CTC considers experience threshold for administrative candidates

Big changes are being contemplated for the credential needed to act as a school leader in California, following a year-long review of the administrative certification by an advisory panel to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

One revision that has already received the backing of the commission is an upgrade of the clear credential requirements to include an induction program that would consist of coaching and mentoring by experienced administrators.

Two others have drawn a lot of attention from stakeholders and have been set aside for further discussion:

One, is whether candidates for the preliminary administrative service credential should be required to have more than the existing three years of experience to advance into a leadership position.

The other is whether an examination route to a credential should be continued to be offered.

The questions were raised earlier this month as part of a series of recommendations from an advisory panel to the commission. The panel was charged with reviewing the content, structure and requirements for administrator preparation to ensure its relevancy to the demands of schools today.

The vast majority of the panel's recommendations were adopted by the commission last week, but the board has left until December further debate on the questions over experience and examinations.

Left unchanged by the commission is the state's single, generalized credential for all administrative roles. The thinking, according to a staff report, is that California's vast size and diversity requires a flexible system that can address local needs.

Also left unchanged is the two-level structure of the administrative credential. The first step, called the preliminary credential program, is considered foundational and intended to ensure the candidate has the skills and content knowledge consistent with an entry-level management position.

The second, the clear credential program, is intended to provide the candidate with an ongoing professional practicum emphasizing the application of instructional leadership skills focused on improving student achievement, according to the CTC.

Perhaps the biggest change endorsed by the commission at last week's meeting is including an induction program as part of the clear credential.

As proposed, the clear credential program is intended to provide novice administrators the opportunities and support needed to build into the school leadership position. Use of an induction program has proved successful in many administrative training programs that would be embedded into a candidate's current administrative work and managed by a more experienced administrator.

Left to be decided at their December meeting, however, were the questions raised around experience and examination.

Currently, the Education Code provides that a candidate that has three years of experience as a classroom teacher or in the field of pupil personnel, health, clinical, rehabilitative or librarian services can apply for the preliminary administrative services credential.

Ken Burt, an attorney representing the California Teachers Association, said his organization has long taken the position that three years is not nearly enough time to prepare a candidate for a school leadership position. He said CTA supports increasing the threshold to 10 years.

Advocates for increasing the experience criteria note that the role of the administrator today is more focused on helping teachers improve in the classroom and indeed, to promote better student performance - something a relatively inexperienced, third-year teacher would be unlikely to provide.

Derek Ramage, director of certification and workforce management at Los Angeles Unified, said school employers are facing a difficult demographic problem within the next five years with hundreds of current school leaders likely to retire. Increasing the experience requirement even up to five years would create problems - not just for LAUSD, but for rural districts as well.

The CTC advisory panel has recommended no change to this provision.

Finally, the state has developed and begun administration of license examination for administrators, called the California Preliminary Administrative Credential Examination.

The exam was specifically developed at the direction of the commission under the theory that an examination route is an allowable alternative to completing a preparation program," according to the staff report.

That theory has been challenged, by CTA and others, because there is no data supporting the contention. Bert said the CTA does not oppose the examination option but wants confirmation that candidates awarded the administrative credential through that pathway are equally qualified.

The advisory panel has recommended the board retain the exam option but begin gathering the outcome data.