On Monday, a trio of bills aimed at simplifying and reducing the number of tests needed to become a teacher in California failed before getting to final floor votes in the Legislature, keeping the current 4 test requirement system in place for new California teachers for the near future.
A push to change teacher testing, requirements in California
Assembly Bill 1982, authored by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-Paso Robles), Senate Bill 614, authored by Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), and Assembly Bill 2485, authored by Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), would have significantly altered teaching requirements in California.
AB 1982 would have exempted the California Basic Educational Skills Test from being required until the end of 2023, instead replacing it with coursework from accredited Universities, as well as from other education based tests such as SAT and ACT scores. AB 2485 would have offered a similar coursework replacement for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, with expiration also occurring on December 31, 2023. SB 614 would also remove a test, Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, and have the new requirement be a basic writing skills test until July 2024.
The bills were designed to shift requirements to be largely test-based to be more experienced based through what was learned in college and through student-teaching. The bills would also address the large teacher shortage in California by temporarily changing standards and skip “antiquated and expensive” tests.
“Teachers are better prepared to teach our children when they have real-life, hands-on experience, which is what the bill intended to provide to teacher candidates, in a real-time classroom setting,” said Senator Rubio last week. “Doing what we have done for over 20 years is not working. We need to do what’s best for students.”
Assemblyman Cunningham specifically addressed the teaching shortage.
“California’s teacher shortage affects school districts of every size, everywhere in our state,” explained Assemblyman Cunningham. “Given the shortage, we should be reducing barriers to entry into the profession. The state shouldn’t needlessly force successful college students to take a costly test that serves more as a wall than a gate.”
Bipartisan supported bills outlined the need for more teachers in California
While education bills are often divisive, all three bills had largely bipartisan backing, with the authors and co-authors from both parties throughout the state.
They also enjoyed widespread, nearly unanimous support. AB 1982 passed the Assembly 75-0 in June, with SB 614 getting a 38-0 vote in the Senate a month earlier. AB 2485 passed by an even greater amount, 78-0, also in June.
“California needs teachers badly,” Analisa Fuentes, a teacher who has also worked as a middleman for teaching unions and school districts, said in a Globe interview. “Parents want more teachers to reduce class sizes. Unions want more teachers to bolster members. Lawmakers want more teachers because they’ve been hearing from everyone how districts are hurting for more. Plus, with COVID-19 causing many early retirements, the need was greater than ever.”
“The bills got support for everyone by fine tuning the requirements for new teachers and everyone was ready for these to come up. But extenuating circumstances killed them.”
AB 1982 and AB 2485 were expected to move during the summer, but Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), the Senate education chairwoman, stopped them because they didn’t directly relate to COVID-19.
SB 614 also faltered due to the tightened session knocking out numerous bills. A stall by Senate Republicans over allowing debate to continue also helped stop the bills from being advanced if any last minute push had been attempted like with other bills.
The bill failures will allow the current system of 4 tests, the California Basic Educational Skills Test, the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, and the California Teaching Performance Assessment, to continue until at least early next year.
All three bill authors have said that they are currently considering reintroducing their bills during the next session in early 2021.
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