California Can’t Decide What Makes a Good Teacher


    Cute boy reading book in library

    There are currently two things on the minds of California state officials when it comes to education: what time school should start, and what makes a good teacher. The second one is something that California school boards and several advocacy groups just can’t agree on.

    The first issue hasn’t quite hit the school board yet, as they’ve been a little busy trying to define just what kind of teachers they’re looking for.

    California currently has no real definition on what makes a good or bad teacher. They have been following the Federal “Every Student Succeeds Act” for their guidelines. The act is supposed to provide a way to measure whether disadvantaged students have a higher proportion of inexperienced teachers than their peers. However, it hasn’t proven all that effective.

    And that’s because California can’t decide what they’re supposed to be measuring for in their teachers.

    In a packet of materials prepared for their meeting, the State Board of Education expressed a desire to define ineffective teachers as “those who are improperly assigned or don’t have full credentials.”

    This mirrors the Local Control Funding Formula Law and the Calfornia Teachers Assn. Union definition. However, this definition doesn’t factor in the student performances under a teacher, and that is something that drew criticism.

    One such critic was the organization Education Trust – West, which is an Oakland-based nonprofit that focuses on closing the student achievement gap. In a letter they wrote the following:

    “We are very concerned. It refuses to consider teacher effectiveness as something apart from certification and instead as something related to performance and impact on students.”

    Similarly, wrote the Assn. of California School Administrators, the definition misses the inclusion of a “teacher that is fully credentialed, but ineffective in instructional practices.”

    Unlike with private schools, in which 60% to 80% of teachers have an advanced degree and likely several years of experience, public schools don’t have as much funding. They have to make gambles on their teachers, and some schools are worried that they’ll get punished for hiring teachers with less experience in the classroom.

    No true definition has been released yet of what makes an effective teacher by the state law, and so the issue has been left for debate.