CTC’s audit nightmare ends, attention turns to implementing quality plan

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing closed the book Thursday on one of its most troubling episodes and then quickly pivoted to consideration of a plan for improving teacher quality decades into the future.

The CTC, mandated under state law to serve as the arbiter of professional integrity and quality for California's teachers, was the subject of a critical audit released in early 2011 that found a backlog of thousands of unprocessed teacher misconduct complaints that state officials said may have exposed some students to unsafe classroom conditions.

The shakeup that followed led to the retirements of top agency leaders, unwanted media attention and scrutiny from the Legislature's oversight committees.

After months of restructuring and revision of internal controls, the agency board got official word Thursday from California State Auditor Elaine Howle that the CTC had finally emerged with a clean bill of health.

Howle, who addressed the board in person and praised the effort of the past 16 months, was no sooner out of the room than the commission began looking at its next big agenda - implementing some 80 recommendations from a blue ribbon panel on improving teacher quality.

The report from the blue ribbon panel, jointly sponsored by state schools chief Tom Torlakson and the CTC, is intended to serve as a guide for developing a system that will lead to teachers who are consistently well-prepared and well-supported, and who continue to have opportunities to grow throughout their careers," Torlakson said earlier this year when launching the effort.

Thursday, CTC board members held their first public discussion of the program that will likely thrust the agency into a leadership role for carrying out the many proposed changes.

Commissioner Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor from Stanford who co-chaired the task force, said the report comes at a time that the teaching profession is somewhat in decline.

She noted the steep drop off in the number of college students entering preparation programs - a reaction to budget cuts and layoffs. But she said there's also growing evidence that teaching is becoming a less attractive profession.

"There have been nationwide surveys that show teachers feel less appreciated and are less likely to want to stay in the profession," she said.

There appear to be two key areas that the CTC will focus on, at least initially: Restoring professional development opportunities for teachers, and creating new career leadership pathways.

Some of the proposals are clear cut: Support residency models and school/university professional development partnerships for teachers, especially in high-need communities, and residency components of preparation programs for administrators.

Others will take time and money, such as developing licensing structures that conceptualize a career continuum and include optional advanced certificates for both teachers and administrators to encourage and recognize accomplishment; and to support the development of new leadership roles.

The blue ribbon plan offers suggestions for new teacher evaluation systems - a controversial topic that has failed to win support in the Legislature. It also stresses the need for new funds dedicated to professional training and development.

Although commission members expressed eagerness to begin work on the program, there was also a sense of caution. Members noted that the plan could take years, if not decades, to implement, and pieces of the puzzle could only be considered as financing and other resources permit.

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