Timing is Working Perfectly for California’s Engagement in State-wide Improvement Efforts.

Educating our nation’s students is a complex task. A myriad of moving parts inside and outside of educators’ control often cause frustrations that halt progress. However, given the right conditions, progress is made at a peculiar rate. CEEDAR partnered with California at such a time—under ideal conditions. California was one of our initial five intensive technical assistance (TA) partners in 2013.

With California, it was fortuitous timing that accelerated progress and initiated or fortified purposeful partnerships across the state. The CEEDAR partnership coincided with the ongoing work of California’s Commission on the Teacher Credentialing (CTC) Special Education Taskforce, which strives to ensure that general education and special education professionals work collaboratively in its framework designed to address the needs of all students, especially those with disabilities. The team in California shared the belief that students with disabilities are students first, a concept that requires breaking down unnecessary silos and forming partnerships for the greater good of ALL students.

Thus far, the partnership has yielded positive results for both the task force and the six institutions of higher education (IHEs) that are participating in the CEEDAR TA. Sarah Colombini from the CTC described the partnership as “divine.” She expressed satisfaction with the assistance the commission has received from CEEDAR in reaching its goal of reforming teacher preparation to improve outcomes for all students in its state. Colombini further explained that CEEDAR professionals have been helpful with establishing connections with IHEs and bringing faculty, staff, deans, district representatives, and other stakeholders together to collaboratively work to improve preparation programs.

Partnering is not something to take for granted. Every state department of education or credentialing agency has relationships with their state’s IHEs, but it is not always a true partnership grounded in parity. A relationship can be by necessity, but a partnership is by choice. The CEEDAR staff working with California has actively helped move the partnership forward. Colombini shared, “They [CEEDAR professionals] have been able to give us a real working picture of what is happening within those institutions’ educator preparation programs and what’s working really well.” She added that the “very specific feedback” they have gotten from the six IHEs has been critical in informing the future work of the CTC in redesigning California credentialing for teachers as well as administrators.

Colombini’s colleague at CTC, William Hatrick, added that the CEEDAR connection allowed some IHEs to include educational administration programs in their reform efforts. He expressed that this is imperative for getting future school leaders involved with effectively serving all students. Colombini also acknowledged that the CTC’s experience with CEEDAR will help future reform efforts.

Colombini and Hatrick provided advice for states that may be experiencing difficulties with moving their reform efforts forward. They stressed the importance of including key stakeholders who are representative of the entire professional learning system. Further, they conveyed that the breaking down of existing silos is critical in facilitating collaboration between general and special education programs and between teacher preparation and leadership preparation programs.

Dr. Josie Arce, EdD chair at San Francisco State University, also reinforced the need for collaboration between the different preparation programs, the need to prepare teachers to serve all students, and the role CEEDAR has been playing in these endeavors. She stated, “One of the things we want as a foundation for all our faculties is the notion of teaching a culturally responsive pedagogy.” She went on to say, “If it wasn’t for CEEDAR, I don’t think we would have a clear template and pathway. And, so far, I think that’s been very good.”

California-where the stars align