CTA-endorsed bill aims to eliminate mandatory test for teachers in California

A new bill backed by the California Teachers Association aims to scrap mandatory performance assessments for teachers, including a literacy test that was formerly supported by the association. Should the legislation pass, it would mean retaining an unpopular written test that the literacy assessment was intended to replace.

Senate Bill 1263, introduced by Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, seeks to eliminate the California Teaching Performance Assessment (CalTPA), a process where teachers showcase their skills through instructional videos and written reflections.

Newman, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, believes that doing away with the assessment will enhance teacher presence in classrooms, crucial at a time when the state is grappling with a shortage of educators.

“Removing hurdles that might deter talented individuals from pursuing a teaching career is vital to bolstering the educator pipeline,” stated Newman, emphasizing the importance of accessibility to the teaching profession.

The bill also aims to eliminate the literacy assessment for teachers and the scrutiny of literacy teaching in educator training programs mandated by Senate Bill 488, put forth by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-West Covina, in 2021.

The planned literacy assessment is set for a trial run in the upcoming months, designed to replace the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment slated for phase-out by 2025.

New Legislation’s Impact on RICA

The proposed bill seems to retain a requirement for candidates vying for a preliminary multiple-subject or education specialist credential to pass a reading instruction competence assessment, according to David DeGuire from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

DeGuire explained, “The nature of this assessment remains unclear, but there’s a possibility that the state may continue to utilize the current iteration of RICA.”

Newman will present the bill to the Senate Education Committee in the near future, opening up discussions on the future of the RICA examination as part of the legislative process.

Sen. Rubio, the proponent of Senate Bill 488, is yet to engage in dialogue with Newman regarding the new legislation.

“Over the past three years, I collaborated extensively with various education stakeholders to modernize a crucial educational element that I deemed hindering to student learning during my tenure as an educator,” explained Rubio, underscoring her past efforts.

Shift in Teachers Union’s Stance

The California Teachers Association, which previously endorsed Senate Bill 488, is now advocating for the removal of all performance assessments, including the literacy evaluation.

“Many of us are puzzled,” remarked Yolie Flores from Families in Schools, an education advocacy group in Los Angeles. She added, “The sudden shift in stance on this legislation caught us off guard, especially given the ongoing movement to bolster teacher training programs.”

Following a survey of nearly 1,300 CTA members last year, Leslie Littman, a union vice president, acknowledged that teachers viewed the CalTPA as stress-inducing and largely ineffective in preparing them for classroom realities.

“Realizing the burdens these assessments place on teacher candidates has been an eye-opener,” noted Littman, advocating for a more mentorship-based approach to assess teacher readiness.

California Embraces Reading Instruction Revamp

California is aligning with a nationwide drive to overhaul reading instruction methods in schools. The state is transitioning from balanced literacy, rooted in whole language learning, to phonics-based approaches emphasizing word decoding.

Notably, only 46.6% of the state’s tested students met English academic standards in the latest Smarter Balanced assessments.

Assemblymember Blanca Rubio recently introduced Assembly Bill 2222 mandating evidence-based reading instruction in schools, seeking to shift from California’s current flexible reading skills approach to specified methods.

“The proposed SB 1263 contradicts established best practices and research on equipping educators with effective literacy teaching strategies,” voiced Flores, expressing concerns over the bill’s potential impact.

Lori DePole from DeCoding Dyslexia California cautioned that the legislation could halt the progress in teacher preparation for literacy training mandated by Senate Bill 488, undermining ongoing efforts.

“We need to equip teachers with evidence-based reading strategies to ensure students’ literacy skills,” stressed Flores, highlighting the critical role of reading proficiency in education.

Teacher Assessments Replaced by Educational Experiences

California’s evolving approach to teacher evaluation has seen a phased reduction in standardized tests for teacher candidates. With the teacher shortage crisis deepening, alternatives like coursework in lieu of basic skills tests have emerged, aiming at a more comprehensive evaluation.

Littman countered claims of lax accountability under the new legislation, emphasizing that teacher assessment mechanisms will persist, albeit with a shift towards comprehensive evaluation frameworks tailored by school districts.

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