Should an Ethnic Studies Degree qualify a teacher to teach social sciences? CTC hears debate
January 23, 2023
The December meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing was attended by ACSA CTC Liaison Doug Gephart, who filed the following report.
The Commission on Teacher Credentialing will study whether a degree in Ethnic Studies should qualify a teaching candidate to teach Social Sciences following a lengthy debate at its Dec. 9 meeting.
In July 2021, the Legislature adopted new options in the Education Code for candidates to demonstrate their subject matter competence through a) degree majors in the area of the credential, b) coursework that covers the domains of the applicable Subject Matter Requirements for the credential sought, and c) a combination of coursework and examination subtests required for the credential sought by the candidate.
During the June 2022 meeting, the CTC approved regulations for candidates to meet the subject matter requirement outlined in Education Code. Following the meeting, staff prepared the prerequisite public notice packet for submission to the Office of Administrative law and issued a notice for the required 45-day public comment period. The Commission received a request for a public hearing to discuss these proposed regulations. Subsequently the Commission received two questions from members of the public requesting clarification of the applicability of a particular degree major under the proposed regulations. The Commission did not receive any written responses in support or opposition to the public announcement. After considering all input during the public comment period, the Commission determined that no further changes were needed to the proposed regulations adopted in June 2022, which included allowing a major in Ethnic Studies to serve as authorization to teach Social Sciences.

In June of 2022, as previously noted, the Commission determined that a major in Ethnic Studies could be added for teaching Social Sciences but not for Multiple Subject credentials based upon transcript reviewers at three different preparation programs who independently determined that coursework in Ethnic Studies majors reasonably aligned with the domains of the Social Science subject matter requirements. Public input was required before the Commission could officially implement the findings.
During the Dec. 9 Commission meeting, public input was heard with a clear division of opinion on whether Ethnic Studies sufficiently covers the depth and breadth of Social Science content. Commissioners who possess degrees in Ethnic Studies believe candidates can effectively teach all the domains within the Social Sciences curriculum and they believe Ethnic Studies coursework is equivalent to the curriculum for a degree in Social Sciences. Further, there is a strong belief that allowing Ethnic Studies candidates to teach Social Sciences will expand the pool of teachers of color.
Counter to that position, CSU faculty representatives and parent input stressed that Ethnic Studies is not adequate to teach Social Sciences and does not meet legislative requirements. They believe Ethnic Studies lacks the breadth and depth of History Majors to teach the full range of curriculum that includes but not limited to World History, U.S. History, California History, Political Science and Economics. Additionally, some who are opposed do not believe the Commission is authorized to approve Ethnic Studies to teach Social Sciences.
After a lengthy discussion, the Commission considered three options to address the issue: Keep current policy in place based upon Commission action in June 2022; amend Commission decision in June during the December meeting; or reconsider June decision with further study and consideration. The Commission voted to initiate a deep review to determine whether a degree in Ethnic Studies should qualify a teaching candidate to teach Social Sciences.
Committee on Accreditation annual report
The Commission also heard the annual report from the Committee on Accreditation, which assists the Commission in the implementation of the accreditation system.
Success of the accreditation system depends on the commitment of hundreds of experts in the field. Members of the Board of Institutional Reviewers are comprised of those who have a role in preparing educators and practitioners themselves, who are trained and calibrated to review programs and conduct site visits. Currently, there are 254 Commission-approved program sponsors offering 884 different educator preparation programs and many of those are offered through various pathways. Major accreditation activities during the 2021-22 year include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • During the past five years there has been a decreasing trend in the proportion of male candidates, 36.2 percent, down to 31.9 percent in 2020-21.
  • During this same period of time there has been an increase in the candidates who identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino of any race.
  • The biggest decline (by 10.3 percentage points) in the past five years was in the proportion of candidates who identified themselves as White.
  • The proportion of candidates whose “Race/ethnicity not reported” increased (by 3.3 points) in the past three years.
There has been a steady increase of total enrollment in all three routes – 7.1 percent for Traditional, 16.6 percent for Alternative IHE-based, and 53.7 percent for Alternative LEA-based in the past five years. When all three routes were combined, there has been an increase of 3,736 candidates (by 10.4 percent) between 2016-17 and 2020-21.
Report Card on California Teacher Preparation Programs
The Commission was also presented with the Annual Report Card on California Teacher Preparation Programs for the Academic Year 2020-21, as required by Title II of the 2008 Reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act.
