Commission on Teacher Credentialing deep dives into its exams

During the June 20-21 meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), commissioners reviewed several reports, including an analysis of the passing rates of commission-approved examinations from the last five years; continued an ongoing discussion and data review on teaching performance assessments (TPAs) and candidate support from accrediting institutions; and voted to support a newly amended bill on TPAs.

Commission-approved exams

The CTC issues credentials, certificates and permits that authorize service as a teacher, administrator, counselor or other professional service provider in California’s public schools.

Entrance exams

The role of the CTC’s entrance examinations has changed recently with added options available for educator credential candidates to meet the basic skills requirement and the subject matter requirement using coursework and majors as authorized in the 2023 labor and employment trailer bill. Commission-approved educator preparation programs can also verify that a candidate has demonstrated basic skills proficiency and subject matter proficiency by accepting qualifying college level coursework from a regionally accredited institution of higher education as long as certain conditions are met. These exams are taken before candidates enter accreditation programs.

Data was highlighted from the 2022–23 academic year, the second year these alternate means to meet the basic skills and subject matter requirements were in place, and more candidates took advantage of these options than in the first year. Additionally, 2022–23 was the first year these tests were offered free of charge. For the basic skills requirement in 2021–22, 83 percent met the requirement through the traditional exam; in 2022–23, 67 percent took and passed the traditional exam. For the subject matter requirement in 2021–22, 64 percent of candidates (7,176) fulfilled the requirement through the traditional exam; in 2022–23, 52 percent met the requirement through the traditional exam.

Over the five-year period from 2018–23, the basic skills exam passing rates (disaggregated in the report by first-time and cumulative) showed 84 percent of candidates passed. For the single subject exam, over the five-year period, combined passing rates showed 81 percent of candidates passing.

The report provides the data disaggregated by gender and ethnicity, showing disparities for historically underserved groups, particularly African American candidates. Data is also provided for other exams, including California Teacher of English Learners, Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (outgoing) and administrative credentials.

Teaching Performance Assessments

In December 2023, the commission took action to create a secondary passing score option for candidates who score just below the adopted passing standard. This option allows candidates to work with their preparation programs to demonstrate mastery of teaching performance expectations (TPEs) through other sources of evidence, allowing programs to certify that these candidates have met the TPA requirement. Programs may then provide these candidates with a professional development plan during induction to ensure that candidates who fall into this group and who could become effective teachers are not lost from the profession.

At the April 2024 meeting, commissioners posed several questions about implementation of the TPA requirement, focusing on how preparation programs are supporting candidates, especially in light of the new alternate passing standard. Staff presented data from the most recent candidate pool of 6,738 multiple subject and single subject teacher candidates taking the two cycles of the CalTPA. Of those, 88 percent, or 5,934, passed on their best attempt at the original passing score. Six percent, or 408 candidates, had scores that fell within the secondary passing standard and may work with their preparation programs to identify additional evidence that they meet the TPEs and take the next step towards meeting the TPA requirement and 6 percent of candidates did not meet either requirement. For Cycle 2, 88 percent passed on best attempt, 3 percent had scores within the secondary passing standard and 8 percent did not meet either.

See the item for statistics on other credentials, such as education specialist, and alternate exam results. It also breaks down passing rates by program type, finding overall that local educational agency intern programs had the lowest passing rates and teacher residency programs had the highest.

The item was followed by a lengthy discussion among the commissioners about the dire need to address why African American candidates consistently perform at lower levels on these assessments, even in the same programs as their peers.

“I think this is a call to action,” said CTC Chair Marquita Grenot-Scheyer. “I want us to focus our energy [on] figuring out what is happening to this most vulnerable group of students. And working with our higher ed partners to figure out support — support and pressure to ensure that we’re supporting these candidates in the way that they need.”

Proposed legislation

Staff presented the newly amended Senate Bill 1263 for commission consideration on its position. The amended bill would, contingent upon a budget appropriation, require the commission to convene a work group to assess the current design and implementation of TPAs in California. This work group would be made up of California teachers, teacher educators and performance assessment experts, which the commission would appoint in consultation with statewide labor organizations and other representative groups.

The bill focuses on five topics that must be addressed:

  1. An analysis of any modifications needed to current assessments, ensuring that they are valid and authentic to the work of teaching applicable across the diversity of classroom settings in California and appropriate for new teachers.
  2. How educator preparation programs might embed assessments into their courses clinical and practical work reducing duplication of work by candidates.
  3. Adjusting questions for program completer surveys to better understand teacher candidate experiences of program support and taking and completing TPAs.
  4. Ways to strengthen California’s accreditation system to ensure educator preparation programs embed assessment content in course and clinical work and offer sufficient supports to teacher candidates throughout their courses, including passing assessments.
  5. How programs can engage in local scoring of assessments to inform their own programs improvement process.

Commissioners voted to support the bill as amended.

In other CTC updates:

Several reports were presented as information items: Final Report on the 2021 Dyslexia Grants to Preparation Programs, an update on the 2023 Diverse Education Leaders Pipeline Initiative Grant Program, the third annual report to the Legislature on the implementation of SB 488 – Reading Instruction and a Learning Policy Institute report, How Preparation Predicts Teaching Performance Assessment Results in California, which provides additional information and data concerning TPAs, their implementation and outcomes across the variety of preparation program types and candidate pathways.