In this post, we provide background on the administrator performance assessment (APA), describe the Governor’s proposal to provide additional funding for the APA in 2018‑19, assess the proposal, and make an associated recommendation.
Statute Authorizes the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to Establish Credentialing Requirements for Administrators. Statute requires school administrators (such as principals) to obtain an administrative services credential from CTC. Statute also authorizes CTC to establish professional standards and educational requirements that individuals must meet to obtain an administrative services credential. Historically, CTC has required that individuals seeking to become administrators complete coursework at a CTC‑approved credential program. The CTC reports that 65 institutions currently operate approved administrator credentialing programs in California—25 private universities, 22 California State University campuses, 15 local education agencies (mostly county offices of education), and 3 University of California campuses. Upon completing such a program, administrators submit an application to CTC for a credential. In 2016‑17, CTC issued the credential to 2,267 program graduates.
CTC to Begin Requiring Administrators to Pass Performance Assessment. Due to concern that some program graduates lacked certain competencies to work effectively as administrators, five years ago CTC decided to add a new requirement that administrators seeking a credential successfully complete an APA. Beginning in 2013, CTC convened an advisory council of CTC staff, administrators, and credential program faculty to begin thinking about the specific competencies that graduates should be able to demonstrate and how an APA could measure those competencies.
Legislature Provided CTC $2 Million in 2015‑16 to Develop APA. The 2015‑16 Budget Act provided a total of $2 million one time ($1 million in General Fund and $1 million in Title II federal funds) to support a variety of activities related to the development of an APA. The CTC used a portion of this funding to contract with an outside vendor to develop the APA’s content and create an online portal for candidates to submit APA materials. As currently designed, the APA requires candidates to demonstrate a variety of administrative and leadership skills—ranging from developing a school improvement plan to providing professional development for teachers. Candidates are to submit a range of materials as part of the APA—from school improvement reports to video recordings of professional development sessions with school staff. When the Legislature approved funding in 2015‑16, CTC indicated that the APA would be developed by the end of 2016‑17.
CTC Has Conducted Two APA Field Tests and a Variety of Training Sessions to Date. To ensure the APA’s validity, CTC used a portion of its APA appropriation to conduct a field test (to 110 candidates) in 2016‑17. CTC administered a second field test (to 250 candidates) in 2017‑18. CTC also has conducted numerous trainings for credential program staff. Credential program staff are to prepare individuals to take the APA and are the ones to administer the assessment. Some of CTC’s training also includes working with select administrators and faculty statewide who grade candidates’ APA submissions. (Credential program staff do not grade the APA submissions of their own candidates.) CTC plans to offer continued technical support to administrator training programs throughout the initial years of the APA’s implementation.
Governor’s Budget Provides $1.3 Million One Time (Special Funds) for More Field Testing of APA in 2018‑19. The Governor proposes to provide an APA field test to all administrator candidates enrolled in credential programs in 2018‑19. The CTC estimates about 3,000 candidates would take the assessment. The $1.3 million would come from CTC’s Test Development and Administration Account, which is supported through fees that teacher and administrator candidates pay for credential examinations. For candidates taking the APA in 2018‑19, the administration proposes that (1) the APA be offered at no cost and (2) successful passage not be required to obtain a credential. Beginning in 2019‑20, candidates would support the administration of the APA on an ongoing basis through exam fees. The administration indicates that another year of field testing is justified because: (1) field tests conducted thus far are inadequate to develop accurate passing scores for the APA, and (2) credential programs are insufficiently prepared to implement the APA in 2018‑19.
Unclear Why CTC Has Not Validated APA Using Existing Resources. In its 2015‑16 request for APA funding, CTC specified that funding would be used to validate the APA through field tests and standardize scoring of the assessment. The 2015‑16 funding request gave no indication that CTC would need to request any subsequent rounds of funding or administer a field test to all candidates across the state after already administering two previous field tests. Had CTC followed the plan outlined in its approved 2015‑16 budget request, it would have already conducted field tests sufficient to validate the APA, set accurate passing scores, and administered the assessment to an entire graduating class—all while staying within the 2015‑16 appropriation level. The CTC now believes that a third field test in 2018‑19 is necessary, but it has failed to justify why all candidates must take the assessment (costing the state $425 per participant), rather than a statistically significant and more cost-efficient sample of participants. In addition to raising cost concerns, delaying implementation of the APA by conducting a third field test would mean that ineffective administrator candidates who might otherwise fail the APA would instead receive their credentials and become administrators.
Credential Programs Have Had Four Years to Plan for the APA. In addition to our concerns with the lack of justification for a third field test, we do not feel the administration has clearly identified why credential programs require another year to prepare for the implementation of the APA. These programs have had four years to follow the development of the APA, which the CTC has discussed during nine public meetings since 2013. Furthermore, CTC has held more than 30 APA information and training sessions since 2016. Three of the sessions were designed specifically for administrator training programs and all programs attended at least one of the three sessions. To the extent that credential programs have remaining APA-related questions, they can ask CTC directly or otherwise access ongoing APA-related technical assistance that CTC plans to offer over the next few years.
Require CTC to Explain Why APA Is Over Budget and Behind Schedule. To date, the administration has not provided sufficient justification for CTC undertaking another year of APA testing for all candidates. We recommend the Legislature require CTC to report at spring budget hearings as to why the APA is over budget (by $1.3 million or 65 percent more than the original estimate of APA development and implementation costs) and behind schedule. Additionally, we recommend CTC discuss the feasibility of using existing data from field tests to set passing scores and provide a more cost-effective option for further validating the exam, if further validation of the exam can be justified. A more cost-effective option likely would rely on a sample of candidates rather than testing all candidates.