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California Canceled Teacher Competency Test Now Judged as One of the Best

California Canceled Teacher Competency Test Now Judged as One of the Best

An elementary school teacher works with her students in Pacoima, Calif., thirty minutes north of downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2019. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

11/10/2023

Updated: 12/21/2023

Commentary
This is another head-scratcher.
The National Council on Teacher Quality just ranked California’s reading licensure test, the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA), among six of 25 tests considered “strong assessments.”
The tests are used to make sure budding teachers are capable of teaching reading.
It states, “Test addresses more than 75% of topics in each component and does not combine reading/ELA with other subjects.”
ELA is English Language Arts.
Here’s the council’s definition: “Strong tests go beyond the criteria to be considered acceptable. ... Tests designated as strong also assess an average of at least 75% of the topics identified within each component, in addition to addressing how to support struggling readers and English learners, as well as either speakers of English language varieties or advanced readers (or both).”
Way to go, California!
Except Senate Bill 488, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom two years ago, gets rid of the RICA and replaces it with a dumbed-down standard. EdSource reported on Nov. 7 on the reason the RICA is being deep-sixed: “Between 2017 and 2021, more than 40% of teachers failed the test the first time they took it, according to state data. Black and Latino teacher candidates overall have lower passing rates on the test than their white and Asian peers.”
So, the system badly teaches black and Latino students, from K–12 onward, in what’s called the “achievement gap.” Then those kids grow up and go to college, hoping to teach reading, but they do poorly on the RICA. Then, instead of blaming the system, the test that discovered the system’s failure is discarded.
That sets off a chain reaction of failure: The reading teachers can’t teach reading; the kids don’t learn how to read; the kids who can’t read grow up to be reading teachers who can’t teach reading.
Teachers greet students at Yorba Middle School in Orange, Calif., on Aug. 16, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Teachers greet students at Yorba Middle School in Orange, Calif., on Aug. 16, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The solutions are obvious: Reform the K–12 system to stress excellence. In college, rigorously teach the best ways to teach reading. Keep the good RICA test. Give performance pay to the best teachers, encouraging them to stay in the field, instead of using their smarts in fields outside of teaching. Adopt Arizona-style universal school choice, in which parents get a voucher to be used at a regular public school, a public charter school, or a private school.
To do that, the state would have to tame the immense power of the California Teachers Association, part of the National Education Association, and the California Federation of Teachers, part of the American Federation of Teachers, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. That would mean reducing the power of collective bargaining for these unions. But that isn’t going to happen.
Meanwhile, the state is failing the country in not preparing an adequate workforce for the accelerating economic competition with communist China and nationalist Russia, as well as such friendly democracies as India, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. I detailed this threat recently in The Epoch Times in “California’s Dumbed-Down Schooling Torpedoing US Defense vs. China, Russia” and “‘Whole Child’ Gimmick Is Health Socialism.”
Just look at these latest California reading results from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress: There’s also a Trial Urban District Assessment for select school districts. Here are the reading results for 2019, the latest year:
  • Fresno Unified fourth graders: 19 percent “proficient” or “advanced”
  • Los Angeles Unified fourth graders: 24 percent “proficient” or “advanced”
  • San Diego Unified fourth graders: 37 percent “proficient” or “advanced”
  • Fresno Unified eighth graders: 13 percent “proficient,” with 0 percent “advanced”
  • Los Angeles Unified eighth graders: 28 percent “proficient” or “advanced”
  • San Diego Unified eighth graders: 35 percent “proficient” or “advanced”
A teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School reads students a book about earthquakes in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School reads students a book about earthquakes in San Francisco on Oct. 17, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Conclusion: Shooting the Messenger

This is the old story of shooting the messenger because you don’t like the message. In this case, the message is the RICA standard reported at the top of this article, met by only 60 percent of reading teachers. By getting rid of it, the system will perpetuate the epidemic of incompetent reading instruction.
Really, teaching reading isn’t that hard. Just get some phonics books and have the kids go through them. Get rid of the critical race theory and the diversity, equity, and inclusion nonsense, which wastes time. Insist that everyone achieve at a high level. And reward those who do achieve.
But that isn’t going to happen. This means that black and Latino kids are going to be the ones who suffer the most, their latent talents still unharvested as they languish in the worst schools with the worst teachers.
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John Seiler

John Seiler

Author

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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