California schools must set example for its students and not settle for a D+



California is a state known for its sunny skies, its supposedly celebrity-packed cities, and, more recently, its poorly trained teachers.

At the end of December last year, the National Council on Teacher Quality released a report ranking school systems based on factors such as teacher evaluation, compensation, and preparation. California received a D+, placing it below 31 other states.

State officials such as Michael Kirst, California Board of Education President, and Linda Darling-Hammond, California’s Commision on Teacher Credentialing chair, criticized the NCTQ’s ranking, claiming “arbitrary criteria” and “an ideological bias,” according to a San Jose Mercury News article by Sharon Noguchi titled “Report: California Lags States, Earns a D+ in Teacher Training.”

However, others view the report as a step in the right direction, filled with recommendations for how California schools and school districts should proceed to better educate their students.

California’s lowest-ranking categories, receiving an F, are as follows: teacher and administrator evaluation, hiring teachers and retaining successful teachers. California received a B in terms of teacher compensation, though the report does not necessarily take into account the disparity between wages for California teachers and the cost of living in the state, especially in expensive areas like Los Angeles or the Bay Area.

According to the council, California has the most room for improvement and the highest need to improve in terms of teacher evaluation.

With 17 new teachers on campus at Bear Creek, teacher evaluation is more important now than before. New teachers are evaluated more frequently than ones who have worked on campus longer, but still that bar is set very low since tenured teachers are only evaluated once every two years. As if that wasn’t insufficient enough, Lodi USD just negotiated to extend the time between evaluations to four or five years for teachers who have had at least three satisfactory evaluations in the past.

After a few years of “satisfactory” evaluations, California teachers are granted lifelong tenure. A bad evaluation is rare because teachers can often prepare or change their behavior and then continue teaching perhaps ineffectively for years.

Education reform is often based on ensuring student progress and providing extra time and resources for struggling students to ensure that they can match their peers and succeed as well. However, as NCTQ and Noguchi noted, most states have not made changes to their process to choose, train, evaluate and retain teachers in the last three years.

Though ensuring that all students succeed is important, so is protecting them from inadequate teachers, and often the two coincide. In fact, one study estimates that one year of being subjected to a poor teacher results in substantial financial loss later in life.

The education of the state’s youth is crucial for its future. The upcoming generation will soon replace Baby Boomers as engineers, doctors and teachers themselves — yet without proper training, today’s teachers will inadequately prepare their students for the future.

Education is a key to a successful life; without a proper education, people cannot pursue higher level careers, fulfill their potential goals or even necessarily provide for their future families.

If students attending public school are not being adequately taught, then they may not have good chance of attending college. Consequently, without a college degree, many students will have trouble finding employment in an economic situation in which even those who graduated college are left with lowering employment levels.

For many, success is being academically ambitious, but without proper evaluation and training of their teachers, students are left with whatever education their teachers deem adequate. Surely California can do better than a D+.