Marking a big turnaround managing teacher misconduct

Marking a big turnaround managing teacher misconduct

(Calif.) Three years after a critical audit found the average teacher misconduct case could take 22 months to resolve, state officials reported last week that timeline has been cut almost in half.

In 2011, the state auditor reported that a typical educator discipline case could take 683 days to mature from the initial investigatory stage to action by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

During the 2014-15 school year, the agency reported that the average case took only 392 days to travel through the system.

The new efficiency is the result of streamlining procedures and delegating some decisions either to CTC’s executive director or to a secondary misconduct panel, the Committee of Credentials.

The commission, which serves as the state's standards board for educator training and professional conduct, came under fire after auditors found more than 12,000 misconduct cases unprocessed during the summer of 2009.

Part of that backlog were less serious complaints that had been set intentionally aside, but officials also acknowledged inefficiencies in the manner that agency staff undertook investigations – especially on cases where violations were not likely to result in any disciplinary action.

Nanette Rufo, director of the CTC’s division of professional practices, noted in a report to the board that the year-end caseload had gone from 4,133 in 2010-11 to 2,357 in 2014-15.

Reports of arrests and prosecutions – known as RAP sheets – accounted for a total of 1,757 cases last year, down from 1,971 recorded last year and 2,200 in 2012-13.

The largest category of misconduct was alcohol-related, accounting for 2,290 cases – down from 2,409 in 2013-14 and 2,408 reported in 2012-13.

Joshua Speaks, spokesman for the CTC, said the agency had to engage in a comprehensive reevaluation of how misconduct cases were processed in order to drive the new efficiencies.

“This evaluation identified delays in our process, outdated policies and procedures, and insufficient internal workload tracking,” he said. “In response, the Division of Professional Practices added key new management and staff positions, expanding by about 20 percent; updated their processes and the policies governing them; and trained existing and new staff on these changes. They also created new internal reports to give staff and management better tools for tracking cases and create greater accountability within the division.”

A key chokepoint in the process is the appeal that a credential-holder can make. Under state law, after the CTC has made its determination and issued a sanction, that decision can have the case heard by an Administrative Law judge.

The credentialing commission is represented in the appeal trial by the state Attorney General, which has been challenged to keep up with the recent growth in caseload. The number of appeals requested has jumped from 60 in 2011-12 to 199 in 2014-15.

To help reduce the burden, CTC’s legal office has made a special effort to negotiate settlements before a case goes to trial.

The governor also agreed to augment the CTC’s budget with another $3.9 million to help cover the cost of appealed cases.