CA simplifies credentialing for foreign-trained teachers

CA simplifies credentialing for foreign-trained teachers

(Calif.) Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have moved to streamline the credentialing process for foreign educators interested in working in California.

In one of many efforts to help improve the state’s teacher shortage, Brown signed AB 681, authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park. The bill authorizes the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to determine whether the national teacher credential standards in foreign countries is equivalent to California teacher credentialing standards–instead of doing so on a case-by-case basis.

According to the CTC, the new law will expedite the processing time for teacher credential applications from foreign countries, and allow applicants from countries already approved to forego a foreign transcript evaluation by the CTC.

“Many foreign countries have standards equal to or greater than the U.S.–Singapore, Canada, South Korea, and Finland, for example, are all known to be producers of high quality teachers,” CTC officials noted in a legislative update. “If the CTC were authorized to examine national academic and credentialing standards and judge them to be equivalent to those of California, it would eliminate the additional time, uncertainty, and expense for teachers coming from these countries, while still allowing the CTC to examine teachers from non-approved countries on an individual basis."

Nearly every state has reported a shortage of teachers since the recession–especially in subjects including special or bilingual education, math, and science. Education officials have attributed the decline to a combination of high turnover rates among new educators paired with fewer potential candidates enrolling in education colleges following years of witnessing cuts to education spending and widespread layoffs.

In California, as many as 75 percent of school districts report having some level of shortage in classroom teachers and resorting to hiring instructors that are not yet fully credentialed or have substandard permits, according to a report issued by the Learning Institute earlier this year.

Prior to 2008, when the recession took hold, as many as 50,000 college students were working toward getting a teaching degree and certification, according to state data. Since then, the numbers have fallen to less than half that number.

Data from the CTC, the state Legislature and the Learning Policy Institute show that while enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the state jumped 10 percent in 2013-14, the number of new credentials issued in 2014-15 was just a 1.6 percent increase from the prior year.

As recently as the 2015-16 school year, districts statewide estimated that they had as many as 4,000 teaching vacancies at the beginning of the year–many of which were in special education and the math-science disciplines. Many schools have been forced to rely on higher numbers of non-fully credentialed teachers to staff classrooms.

To address the issue, lawmakers have increased education funding, and passed bills to allow for those who are changing careers to receive an emergency credential and teach in a classroom while they work toward earning a full credential. The CTC has also called on legislators to consider easing some rules surrounding out-of-state applicants to broaden the potential employment pool.

The same could be done by making it simpler for the CTC to issue credentials to those educated in different parts of the world.

Currently, out-of-country teachers must apply to the teacher credentialing commission for a California teaching credential. The CTC must then express Legislative intent that if an individual is deemed to have equivalent coursework and met specified requirements, that they be granted a five year preliminary teaching credential.

Under AB 681, the commission will be able to determine whether a country has academic and credentialing standards equivalent to those of regionally accredited institutions in the United States, and allows applicants from those countries to forego a foreign transcript evaluation.

CTC officials said transcript evaluations require an additional investment of time and expense on the part of a teacher who wants to come to the United States and teach in a California school–factors that may create a disincentive to recruiting qualified out-of-country educators.

Brown also signed AB 1142 last week, which updates the criteria used to determine eligibility for the State Seal of Biliteracy. In addition to reflecting new state assessments in English language development and English language arts, the bill also allows students to qualify for the biliteracy seal by becoming fluent in a language that is not characterized by listening, speaking, or reading, or for which there is no written system, including American Sign Language, some Native American languages, classical Greek and Latin.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, will require that students who seek to qualify for the seal with such languages must still meet rigorous standards despite having to rely on alternative assessments to gauge language proficiency.

And last month, another bill authored by Chau, AB 872, received Brown’s approval. The bill updates the list of which sex offences that require the immediate suspension or revocation of a teaching credential to include aggravated sexual assault of a child, harmful matter sent with intent to seduce a minor, and arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd or lascivious behavior.

“Under current law, only certain sex offenses require an automatic suspension of credentials, which can lead to situations where a person charged with a sexual offense can remain in the classroom; further exacerbating the potentially danger to students,” Chau said in a statement upon the bill’s passage. “AB 872 provides the CTC with the necessary tools to protect students by removing a teacher from the classroom who is charged with a sex offense, pending the outcome of their case.”