Yesterday morning I had to read the lead sentence of the San Jose Mercury News editorial out loud, just to be sure that I had not misread it. “Most California teacher training programs flunked” the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Teacher Prep Review. Out of 4 possible stars no California elementary teacher training program received any – not one – zero!
My reaction, in a word, was shock!
More surprising still, the editors dismissed the review’s conclusions. They quoted a number of “experts” who explained how well their programs prepared teachers. The justification the “experts” offer is that the “experts” weren’t “expert” enough to recognize “expertise” when they saw it!
No parents or children or school board members were interviewed for the editorial. That is hardly surprising. Parents might well have pointed to California students’ test scores to support NCTQ findings. California 8th graders rank 44th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia and 4th graders ranked 40th in math and English proficiency according to the American Legislative Education Council’s (ALEC) 2013 report. ALEC gave California a D in teacher preparation!
As a business person, my mind naturally triangulated the two independent nationally respected evaluations of California teacher training methods with the actual student results. There is only one possible conclusion. Something is very wrong with teaching in California.
In the meantime, the legislature and the governor agreed to a budget of $66 billion for k to 12th education during fiscal 2013-14. That’s a lot of money to spend on a program that is not delivering a satisfactory return on investment.
Improving teaching in California cannot happen overnight. We can’t declare recess until all the analysis and improvements are complete. But we can focus our energies and our resources urgently on identifying and implementing the necessary changes.
The change we need can only begin with the Governor, himself. He’s got a fundamental choice to make. Will he challenge the “education establishment” to “step up” and work to prepare our kids to lead the high technology work force of the mid-21st century? Or will he continue to support the “experts” – his powerful political ally, the California Teachers Association – allowing our children to remain ranked 44th of 50?
Hypothetically, I’m going to bet on the Governor to do the right thing.
Here are 4 suggested actions the Governor can take starting now that will improve teaching in California in 2014-15 and every year after that.
Number 1. The Governor should postpone the introduction of the Common Core Standards curriculum to 2014-15. The introduction of Common Core without answering the question what’s wrong with teaching in California will further cloud the real issues of training and preparation.
Number 2. The Governor can’t fire the elected State Superintendent of Education. But he can hire an expert to advise him directly.
An “expert” is not someone who knows all the answers but someone who knows what questions to ask to get the right answers. That “expert” might be a recently retired State Schools Chief from a high performing state – for example Florida, Maryland, or Massachusetts.
Number 3. The Governor should recruit a task force of teachers, principals, school board members, business leaders and parents to work with the “expert”. Their first task would be to compare the nation’s best (evaluated) teacher training programs to California’s and prepare a gap analysis.
Next, they should answer the question does California need a School or Department of Education at every State University campus and at every University of California campus? Would consolidation improve the quality of the programs’ graduates?
The Task Force report and recommendations would be presented to the Governor prior to the May 2014 Budget revision deadline.
Number 4. It’s not enough to just improve the training for future teachers. The vast majority of teachers in the state’s classrooms, today, were trained in the same California teacher training programs that failed the national teacher training quality review. It is urgent that the State Department of Education develop in-service programs to improve the skills of current classroom teachers.
I challenge any classroom teacher to explain how any of these recommendations would not make a positive difference for your students and for you!
If you agree forward this blog with your own comments to Governor Brown
Photo Credit: Shutterstock