Let’s Not Create Grinch Teachers Through Outdated Teacher Credential Programs

California is heading into a teacher shortage without a safety net, and hundreds of thousands of public school district students will be impacted throughout the state.  

In 1998, Senator Deirdre “Dede” Alpert and Assembly Member Mazzoni introduced SB 2042 that was passed by the California legislature and signed into law that same year. Since the Ryan Act of 1970, teacher preparation requirements had not been updated until the passage of SB 2042. The intent was to  establish new teacher preparation program requirements, and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing was given the authority to establish new teacher education curriculum and program standards.

It is usually career politicians, not educators, who help to craft and implement public education laws. Many politicians obtain campaign contributions from special interest groups to influence the kind of education laws that are written and implemented. These special interest groups have full-time lobbyists that they send to collect favors from elected officials in return for the campaign contributions that they receive from their backers.

SB 2042 is now outdated since it is close to a decade that it was revised under some influence of former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal legislation. Many states and public school districts were forced to adopt mandates from the federal government under NCLB. If they did not comply, then federal funding was taken away.

It was under NCLB’s intense atmosphere for teacher and student accountability that SB 2042 was implemented. The initial intent of SB 2042 was to streamline the process, instead SB 2042 makes individuals jump through more layers of bureaucratic requirements, to the point that students who are in the Teacher Credential Programs feel that certain classes are unnecessary and repetitive. Student teachers have to go through the process of passing the tedious Teacher Performance Assessments (TPAs) and the have to pay a hefty fee to take these tests.

Student teachers are also required to pass The California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and The California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) tests.  

The Multiple Subject and Single Subject Preliminary Credential Program Standards program is now a two year teacher credential program that can be quite expensive. Many students get into debt owing over $30,000.

These teacher preparation programs are too long, bureaucratic, expensive, and not very accommodating for older, working adults who have been in the labor force for decades and have full-time jobs to juggle while enrolled in the teacher credential program.

It is somewhat easier for younger students who are already enrolled in a university to obtain a teaching credential. But they meet the same fate that young or old face, colliding with the seniority system that is in place at most public school districts.

Imagine that a highly experienced, motivated, and knowledgeable individual in their 30s or 40s wants to become a teacher. Many will face the disheartening fact that she or he may not be able to get a job for a grade level or subject that she or he is an expert in.

Many end up quitting the teacher credential program, or end up substitute teaching, or simply not finding appropriate job placements. A lot of these people are sent to some of the toughest schools, and many burn out and quit within the first or second year of teaching after having gone $30,000 to $50,000 in debt.

Ultimately, SB 2042 needs to be revised and updated. It should not take over two years to get a teaching credential. It should be a one year (academic classes) program that guarantees a one year paid internship at a school that embraces and supports student teachers.

The fundamental questions remain: have teachers and students performance improved due to SB 2042? And has the state bureaucratic requirements been increased to obtain more funding via university program fees, test fees, and additional miscellaneous costs?

So many professionals do want to switch careers and become public school teachers. But once they find out about the demands of SB 2042, the student loan debt, the hassles of going back to a university, and lack of well paying teaching jobs, they choose not to.

It should not be so difficult to become a qualified teacher and to obtain a teaching job. Yes, a teacher shortage is being predicted, and many have already burned out/tuned out due to the immense demands of being a teacher.

Many new teachers get treated like migrant workers. They work intensely with minimal pay. More stress is added with administrators who are always breathing down the necks of teachers. Micromanaging teachers is terrible because it can prevent the teacher from taking ownership of his course and educational content.  

I challenge anyone to substitute teach at the toughest elementary, middle schools, and high schools for one week. I doubt that they will last since we have too many spectators, observers who think that they know what public education is all about. Many individuals, including some teachers, like to sound righteous to the point of denying the public school challenges and realities.

I recently got a wake-up call, figuratively and literally. I went back to teach at my old elementary school, middle school, and high school for a few days. It brought back so many memories and like the saying goes “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” I was in lockdown for hours, due to a neighborhood shooting, at my old elementary school with second graders.

We can start to make a positive difference by changing SB 2042 by making the teacher credential program to be one year of theory and concepts via classroom academics.

The nitty gritty of learning how to teach takes place in the classroom. Therefore, student teachers should be paid in a structured internship with intent to be hired full-time. The system should not be taking advantage of free labor by requiring three months of full-time teaching by student teachers.

How is someone supposed to pay rent or a mortgage when one is required to work for free for three months? Let’s not create teacher Grinches. Substitute teachers and full-time teachers need to feel that they are appreciated and empowered to teach.

Teachers should not be fearful. The best way to create future student leaders is for then to see that their teacher is comfortable, confident, and happy doing what they love.

Randy Jurado Ertll, survivor of LAUSD’s public education system and author of The Lives and Times of El Cipitio. His web-site is WWW.RANDYJURADOERTLL.COM

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Randy Jurado Ertll

Randy Jurado Ertll

Randy Jurado Ertll, attended some of the toughest public schools within Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). He and his family moved dozens of times throughout Los Angeles. He attended Menlo Avenue Elementary School – which he loved dearly as a child – even though violence was an everyday occurrence in the surrounding community. He survived James A. Foshay Junior High School in the mid 1980’s. As a child, he escaped a rural Civil War in El Salvador, and while in Los Angeles, he escaped an urban Civil War (taking place in South Central Los Angeles) by being accepted into the A Better Chance-ABC scholarship program by going far way to study at John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minnesota. Hella cold. He returned to his community by applying and being accepted into Occidental College where he was indoctrinated to become a social justice activist, reader, writer, free thinker, and free, rebel, spirit.

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