For California State University, the gender makeup of candidates stayed steady over the past five years, about three-fourths female and little over one-fourth male. The gender makeup of candidates at CSU reflects the current teaching workforce. There has been a significant change in the proportion of candidates who identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino of any race – 31.6 percent in 2016-17 to 41.4 percent in 2020-21, an increase of 9.8 percentage points. In addition, there has been decreases in the proportions of Asian candidates (by 0.8 percentage points) and for Black or African American candidates (by 0.5 percentage points) in the past five years. Overall, the number of program completers increased by 26.5 percent in the past five years.
Out of the 19,666 new teaching credentials issued in 2020-21, more than 80 percent of the teaching credentials were issued to candidates who were prepared in-state while fewer than 20 percent of the teaching credentials were issued to teachers who were trained out-of-state/out-of-country. Nearly 60 percent of the new credential holders came through the IHE Traditional route, 22 percent through the Alternative IHE-based route, 4 percent via the Alternative LEA-based route, and the remaining 14 percent were issued to teachers who were prepared out-of-state/out-of-country. When analyzed by the type of teaching credentials, 45 percent were issued in Multiple Subject (elementary education), another 34 percent were issued in Single Subject and the remaining 21 percent were issued in Education Specialist (special education) credentials.
National Board Certification Incentive Program
The California National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) Certification Incentive Program awards grants to school districts for the purpose of providing monetary incentives in the amount of $25,000 to teachers who have already attained certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and agree to teach at a high priority school for at least five years. Teachers receive the awards in $5,000 payments at the end of each school year they complete in a high priority school.
To further encourage teachers to pursue National Board certification, the California NBPTS Candidate Subsidy Award provides already credentialed teachers who teach at a high priority school a subsidy of $2,500 to cover the costs of seeking NBPTS certification. Funds for the award are sent directly to NBPTS to pay for the costs of the four assessments teachers must complete to be considered for certification. For the purpose of this program, a high priority school is defined as a school with 55 percent or more of its unduplicated count of pupils who are classified as an English learner, a foster youth, or eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards reported that in the first cohort of subsidy recipients, the number of California teachers pursuing National Board certification in high priority schools quadrupled from the 2020-21 school year when there was not a subsidy from the state. In addition, the number of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers pursuing National Board certification in California also quadrupled from 356 to 1,432. Sixty-three percent of all teachers pursuing National Board certification in California identify as BIPOC. Encouraging and supporting California teachers to pursue National Board certification has the potential to help retain highly effective teachers in the schools with students that need them the most.
Other items
In other agenda business, the commission:
Adopted passing score standards for the CSET: Art and CSET: Music examinations. Because CSET: Art and CSET: Music are low-incidence examinations, which are only offered during four testing windows annually, the standard setting workshops occurred before the examinations were operationally administered. The panel recommendations for minimum passing scores for each of the subtests are based entirely on the content of the examinations and the specific ways in which the test-items measure the subject matter requirements. Standard setting panelists did not have access to any “impact data” or potential passing rates for candidates who have already taken the examinations. Notification of these passing score standards will be posted on the CSET website and distributed to the field.
Granted Stage V initial institutional approval to Alder Graduate School of Education following its Provisional Site Visit. The Commission also granted Stage III approval to Relay Graduate School of Education, allowing Relay GSE’s proposed programs to be reviewed by the Committee on Accreditation for Initial Program Approval in Stage IV.
Heard an update on the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program. The 2021-22 state budget appropriated $125 million one-time fund, available for five years, to expand the existing California Classified School Employees Teacher Credentialing Program, which provides grants to TK-12 LEAs to recruit and support 5,208 new non-certificated school employees to become certificated classroom teachers. To date, 2,925 classified employees have participated in this program with County Offices of Education supporting 1,790 candidates or 61 percent of all candidates.
Granted staff’s request for additional time to develop performance assessments for Deaf Hard of Hearing, Early Childhood Specialist Education, and Visual Impairments. The additional time will allow for the inclusion of literacy in these Teaching Performance Assessments and allow sufficient comprehensive field testing with the lower incidence credential areas of emphasis. The extension of time for development, low incidence credential candidates will participate in a field test during the 2024-25 academic year to prepare for operational administration in fall 2025. The Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity has shared that it plans to develop handbooks for edTPA in DHH, ECSE, and VI. Fresno State has also informed staff that it would like to develop a performance assessment for DHH with its TPA, the Fresno Assessment for Student Teachers.
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