HomeCalifornia NewsSenate Committee approves bill to remove teaching performance assessment in California

Senate Committee approves bill to remove teaching performance assessment in California

Sacramento, California – A bill aimed at removing a key certification test for teachers in California successfully passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday without much opposition. Senate Bill 1263, supported by the California Teachers Association, will now proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If it passes there and is ultimately approved by the full Legislature, it will eliminate the California Teaching Performance Assessment, or CalTPA.

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This assessment currently requires teachers to show their teaching skills through video recordings of their classes and written analyses of their teaching methods. Senator Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who wrote the bill and is the chair of the Senate Education Committee, argued during Wednesday’s meeting that removing the test would attract more people to the teaching profession.

“Despite its well-intentioned purpose, the demands associated with preparing for the TPA have actually had the perverse impact of reducing the overall quality of teacher preparation by undermining the capacity of teacher candidates to focus on what’s most important, which is their clinical practice,” Newman said.

According to Newman, this particular test is redundant since it overlaps with other existing requirements for becoming a teacher. These requirements include demonstrating knowledge in specific subjects, taking courses in teacher education, proving reading instruction skills, and completing 600 hours of practical teaching experience. However, Brian Rivas, a senior director at The Education Trust‒West, a nonprofit organization focused on education research and advocacy, expressed his opposition to the bill.

“We concluded when we reviewed the research that teaching performance assessments are the best available measure of teacher preparedness and whether or not a candidate is prepared to enter a classroom,” Rivas said.

Brian Rivas pointed out that the test sets a universal benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness of teacher training programs and expressed concern that its removal might lead to a decrease in adequately prepared teachers, particularly in low-income areas that often have many inexperienced teachers. Over recent years, as California faced a growing teacher shortage, there has been a shift away from standardized tests for those entering the teaching field.

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In July 2021, new legislation allowed aspiring teachers to choose specific courses as an alternative to taking the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) or the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). In January, the preliminary budget from Governor Gavin Newsom proposed doing away with the CBEST and accepting a bachelor’s degree as fulfillment of the state’s basic skills requirement.

Simultaneously, California has been involved in a national initiative to reform reading instruction in schools, emphasizing phonics, which teaches students to read by sounding out words. Last summer, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 488, which replaced the widely criticized Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) with a new literacy performance assessment that aligns with updated literacy standards and Teaching Performance Expectations focused on phonics and other essential reading skills. This new assessment is set to start its pilot phase soon, and it had the backing of the California Teachers Association (CTA).

Later developments saw union leaders decide to advocate for Senate Bill 1263, motivated by a survey of their members. SB 1263 aims to eliminate the performance assessment, but it maintains the requirement for prospective teachers to pass a test on teaching reading. This means, if SB 1263 is passed, the RICA might continue beyond its expected expiration in 2025.

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The Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) has long been seen as a significant obstacle for those training to become teachers. From 2012 to 2017, about a third of teacher candidates failed the test on their first attempt, based on state data. Many have criticized the test for being outdated, racially biased, and contributing to the shortage of teachers in California.

Additionally, the California Teachers Association (CTA) opposed Assembly Bill 2222, which would have mandated that teachers in California adopt “science of reading” techniques in their instruction. This bill was not moved forward and died without being discussed last week. In contrast, CTA’s representative, Mandy Redfern, supported Senate Bill 1263, describing the teacher performance assessment (TPA) as an unnecessary hurdle that impedes the development of a diverse teaching workforce.

“Over the past 20 years, the TPA, or the teacher performance assessment, has evolved into a high-stakes, time-consuming costly barrier for aspiring teachers,” Redfern said.

“The current iteration of the TPA has been proven to be ineffective at preparing educators for the realities of the classroom,” she said. “The CTC’s data shows that TPAs disproportionately harm aspiring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of color) educators.”

Despite these claims, Mary Vixie Sandy, the executive director of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, noted at the hearing that the recent pass rates for people of color on the TPA are comparable to those of other groups. For instance, Black teacher candidates had a first-time pass rate of 75% and an overall pass rate of 95%, which is consistent with the average for all test takers.

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Moreover, if passed, Senate Bill 1263 would also eliminate the mandated oversight of literacy instruction in teacher preparation programs, a requirement established by Senate Bill 488 in 2021, authored by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-West Covina.


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