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Jan 23, 2024

Accreditation of teacher preparation in California

I have been asked by researchers from Japan what I think about the accreditation of teacher education programs in California. At the heart of the accreditation process, as practiced in the state, is the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). This body mandates a rigorous process that includes a detailed self-study report, aligning courses with specific standards, and a cyclical site visit every seven years. This system, though aimed at ensuring quality, is fraught with tensions and dilemmas.

First, the CTC accreditation is mandatory for institutions; without it, they cannot recommend new teachers for credentials. National accreditation is optional, and in California is often avoided due to its labor-intensive nature. The California system involves dual accreditation: the institution as a whole and each individual program, demanding a significant allocation of resources and time from faculty and staff. This immense investment is seen as a disproportionate response to the benefits received, raising questions about the effectiveness of such a system in truly enhancing educational quality.

The accreditation process, in its current form, seems to serve more as a compliance exercise than a tool for genuine self-improvement. Institutions often focus on presenting their best face rather than exploring areas for improvement, as the process is more about meeting minimum requirements than striving for excellence. This leads to a scenario where the real issues in teacher preparation, such as the quality of instructional methods or relevance of the curriculum, are not necessarily addressed.

Furthermore, the accreditation system appears to be out of sync with the dynamic nature of educational needs and societal changes. It is perceived as a static, bureaucratic process that fails to adapt quickly to new educational challenges or innovations in teaching and learning.

In light of these considerations, my recommendation is not to abolish the system but to refine it. The focus should shift from a labor-intensive compliance exercise to a more dynamic, formative process that encourages continuous improvement and innovation in teacher preparation. Simplifying the process, perhaps by reducing the frequency of site visits or streamlining documentation requirements, could alleviate the burden on institutions. Additionally, integrating more meaningful metrics that reflect the actual quality of teacher preparation, including post-graduation outcomes and the impact on student learning, would make the process more relevant and beneficial. 

While the accreditation system in California serves a critical role in maintaining a baseline quality of teacher education, there is a pressing need for reform. The goal should be a system that not only ensures basic standards but actively fosters excellence and innovation in teacher preparation.