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Compromise Protects “Intern” Teachers – For Now

Samantha Oltman | March 11, 2013

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The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) voted Thursday to revamp training requirements for roughly 2,200 alternative or “intern” certificated teachers who teach English language learners — but did not disqualify these teachers immediately as some had feared.

This decision came as a relief to hundreds of teachers in LA, including the 300 Teach for America (TFA) teachers currently in LAUSD classrooms.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about the rule-making process moving forward in a way that allows TFA to thrive and serve kids, and to improve the overall the profession of teaching,” said Teach for America’s Vice President, Shannon Blankenship.

But they’re not out of the woods yet. The CTC’s final recommendations on alternative certifications could have a big impact on Los Angeles schools.

The effectiveness and legality of alternative certification teachers have been debated in the courts and the US Congress on and off since 2002, when the Bush Administration determined that they were considered “highly qualified.” (For a history of the debate, read this recent history by LA School Report editor Alexander Russo.)

The majority of Teach for America’s teachers receive their credentials through intern credentialing programs, so the CTC’s decision could have blocked many TFA teachers from teaching.

Concerns about the decision the CTC might make were heightened because its head, Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, is one of the most consistent critics of alternative certification programs like TFA.

In the weeks leading up to the Thursday meeting, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy signed onto a letter opposing restrictions on the use of intern teachers. The California Federation of teachers and some civil rights groups signed a letter urging the CTC to end the practice. A Thursday LA Times editorial came out against eliminating the alternative credential option.

TFA alum Rigel Massaro

One of those who testified against allowing alternative certification candidates to teach ELLs was a TFA alumna Rigel Massaro (pictured, courtesy EdSource Today).

In the end, the CTC took a more measured approach and decided to revisit and fine tune alternative credential rules by creating a stakeholder committee. A SI&A Cabinet Report story about the process notes that the new policy and requirements for intern credentials and programs will require alternative certification teachers to complete a program or pass a test to teach bilingual students.
LA School Report reached out to the California Teachers Association, which has long been a wary critic of Teach for America and alternative teaching credentials, but we are still waiting to hear back. We’ll update you when we do.

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