In August 2005, Public Advocates, representing the Californians for Justice Education Fund, filed suit against the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing for creating a new teaching credential which allowed thousands of emergency-credentialed teachers to be reclassified as “highly qualified” under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), thereby sidestepping NCLB requirements that require the equitable distribution of any non-“highly qualified” teachers and notice to parents when their child is taught by such a teacher.
In 2005, the Commission attempted to work around NCLB requirements by issuing a new teacher certification: the Individualized Internship Certificate (IIC), a “self study” route to a full teaching credential. The certificate effectively converted thousands of teachers previously designated as emergency-credentialed into “intern” teachers, without requiring additional training, enrollment in an established teacher preparation program, nor the mentoring and supervision required by internship programs. At the time of the suit, intern teachers were considered “highly qualified” under NCLB, while emergency-credentialed teachers were not.
The suit charged that the Commission’s action to adopt the IIC violated the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In particular, the Commission failed to abide by the APA’s public notice and participation requirements. The IIC was created behind closed doors, with no public input, denying teachers, parents, students, and other community advocates their right to have their voices heard on the critical issue of teacher qualifications. Public Advocates argued that the new credential was therefore void and should be withdrawn.
Judge James L. Warren of the Superior Court of San Francisco agreed. In a stipulated order issued just three months after the suit was filed, Judge Warren ruled that the IIC was an “underground regulation” established in violation of the APA. The court voided 4,000 IIC credentials and ordered the Commissionto stop issuing the IIC credential, to correct inaccurate reports on the numbers of highly qualified teachers, and to replace the credentials with temporary certificates that would enable teachers to stay in the classroom.
This legal victory unmasks the ongoing problem of underprepared teachers in our lowest-performing schools and puts much-needed pressure on California to provide teachers-in-training with adequate preparation and supervision. It also holds the Commission accountable for following the law that the public be allowed the chance to comment on proposed regulations before they are issued.