If you do not recognize these acronyms, you are not involved much in education, particularly in California. These, and more, are the incendiary top of the pile for teachers to be “certified” highly qualified (NCLB rules) and be allowed to teach. The organizations which make the tests have become wealthy as teachers can ‘re-take’ the test until they pass. These tests, much like the tests administered to students each spring, lack any logic and are not representative of ability or knowledge, however, it looks great on a piece of paper to state you accomplished another hurdle in your race to teach. Each of these individual items is a test (both of your intelligence and knack for salvaging gunk out of an old garbage can, or will to perservere – a skill you need in teaching). This blog is a little primer on what all of these mean by the letter of the law and what they mean in reality (guess which one is more accurate?). When you get done, think about writing your legislative reps, senator, governor and Arne Duncan to express how proud you are that the teachers at your child’s school are Grade A top choice dead when they get to the classroom (which means you can not burn out, you are already dead!). Then, the next step will be to determine how we can pass legislation and laws to ‘highly qualify’ the employees at banks, mortgage institutions, law offices, brokerage houses, government workers and any other group that helped our economy get where it is right now. BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) – Teachers are required to perform a monumental amount of work in their first two years of teaching, on top of everything else, so some one can determine if they are ready for the classroom. Support is in the form of attending classes and being assigned another teacher (tenured, with experience, and is paid to ‘support’ starting teacher) to check up on you and make sure you do not go around the bend. Having assisted a couple new teachers in accomplishing some of the projects, I was overwhelmed how they had enough hours in the day (they didn’t – they had to fake it) to attend to student needs. I observed BTSA is successful in helping new teachers use curriculum such as FOSS. New teachers don’t have time or where with all to do the level of planning, scripting lessons, prepping materials to accomplish what is expected so these pre- fab kits (which literally anyone can use and teach- and pass on misconceptions) are set up to just follow along. BTSA helps teachers burn out. New teachers will never state the truth until after they obtain tenure, lest the truth ruin their careers of which they have now put in two extra years of hell. BTSA is to be complimented for contributing to teacher turn over/burn out by adding more work to a new teachers load then is humanly possible to accomplish. CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test) – The name states what the test is about. It is geared at approximately Gr 4-Gr 8 subject matter (language arts and math to algebra and geometry). If you can not pass this, it would be interesting to understand how you got through college and may be the most clear indicator of all tests of whether you should consider another career. Most people can pass this test after staying out partying the night before. CLAD ( Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development) which is now CTEL (California Teacher of English Learners) – This test is geared to demonstrate you can handle having students in your class who have not/choose not to/ will not learn English so you can socially pass the students at the end of the year since you have adequately modified the curriculum for students (see SDAIE). Note: If you served in Peace Corps, you must take this test as you could not possibly understand the difficultly of living in another country, adapting to another culture or learning a foreign language. If you are from a foreign country, you must take this test to prove you understand English…. CLAD became CTEL when not enough teachers could meet the CLAD requirements and were taking it over and over, helping the testing company remain profitable. CSET (California Subject Examinations for Teachers)- Test geared up for graduate level, trained professionals in a specific field to ‘test into’ teaching by proving they have the knowledge to teach the subject they went 4-10 years to obtain (including graduate school). It is well known the Math CSET is often not passed by math majors (or engineers)- which would make one believe we have many stupid math majors in the world. Sadly, those who wish to teach (or prove they are 10% smarter than the test) will retake it, multiple times. As noted above, persistence is key to being a teacher. The teachers who CSET in often have a high level of burn out and are part of the annual statistics of teachers who leave the profession. HOUSSE Points (High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation) – As quoted directly from The California Dept of Ed on 2/28/09. “The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) issues a multiple subject credential based either on examination or course work. If the credential was issued based on examination, there is no need to complete the HOUSSE process, since the examination verifies subject matter competence for NCLB. If the credential was issued based on course work, the credential itself is documentation of the course work, since CCTC would not issue the credential unless the course work (or examination) had already been verified. This is true even with older elementary credentials, such as the standard elementary or the general elementary. This course work, which is usually based on an average of 72-84 units in the core academic subject areas or 18 semester units each in English, mathematics, science and social science, is given a value of 50 points on the HOUSSE.” Something you need to obtain to prove you graduated college and have a teaching credential and can teach in a public school. No one is clear on exactly what it means, however, most administrative people in district offices know how to evaluate your transcripts in a manner to obtain 50 points. SDAIE (Specially designed academic instruction in English) – see CTEL above. As quoted directly from Wikipedia on 2/28/09 “Specially designed academic instruction in English (SDAIE) is a teaching approach intended for teaching various academic content (such as social studies, science or literature) using the English language to students who are still learning English. SDAIE requires the student possess intermediate fluency in English as well as mastery of their native language. The instruction is carefully prepared so the student can access the English language content supported by material in their primary language and carefully planned instruction that strives for comprehensible input. SDAIE is a method of teaching students in English in such a manner that they gain skills in both the subject material and in using English. SDAIE is not an English-only submersion program where the student is dependent solely on English, nor is it a watered down curriculum. SDAIE is an approach that seeks to teach both content and language in a cognitively demanding environment. As such, it is an important aspect of some structured English immersion programs. Lessons thus include both content goals and language goals for the students. Preparing good lessons in SDAIE require awareness that the student is not a native English speaker and avoidance of those aspects of English that might make it difficult for a person learning English as a second language (pretty counter-intuitive to red highlighted section above). This includes avoiding idiomatic English, which may seem natural to a native speaker but would confuse non-native speakers.” Social Security Windfall – http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html I am unsure how to simplify the language of Social Security. Suffice it to say, if you are a teacher, and at any point in your life you worked in private industry where social security tax was with held, your STRS benefit will be reduced by the amount of the social security you paid into, so you may not ‘double dip’. In other words, you are punished for having worked in private industry and teaching. I suspect this law will be revised as most people leaving private industry to teach are not aware of this issue and when they do figure it out, will be angry. STRS (California State Teachers Retirement System) – As quoted from the website, “CalSTRS primary responsibility is to provide retirement benefits and services to teachers in public schools and community colleges.” See Social Security Windfall… It seems education administration at both state and the federal levels is realizing it will be incredibly difficult to pry brilliant minds out of private industry if they must meet all of these acronymn laden requirements and have been streamlining the process of getting a credential. Unfortunately, there are still many people currenly frustrated by the endless stream of requirements to make one highly qualified. I am hopeful Arne Duncan will realize education may be, in some aspects, over regulated and in other aspects (NCLB), over neglected. There needs to be a better balance which does not fall on the shoulders and neck of teachers.