Education

Lawmakers fail to pass bills reducing number of tests for teachers by legislative deadline

Credit: Yuri Arcurs / Getty Images

The end of the legislative session Monday meant the demise of three bills that would have allowed teachers to take fewer tests to prove they are ready to teach. But the Legislature also approved a trailer bill that will allow more teachers to take advantage of an executive order postponing tests.

Assembly Bill 1982 would have temporarily given teacher candidates the option to use university coursework to replace the required California Basic Educational Skills Test. Assembly Bill 2485 would have offered the same option in place of the California Subject Examinations for Teachers. Senate Bill 614 would have eliminated the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment and replaced it with a basic writing skills test on Teacher Performance Assessments.

The trailer bill extends a temporary reprieve Gov. Gavin Newsom gave to teacher candidates in May. It allowed those who couldn’t take required tests between March 19 and Aug. 31 of this year, because of testing center closures, to enter teacher preparation programs without passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test. It also allowed teacher candidates to enter internship programs without passing required tests in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers and to earn preliminary credentials without passing the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment. The trailer bill passed Monday extends the eligibility period to Aug. 31, 2021.

The two Assembly bills were set to sunset in three years if approved. But the Senate bill, originally introduced during last year’s legislative session by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Covina, would have permanently replaced the reading instruction test. The bill ran into opposition from some education reformers.

None of the bills made it to the floor of the Legislature for a vote. Both Assembly bills stalled because Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, decided that all Assembly bills had to be directly related to Covid-19 to be passed, according to Sasha Horwitz, spokesman for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The commission, which sponsored Assembly Bill 2485, is considering reintroducing it next year, Horwitz said. The bill had no opposition. There has been no decision yet on whether Assembly Bill 1982 will be reintroduced, said Gianna Rogers, a staff member for State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-San Luis Obispo, who authored the bill. Rubio said she will consider reintroducing SB 614 next year.

“Teachers are better prepared to teach our children when they have real-life, hands-on experience, which is what the bill intended to provide to teacher candidates, in a real-time classroom setting,” Rubio said in a statement. “Doing what we have done for over 20 years is not working. We need to do what’s best for students.”

Andrew Collins, 34, wanted the RICA bill to pass, so he could earn a teaching credential, but he’s done waiting. After four years and seven attempts to pass the test he plans to collect his master’s degree and move on.

“There are other ways I can work with students,” Collins said Monday.

Collins, who lives in El Granada in San Mateo County, graduated from Pacific Oaks College. He completed his student teaching in San Mateo, but couldn’t pass the RICA.

It’s not really an option to take the test again, he said. The course requirements to earn a credential at his school have changed since he withdrew three years ago, and he would have to take several new courses.

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% of teacher candidates 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.

Teacher candidates have seen some relief from required tests from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and Newsom.

Newsom’s May order postponing required teacher tests also postponed the Teaching Performance Assessment, which evaluates a teacher candidate’s work in the classroom. Candidates who were in the process of completing the test while working at a school that closed during the pandemic are eligible for the extension. The order does not waive any of the tests, but allows teacher candidates to take some tests later in their teacher preparation programs and some before earning a clear credential.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing also passed several resolutions in April that made it easier for teacher candidates to move into classrooms despite campus and testing site closures due to the pandemic. The resolutions allow university programs to apply for waivers for candidates who have not completed all their credentialing requirements and allow teacher candidates more time to take some tests.

In the meantime, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing continues to review all the tests and assessments that teachers are required to take to enter the profession, holding meetings and workshops over the last four years to consider potential changes or replacements to exams. The commission does not have the power to eliminate or make substantial changes to tests mandated by state law, however. That must be done by legislation or executive order.

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Lawmakers fail to pass bills reducing number of tests for teachers by legislative deadline


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