Stepping in to help improve the quality of teaching in the state’s public schools, the head of California State University on Friday unveiled a crash program to cut the time it takes uncredentialed teachers to complete their training.
By next summer, 1,000 teachers working under so-called emergency permits will be able to obtain their credentials within 18 months, in part by watching videotapes and completing courses on the Internet at night and on weekends, Chancellor Charles B. Reed said in a meeting with The Times.
Over the next three years, Reed said, he hopes to expand the TeacherNet program to include all of the 30,000 teachers who have not met the state’s requirements to become fully licensed.
Reed said new research shows that the most important factor determining how much students learn is the skill of the teacher. “It’s more important than class size, socioeconomics, culture and curriculum,” he said.
Since taking office in March, Reed has pushed to make teacher preparation the university’s top priority, sometimes meeting resistance from faculty leaders and administrators who fear that it will draw resources from other academic endeavors in the 22-campus system.
“I’m only at the point of getting their attention,” Reed said. “I can see the shock and resistance.”
To build trust in the system, he said, he is considering offering the state’s school districts a “warranty” on its graduates. “If during the first two years they need some extra help, we would offer it for free,” he said.
Reed said he has asked the Legislature for a $5-million increase to enable teacher preparation programs to operate year-round, instead of just during the nine-month academic year.
The university system trains nearly 60% of California’s teachers, about 12,000 a year. Reed said he wants to increase that figure to about 15,000 annually by July 2000.
The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning in Menlo Park projects that California schools will need to hire about 27,000 teachers annually for the next six years. The hiring boom is fueled by rapidly growing enrollment and the number of veteran teachers nearing retirement.
To operate the TeacherNet program, Reed plans to set up five regional centers that would combine the resources of several Cal State campuses. The centers would also offer other education-related courses year-round.
Three of those centers are to be in the Los Angeles area because nearly 60% of the state’s unlicensed teachers work in schools here, with most of them in the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Compton, Pasadena and Pomona school districts.
“We need to put forth an extraordinary effort in this region,” he said.
Currently, it can take three or more years for a working teacher to satisfy the state’s requirements, attending classes at nights and during breaks. Reed said the program will focus on preparing teachers in the critical areas of reading, math and special education.
The Legislature last year gave Cal State $5 million to design the program, which is modeled on the highly successful online university that serves 200,000 students in the United Kingdom.
The money was used to develop the online courses and videos that will be mailed to the students to be used at their convenience. Those materials are to be based on the state’s new academic standards, Reed said.
The program he announced would form clusters of about 20 teachers and pair them with a Cal State faculty member or a master teacher. The groups will meet with their supervising teacher once a week, either at schools or on university campuses. In addition, the supervising teachers will visit classrooms to monitor the progress of their students.
TeacherNet is just part of sweeping changes coming to Cal State’s teacher training programs, including common “exit standards” to measure a prospective teacher’s mastery of subject matter and how best to teach those subjects.
In an unrelated matter, Reed referred to a contentious issue that is dominating his discussion with faculty members over a new contract. He said he will not budge from his demand that 40% of the pay of Cal State’s professors be based on performance.
Now, about 20% of faculty annual salary increases is based on merit. The California Faculty Assn. opposes doubling the percentage. Negotiations hit an impasse in July, and a three-member fact-finding panel is now trying to cobble together a compromise.
“If we don’t have an agreement by the end of January,” Reed said, “I’m going to impose it.’