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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.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Taylor11:58 AM

    I was closely involved in the accreditation of:
    - A start-up community service education group who achieved their first state accreditation on the first try.
    - a large private school in a big city.
    - 3 international baccalaureate schools on different continents.
    - 2 small Washington DC private schools.
    - 2 California Charter schools, one in their first year.
    - and I’ve seen it being done in Australian and American public schools.

    I never met, let alone spoke with, a single accreditor in any one of these schools, even though I was on the Board of two and in the Strategic Planning Committee of another. Only a tiny minority of the hundreds of teachers I’ve met have ever spoken to an accreditor, in process, at their school.

    In one memorable case, I was told I was fired, for “bad methodology” in February, and then in April I was asked to write the school’s accreditation docs for music, instead of the Head of Music. Because “everyone knows he can’t write curriculum and you’re great at that.” The HoM wasn’t being fired, though, he stayed on. (I later found out my firing was nothing to do with teaching, instead it was a powerful individual’s racism about music.)

    So I have direct experience that “Institutions often focus on presenting their best face rather than exploring areas for improvement”

    Also, I can’t understand why the American system is doubled-up on accreditation. Why is it necessary to accredit the University separate from its products? Why can’t schools trust that the graduates of the university they just accredited can’t be trusted until they’ve been examined, yet again, by yet another expensive “independent” exam-system? That’s just illogical.

    Another question is why academic accreditation is always one-way top-down. For example, why couldn’t teacher-graduates of a particular university regularly re-group to discuss and deconstruct the schools they have gone to, and present their findings as research and/or ratings? Why do teachers leave this to newspapers and questionable websites, or perhaps their union? None of these organizations are correct for the work of upward-accrediting school administrators, structures, and programs.