Our review of the credentialing process administered by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (commission) revealed the following:
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (commission) was created in 1970 with the responsibility of ensuring excellence in education by establishing high standards for the preparation and licensing of public school educators. The commission also issues licenses and permits for school administrators and educators working in specialized teaching areas. In fiscal year 2003-04 the commission granted approximately 239,000 teacher and administrator licenses and renewals. In addition to its licensing responsibility, the commission develops program standards to address the quality of the programs that accredited colleges and universities provide to prospective teachers. The commission's other duties include adopting credential exams, accrediting colleges and universities that meet program standards, operating teacher development programs designed to help prospective teachers complete the requirements needed for a credential, and reviewing allegations of misconduct against credential holders or applicants. Our review found that the commission could make improvements to better evaluate the programs it oversees and its internal operations, more effectively manage its application processing, and refine how it updates program standards. In addition, the commission should resume its continuing accreditation reviews of colleges and universities.
The commission could increase its ability to measure the effectiveness of its teacher development programs, the efficiency of the teacher-credentialing process (process), and the performance of its internal operations. By doing so, the commission would be able to streamline and improve its efforts. For example, its teacher development programs provide funding for individuals who do not yet meet the requirements for a teaching credential, yet the commission has not sufficiently evaluated and accurately reported on two of its three teacher development programs. As part of its oversight of the process in California, the commission has some measures of the overall health of the process. However, it could improve its analysis of those measures and could develop further measures to better track the performance of the process and of individual teacher preparation programs.
Despite the importance of strategic planning, the commission has lacked specific performance measures to guide and evaluate its efforts. Further, the commission's February 2001 strategic plan is outdated and lacks performance measures. In addition, the commission does not annually track its progress in completing the tasks it described in the strategic plan. Subsequent to our fieldwork, the commission updated the tasks in its strategic plan.
The commission has implemented some reforms of the process and is contemplating others. It has also worked to reduce the barriers to becoming a California teacher. In addition to these efforts, the commission is considering whether to consolidate the examinations that it requires prospective teachers to pass.
By focusing its customer service, better managing its workload, and taking full advantage of a new automated application-processing system, the commission could improve its processing of applications. Facing a significant volume of contacts, the commission has not taken sufficient steps to focus its customer service activities. Proper management of customer service is necessary because the large volume of telephone calls and e-mails that the commission receives takes staff away from the task of processing credential applications.
Although the commission typically processes applications for credentials in less than its regulatory processing time of 75 business days, applications go unprocessed for a significant amount of this time because staff members are busy with other duties. The commission has taken some steps to improve its process, including automating certain functions as part of its Teacher Credentialing Service Improvement Project (TCSIP), which is a new automated application processing system that the commission plans to implement in late October 2004. However, the commission has not performed sufficient data analysis to make informed staffing decisions. TCSIP offers tangible time-saving benefits, such as allowing colleges and universities to submit applications electronically and automating the commission's review of online renewals, but the commission does not plan to use either function to its full potential in the foreseeable future.
Although online renewals offer the benefit of faster and more efficient processing, the commission has not sufficiently publicized this benefit. The commission could do more to inform teachers about the benefits of online renewal by performing the data analysis necessary to determine where the commission needs to do additional outreach and by better highlighting online renewal's availability and faster processing time.
The commission is in the midst of a 10-year process of developing program standards that comply with the requirements of Senate Bill 2042, Chapter 548, Statutes of 1998 (act). The commission does not have an overall plan to guide its efforts to finish implementing program standards or its ongoing standard-setting activities. Further, the commission's recent experiences developing program standards to meet the act's requirements offer an opportunity to evaluate how to better manage its future efforts. Our review of five sets of recently developed program standards identified areas in the commission's process for developing program standards that lack structure and could be improved. Among other issues, the commission does not use a methodical approach to form advisory panels of education professionals that assist it in developing program standards; neither does it always put in perspective the results of its field-review surveys to the commission's governing body (commissioners) when recommending standards for adoption.
Finally, the commission suspended its continuing accreditation reviews of colleges and universities in December 2002. Continuing accreditation reviews are an important component of the commission's accreditation system and help ensure that colleges and universities operate teacher preparation programs that meet the commission's standards. The commission indicated that it suspended continuing accreditation reviews to allow colleges and universities time to implement the commission's new standards and for it to evaluate its accreditation policy. Although the commission has been working with representatives from colleges and universities to evaluate its accreditation policy, it does not plan to propose a revision to the commissioners until August 2005.
To determine their success, the commission should establish performance measures for each of its teacher development programs.
To better plan and evaluate its efforts, the commission should regularly update its strategic plan and when appropriate quantify performance measures for tasks, in terms of the results it aims to achieve.
The commission should continue to consider ways to streamline the process.
The commission should improve application processing by better focusing its customer service efforts, analyzing application-processing data, requiring institutional customers to submit applications electronically to the extent that it is economically feasible, and encouraging more educators to renew their credentials online.
To improve the process by which it develops program standards for college and university teacher preparation programs, the commission should develop an overall plan to guide its efforts to fully implement the act's requirements. This plan should describe the commission's process for developing standards and should provide more structure for that process. Further, to ensure that colleges and universities meet these program standards, the commission should promptly resume its continuing accreditation reviews.
The commission concurs with many of our recommendations, but believes that it will need changes in its statutory authority or additional funding and staffing to implement them. Moreover, the commission believes the report has significant omissions, errors, and misinterpretations. We carefully analyzed the commission's response and, although we made some minor modifications to the report text, we stand by our audit conclusions and recommendations.