Bard College still on the outs in California

Bard College, scofflaw of California's commission overseeing teacher credentialing, has been given one last chance to meet the agency's standards for institutional certification of its teacher preparation - but the outlook is grim.

Bard, a 150-year-old institution from New York's Hudson Valley, ran into trouble earlier this year with disclosure they had been improperly operating a teacher preparation program in Delano more than a year without permission from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Although university officials apologized for their misstep and resubmitted an application including a showing that their program meets California standards - the commission twice this year denied approval.

Earlier this month, the CTC again rejected Bard's request and again cited concerns that the college seemed to continue to be operating outside state regulatory authority. There was also special concern that the university has not been up front with its students about the prospects for receiving a California teaching credential after graduating from the program.

At its December meeting, the CTC ordered college officials to return in March with evidence that it had resolved the issues.

I think a strong argument can be made of a pattern of behavior by this institution that has not yet seemed to be cleaned up," said Richard Zeiger, chief deputy to State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, and a member of the CTC.

"We keep getting statements - we are going to do it,' but we are a little short of an actual demonstration," Zeiger said.

Norton Batkin, dean of graduate studies at Bard attended the commission's December meeting in Sacramento in an attempt to assure the board that the university is providing a quality program aimed at a needy area of the Central Valley. He also promised that damages they have caused any of the school's graduates would be satisfied.

But a series of program students told the board that there continues to be misinformation being provided by the university about the school's certification in California.

After a lengthy debate, the commission voted to withhold certification again.

While there remains much disagreement over the Bard controversy, there seems little argument that the program's goal of bringing high-quality teachers to an underserved part of the Central Valley is a valuable one.

Awarded an $8.1 million teacher training grant two years ago by the U.S. Department of Education, Bard partnered with community groups in Delano and one of the valley's biggest agricultural operations, Paramount Agricultural Companies - to start a charter school.

The plan is for the teacher preparation program to feed the charter school, which began in 2003 and currently serves 171- 6th through 9th graders. The goal is to add grade levels until the school provides full K-12 instruction and has a student population of 1,300 expected by 2019.