News Analysis: Election fallout will claim many important, less visible projects

With everything else schools have riding on next month's election, progress on many less obvious but still critical programs and projects will also be jeopardized if voters turn down tax measures on Nov. 6.

The work of updating California's teacher performance assessment, for example, could be set back as education programs statewide brace for another round of big cuts.

The testing, designed to measure a new teacher candidate's ability to carry out state professional standards, is overseen by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing whose budget is largely drawn from fees from credential applications and test administration - both activities that have crashed the past three years.

Officials say an update on the performance assessment is long overdue, with key components more than a decade old. There's also a need to align the testing with the new common core curriculum standards that California adopted two years ago and is in the process of introducing into classrooms.

Even if the CTC can find the resources to press ahead with the TPA update, officials within the California State University and UC systems have expressed concern for their ability to re-tool their teacher preparation programs to match the new testing goals if voters turn down the tax measures on Nov. 6.

A new poll out Thursday from USC/Los Angeles Times shows that support for Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 has dropped 9 points over the last month, slipping below 50 percent for the first time.

Now, just 46 percent of registered voters support the proposal with 42 percent opposed.

If the tax measure is rejected, Brown and the Legislature have already agreed to trigger $5.5 billion in funding cuts to K-12 schools and community colleges. The UC and CSU systems would each get hit with reductions of $250 million, according to the governor's office.

In the big picture, the tax measure's failure will mean a shorter school year for many districts and a big jump in tuition at California universities - but smaller programs are likely to get hit as well.

Teri Clark, director of the CTC's Professional Services Division, said the agency plans to seek direction in December from its board on a number of issues related to the performance assessment of both teachers and administrators.

One relates to the mix of scoring results that comes from the way the test is administrated and scored by different oversight institutions.

Current code allows for multiple assessment models to be developed by the state or institutions and submitted to the commission for review and approval. Last year, 78 different local programs submitted scoring data from one of three commission-approved models.

Clark said the commission will be asked to formally weigh in on increasing the consistency and reliability of scoring so that the scores and data could be used for not only program improvement locally but also for accreditation purposes.

There is also a question about whether candidates for administrative credentials should be required to complete a performance assessment.

The idea, included among the many recommendations of the Task Force on Educator Excellence convened by state schools chief Tom Torlakson, is to implement performance assessments - based on state standards and similar to those currently used for teachers - for licensing administrators.

As one of the few state agencies that is self-funded, the CTC will not face any direct impacts from the election results - but the indirect consequences could be enormous.

A recent state report showed the number of students entering teacher preparation programs fell by more than one third since the onset of the recession - going from nearly 52,000 in 2007 to just under 35,000 last year.

The California Teachers Association has estimated that close to 32,000 teachers have been laid off by districts since 2007.