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NY-based teacher-prep program operating in California without approval

Bard College, a venerable New York institution where Saul Bellow once taught and Chevy Chase once studied – finds itself in hot water with California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Awarded an $8.1 million teacher training grant two years ago by the U.S. Department of Education, Bard has launched a preparation program to provide instructors for the underserved farming community of Delano.

The problem is that Bard has already graduated its first cohort of new teachers and begun training a second group – both without getting institutional authorization from the CTC.

As a result, administrators from Bard will be coming back before the commission this week – hat in hand – looking for final permission to operate the Central Valley campus as an authorized California educator preparatory institution.

But it is not altogether clear whether the commission will go along.

Ric Campbell, Bard’s dean of teacher education, has already conceded they made a big mistake in calculating how long it takes to get institutional accreditation in California.

He also argues, however, that the 150-year-old university based the Hudson Valley is fully authorized in New York state to offer a master’s degree in education. He also notes that the California program meets the commission’s preconditions for approval and has received the green light from a required peer review of the school’s compliance with the CTC’s Common Standards.

But the commission still has some real concerns about the Bard program. At their August meeting, the board decided against taking action on their application – at least in part to give staff time to evaluate what legal options the commission has for sanctioning the college.

Indeed, some members expressed skepticism about the “integrity” of Bard given that they were operating for an entire academic year without CTC accreditation and wondered if the university had been forthcoming about that status with the teacher candidates enrolled in the program.

Agency staff is recommending that the commission approve the Bard request. They affirm that the program meets all of the CTC’s technical requirements for institutional authorization.

Staff has also said that the commission has no authority to regulate when an institution begins offering educator preparation nor can the CTC deny approval simply because an institution began training before obtaining final state accreditation.

Bard’s program also appears to have significant support in the local community and would also serve a serious need.

As organized, the teacher preparation program will feed an existing charter school – the Paramount Bard Academy. The school, which began in 2003, currently serves 6th through 9th graders and has about 171 students. The plan is to add grade levels until the school provides full K-12 instruction and has a student population of 1,300 expected by 2019.

In addition to the federal grant and the support of Bard College, the charter school also receives financial support from Paramount Agricultural Companies – one of the valley’s largest growers.

Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of Paramount, are also contributors. The couple, well known in Los Angeles for many philanthropic activities, is also owners of Roll International whose divisions include FIJI Water, POM Wonderful and Teleflora.


Ed’s Note: Cabinet Report is the only comprehensive news service covering K-12 education issues in California. To subscribe visit http://www.siacabinetreport.com/home.aspx Registration required. Selected stories have been shared with Capitol Weekly with permission from School Innovations & Advocacy, owner and publisher. To contact reporter Tom Chorneau: tomc@sia-us.com

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