March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Greatness by Design, Task Force’s Comprehensive Report on Supporting Outstanding Teaching

Posted: Monday, September 10th, 2012

SACRAMENTO—In a new report, a group of California’s leading education experts formed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called for sweeping improvements to the way teachers are recruited, trained, brought into the profession, mentored, and evaluated.

“This is the most comprehensive look our state has taken at California’s most important profession—teaching—in a generation,” said Torlakson, who created the 48-member Task Force on Educator Excellence in January in partnership with theCommission on Teacher Credentialing External link opens in new window or tab. (CTC). “We are blessed to have many outstanding educators already in our classrooms. And every child deserves a great teacher, one who cares for children today and helps prepare them to contribute to the society and economy of the 21st century.

“Today’s report—grounded in research, best practices from our state and around the world, and the realities of California’s classrooms—charts a path to reach that goal.”

Torlakson formed the Task Force to address fundamental questions about the education profession: how to recruit the best people into the profession, how to develop their skills before they begin work and throughout their careers, and how to provide useful feedback, including using measurements of learning to improve teaching.

“The Task Force has given us a clear, coherent vision for the development of high-quality educators—a vision with real potential to improve teaching and learning for all of California’s students,” said Mary Vixie Sandy, Executive Director of the CTC. “Working together, we can shape the preparation and development of teachers and leaders so that they can inspire and support our young people to reach their highest potential.”

The Task Force was co-chaired by two widely recognized education leaders: Stanford University’s Linda Darling-Hammond, Ph.D. External link opens in new window or tab. and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser External link opens in new window or tab. of the Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest district in California. The group included parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and business and community leaders, as well as leading academics. Torlakson said he would assign the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Chief Deputy Superintendent Richard Zeiger, and Deputy Superintendent of Instruction and Learning Support Lupita Cortez Alcalá to work with education leaders across the state to implement the report’s recommendations.

The 90-page report, Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State (PDF; 4MB), addresses the recruitment of new teachers, including the need to develop a diverse, high-quality workforce of teachers and principals. It also examines quality induction programs that can help teachers improve early in their careers—often the key to keeping promising new teachers in the classroom.

The group’s report also looks closely at the kind of ongoing training and support teachers need throughout their careers, including linking professional learning expectations to the certification renewal process.

The report thoroughly examines how to provide a career development framework that fosters growth and leadership opportunities for teachers throughout their careers. It also takes a close look at how to improve the evaluation process, including how to collaborate with teachers and incorporate valid measures of student learning.

“The most successful evaluation systems are those that rely upon research-based best practices to help teachers and administrators improve their craft,” said Steinhauser, a 30-year veteran educator known for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps in a challenging school district. “Collaboration is key to developing these systems, with all parties focused on the ultimate goal of improving student achievement.”

“Around the world, there is growing recognition that expert teachers and school leaders are the most important school resources for improving student learning, and that the highest-achieving nations invest intensely in teaching quality,” said Darling-Hammond, who also serves as vice-chair of the CTC. “California cannot—and should not—do any less. This report describes how we can work strategically to build a world-class educator workforce in all of California’s communities.”

The report opens with a message from Torlakson, himself a teacher, who notes that budget cuts, difficult working conditions, and other factors have made teaching “a profession under siege.”

“The good news is that California is home to some of the very best ideas and research on how to train new teachers and principals, support them from their first days in the classroom to their last, and give them the kind of feedback they need to be even better,” Torlakson said. “The challenge, and therefore the opportunity, is to revive and expand these isolated and sometimes neglected experiments and weave them together with new, research-based ideas into a system that forms a coherent whole that produces exceptional results.”

The report’s findings and recommendations are summarized in the full report available online at the CDE Educator Excellence Task Force Web page.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.