Advocates for teacher quality: Understanding cycles of accreditation in California

By Morgan Appel, Director, Education Department

A recent report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality ( suggests that postsecondary institutions charged with the preparation of teachers have, in large part, failed the American public. Although the report was rebuked for questionable methodologies and failure to account for outcomes measures versus inputs or processes, it served well to fan the flames of a heated debate over how best to ready teachers for service in the classroom. Although UC San Diego had the somewhat dubious honor of being one of the few to emerge relatively unscathed in the NCTQ report, we in the Education Department felt that it was imperative to come to the defense of teacher preparation and licensure (credentialing) in California and explain processes undertaken by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) to ensure that programming is relevant, research-based and effective. These cycles of continuous assessment can be quite labor intensive for the institutions involved and for the readers and onsite evaluators charged with ensuring programs are aligned to state standards; are sufficiently rigorous; and produce highly effective practitioners who enliven and enrich the profession.

Most everyone involved in education in the Golden State is at least aware of the Commission, the entity responsible for professional licensure and certification of K-12 educators in California. The Commission is also responsible for enforcing professional practice among educators and ensuring that institutions offering coursework for licenses (program sponsors) do so in a manner that is aligned with standards and proven practice. More about the Commission on Teacher Credentialing may be found here:

In California, postsecondary institutions offering programs leading to professional licensure hardly have an easy go of it. Initial program proposals frequently exceed 500 pages including ancillary materials (syllabi, curricula vitae, etc.)—and they are peer reviewed by readers with deep expertise in a given field. Once approved, programs gather data on an ongoing basis—a robust mix of qualitative and quantitative information that not only tracks current candidates and completers, but speaks to their experience and post-program performance in a robust way. Beyond biennial reports that serve primarily as formative evaluations, every program sponsor must produce a larger Program Assessment Report that ensures that coursework leading to certification or credentials is holistic, reflective and meaningful. These reports also lend insight into a program’s integrity and ability to support candidates as they in turn support ever more diverse classrooms.

Finally, toward the tail end of the accreditation cycle, the Commission will dispatch a team to the program sponsor to gain additional perspective and to gather prima facie evidence by speaking directly with administrators, faculty, candidates and employers. This visit offers the institution an opportunity to see both forest and trees—and to engage in purposeful discussions around teaching and learning and the processes/outcomes therein.

Whilst hardly a perfect system, Californians may rest assured that the institutions offering Commission-approved coursework do so under strict scrutiny. In truth, there is a never a moment that program sponsors are not gathering and making sense of data for one purpose or another, and for that, we all can be grateful.

For more information about this article or the accreditation process, please contact Morgan Appel, Director of the Education Department at

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