CTC approves new autism authorization; advisory panel takes on math update

With schools struggling increasingly with the demands of students suffering from autism, emotional distress and other serious health issues, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing moved Thursday to add 6 new authorizations for the special education credential.

The special education add-on teaching authorizations are intended to expand the scope of instruction for teachers that currently hold a special education credential and thus expand the number of instructors available to serve the growing population of students that need specialized care.

A recent report to the Legislature from the CTC noted that the number of students requiring services for autism spectrum disorders has risen 88 percent during the past five years.

The six new authorizations are: autism spectrum disorders; deaf-blind; emotional disturbance; traumatic brain injury; orthopedically impaired; and other health impaired.

Under the new authorizations, credential holders can complete an approved program of a moderate number of semester units to be qualified for assignment to teach one of the target groups. Without the new program, teachers would have been required to complete an entire additional credential program in order to expand their teaching authorizations beyond the original special education credential.

In a separate action, the commission also empowered a mathematics advisory panel to undertake a comprehensive look at the states training of elementary and middle school math teachers in the context of debate about algebra and higher math performance.

The commission has been engaged for some months on the question of preparedness among math teachers, at least in part prompted by last summers controversial 8th grade algebra mandate that was unsuccessfully ordered by the California State Board of Education.

The commission is working on a number of ideas including the creation of a math specialist credential they hope will upgrade instruction. Initially, the commission had planned to create an advisory panel just to look more closely at the math specialist a proposal based on the reading specialist where a credential-holder could act as a coach for other teachers, give in-depth instruction to groups of students or oversee curriculum.

Now, however, the math advisory panel will have a far wider mandate although it would not begin its work before April.

After considering a request from staff to decide misalignments between what some credential holders are allowed to teach and their content preparation, the CTC decided to hand over those questions to the advisory panel. Also included for the new panel is the question of how students in the 4th and 5th grades are prepared for higher math and what steps the commission should take to better train elementary math teachers.

A deadline for applicants for the math advisory panel had previously been set for Feb. 6, but now with the expanded charge it is likely the process for finding candidates will also be revised.