavirus closures | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

Photo: AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliGov. Gavin Newsom takes questions from kindergarten students during his visit to the Ethel I. Baker Elementary School in Sacramento on Oct. 7, 2019.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has suspended state testing requirements for teacher candidates impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in an executive order issued Saturday morning.

The order allows eligible teacher candidates to earn preliminary credentials without taking either the California Teaching Performance Assessment or the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment. It also allows students to enter teacher preparation programs without passing the California Basic Education Skills Test and teacher candidates to enter internship programs without passing required tests in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers because testing centers were closed. 

Newsom didn’t waive the tests altogether, but allows teacher candidates to take some tests later in their teacher preparation programs and some before earning a clear credential.

“Because of COVID, our new teachers missed significant portions of their preparation to teach,” said Tine Sloan, chairwoman of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. “This solution will support them to carry on, and ensure they are prepared to give their best to students this fall. We are grateful to the administration and all who worked on these solutions.”

State officials have expressed concern over teacher shortages in schools in rural and low-income areas and in high-needs subjects like science, math, bilingual education and special education. The result of the shortages has been a record number of teachers in classrooms who have not completed teaching preparation programs or have received only partial training. 

The coronavirus pandemic has created a situation in which more than half of the teachers and administrators in preparation programs this year were unable to complete all credential requirements due to school closures, said Mary Vixie Sandy, executive director of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. 

Newsom’s executive order comes just weeks after the California Assembly Education Committee, concerned that coronavirus-related campus and testing center closures would keep needed teachers out of classrooms, approved legislation that would have temporarily allowed California teacher candidates to take fewer tests to prove they are ready to teach. It’s not clear if the legislation, which would expire in three years, is still being considered by legislators.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing passed several resolutions in April that would make it easier for teacher candidates to move into classrooms despite hurdles created by campus and testing site closures due to the pandemic. The commission voted to waive the 600-hour requirement for student teaching, allowed university programs to apply for “variable term waivers” for candidates who have not completed all their credentialing requirements and allow teacher candidates more time to take some tests.

Almost all teachers are required to pass these four tests:

  • California Basic Educational Skills Test, or CBEST, which tests reading, math and writing skills and is usually taken before a student is accepted into a teacher preparation program.
  • California Subject Examinations for Teachers, referred to as CSET, tests subject knowledge. Elementary school and special education teachers earn a multiple subject credential by passing a trio of tests — in science and math; reading, language, literature, history and social science; and physical education, human development and visual and performing arts. Middle and high school teachers earn single subject credentials in areas such as art, biology or English by passing at least one subject exam.
  • Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, which tests reading instruction, is required for elementary and special education teachers before they obtain a credential.
  • California Teaching Performance Assessment, which measures how well teacher candidates assess students, design instruction, organize subject matter and other skills. The test must be taken by all teachers, except special education teachers, before they can earn a credential.

About 40 percent of the teachers give up because they fail to pass the required tests at various steps along the path to getting their credential, according to data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. For prospective math or science teachers, that number climbs to 50 percent.

The commission has been looking to reform the entire landscape of tests and assessments that teachers have to take to enter the profession and has held meetings and workshops over the last four years to consider potential changes or replacements to exams. 

Newsom’s executive order gives a reprieve to teacher candidates who were in the process of completing the Teaching Performance Assessment while working at a school that closed during the coronavirus pandemic. They can earn a preliminary credential without completing the test if they have completed all other requirements for the credential. They will be required to complete the assessment to earn a clear credential. 

The executive order also allows candidates in education administration programs to earn a preliminary administrative services credential without having to take the California Administrator Performance Assessment.

With their preliminary credential, these teachers and administrators will be able to accept jobs and complete these assessments during their induction program with support from their program mentors and coaches, Sandy said.

Teacher candidates who were unable to complete the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment because testing centers were closed between March 19 and Aug. 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic will not have to pass the test to earn a preliminary credential. They will have to pass the test before earning a clear credential, however.

The order allows students to gain admission to teacher credential programs without passing the CBEST if they were unable to take the exam between March 19 and Aug. 31 because testing centers were closed. They must pass the test while in the teacher preparation program and before being recommended for a preliminary credential.

The executive order also waived the requirement that applicants to a university intern credential program complete a subject matter examination before entering the program if they were impacted by testing center closures between March 19 and Aug. 31. They have to pass the test before earning a preliminary credential.

While some testing centers are reopening and are offering online testing, they are at about half of their usual capacity, Sandy said. 

“In the midst of unprecedented uncertainty, the executive order gives up to 8,000 new teachers and school administrators certitude about their futures and their careers,” Sandy said.  “It will save first-year teachers money and time by allowing them to move into the classroom more quickly. The order addresses hardships created by Covid-19 and benefits new teachers at a critical point in their careers. Equally importantly, it benefits the students of the state of California who will be served by this cohort of well-prepared, enthusiastic classroom teachers and administrators. In addition, the order allows more than 10,000 prospective teachers to enter the preparation pipeline next year, enabling the state to continue making progress on shoring up its teaching ranks and addressing chronic shortages.”

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