California teacher credentialing requirements continue to be eased during pandemic

CREDIT: YURI ARCURS / GETTY IMAGES

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing extended a waiver Thursday that will allow those in teacher preparation programs to begin teaching while they finish required exams, coursework and practice hours. It was the latest in a series of state actions to ease teaching requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic began many teacher candidates — those who are in or have completed a teacher preparation program but have not yet earned a teaching credential — have been unable to complete required exams because testing centers were either closed or had a backlog of appointments due to social distancing requirements. Others have not been able to complete student teaching or required coursework because school campuses are closed.

In April the commission approved the waiver that allows teacher candidates to begin teaching if they had not completed all credential requirements due to the pandemic. The vote Thursday extends the eligibility of those “variable-term waivers” for people unable to complete requirements through Aug. 31 of this year.

The waivers must be requested by the candidate’s teacher preparation program.

Since last March, when communities went into lockdown because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the credentialing commission, state legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom have taken a number of actions designed to help teacher candidates move into the classroom and prevent a worsening of the teacher shortage

The commission temporarily suspended some teacher testing requirements in April. It also temporarily waived the 600 hours of student teaching normally required to earn a teaching credential, allowing teacher preparation programs to decide if a candidate is ready for the classroom. California’s teacher candidates have been required — at various points in their credential programs — to take up to six tests to earn a credential, depending on what they plan to teach. 

A second-grade teacher helps a student with a writing assignment in a hybrid classroom.

Legislators jumped into the fray in late spring, authoring bills that would give teacher candidates the option of using university coursework to replace the California Basic Educational Skills Test, otherwise known as CBEST, and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, or CSET, for the next three years. The bills never made it to a vote, but Newsom has made the same proposal part of his state budget, without a three-year sunset. 

The governor also issued an executive order in May allowing eligible teacher candidates to earn preliminary credentials without taking either the California Teaching Performance Assessment, otherwise known as the CalTPA, or the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, or RICA. Both must be completed before earning a clear credential. It also allowed students to enter teacher preparation programs without passing the CBEST.

Before the new flexibilities, the CBEST was generally taken before enrollment in a teacher preparation program. Some teacher preparation programs require that students pass the CSET before admission, while some allow students to enroll first, then require they pass the test before they begin student teaching.

“As we continue to look forward to the new year in 2021, staff continues to work diligently with the field to understand and address the needs of candidates who are enrolled in educator preparation in this current academic year, many of whom may be completing programs and entering the profession without significant opportunities for in-person in classroom experiences,” said Cheryl Hickey, an administrator at the commission.

The state has made it easier for teacher candidates to move into the classroom since the pandemic began, even if they haven’t completed all required coursework, exams and teacher training. Teacher candidates whose credential process was affected by the pandemic between March 19, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021 are eligible for the following testing flexibilities, unless otherwise indicated:

Students take notes as teacher, Nick Johnson, writes unfamiliar words on the board in his Algebra 1 math class at Rudsdale Newcomer High School in Oakland, California.

The Teaching Performance Assessment, otherwise known as the CalTPA, is waived to earn a preliminary credential, although it must be passed to earn a clear credential. Candidates must have completed all other requirements. The CalTPA measures how well teacher candidates can assess students, design instruction and organize subject matter. The test must be taken by all teachers, except special education teachers, before they can earn a credential.

The Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, which measures how well candidates for multiple-subject credentials and education specialists are able to teach reading, is waived to earn a preliminary credential, although it must still be passed to earn a clear credential. Candidates must have been unable to pass the test, known as the RICA, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The California Basic Educational Skills Test, which tests reading, math and writing skills, is no longer required to enter a teacher preparation program, but basic skills requirements must be met before being recommended for a credential. Candidates who have not previously failed the test have also been given an extra year to pass it if they were impacted by the pandemic between March 19 of last year and Jan. 31 of this year.

Subject matter requirements, like passing tests in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers or subject matter programs, is waived for teacher candidates who want to work as interns and student teachers, although it must be passed before earning a preliminary credential. Some teacher preparation programs require that students pass the CSET before admission, while some allow students to enroll first, then require they pass the test before they begin student teaching. Student teachers must have been impacted by the pandemic during the 2020-21 school year to be eligible for the waiver.


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