Stricter state controls placed on California teaching interns

Mar 9, 2013 by

Stephanie Silva is just five years older than the Manual Arts High School students she teaches, but she is passionate about making a difference in their lives. The Cal State Northridge political science graduate joined Teach for America last year, underwent five weeks of training and attends night school for her full credential while teaching science to students who are struggling with English and learning disabilities.

But interns like Silva will be allowed to teach students struggling with English only under stricter state controls over their training and supervision, the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing unanimously decided Thursday.

The action seemed to satisfy key parties in what had become a debate over the rights of students who speak only limited English, the effectiveness of interns and their programs such as Teach for America and the flexibility of school districts in hiring instructors.

Derek Ramage of Los Angeles Unified, which had initially opposed efforts to change state rules over intern credentials, said he was satisfied by the outcome. The district employs only 199 interns among its 25,989 teachers — three-fourths of them in special education, with the rest primarily in science and math.

“If the result is that we have interns who are stronger in their teaching of English learners, then that’s a good thing,” Ramage said.

At a packed Sacramento hearing, nearly 60 speakers passionately and even tearfully testified over whether interns who are not yet fully trained should be teaching the state’s 1.4 million English learners. Civil rights organizations, teacher unions, researchers and parents argued that such students have the legal right to fully trained instructors with specialized knowledge on how to teach both language skills and academic content.

They also say the state’s 4,400 interns are disproportionately assigned to the state’s neediest students — those with insufficient English and learning disabilities — in low-performing schools.

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