What qualifications are necessary to become and remain a teacher in California?
California law establishes the following minimum qualifications in order for K-12 public school teachers to be considered fully qualified to be in the classroom.
To become a public school teacher in this state, an individual must hold a credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. There are three types of teaching credentials—Multiple Subject, Single Subject, and Education Specialist.
- Multiple Subject credential allows an individual to teach in a self-contained classroom as is commonly found in elementary or middle schools.
- Single Subject credential authorizes a person to teach a specific subject in a departmentalized setting usually found in middle or high schools.
- Education Specialist credential permits an individual to provide instruction in reading, Special Education, or for English learners.
Each type of credential has slightly different requirements, but to be eligible for a preliminary credential of any type, individuals must do the following:
- Earn at least a bachelor's degree.
- Pass an approved basic skills test. (There are five ways to satisfy this requirement.)*
- Demonstrate subject-matter knowledge in the subject(s) they plan to teach.†
- Participate in a state-approved teacher preparation program. This generally takes one year and includes coursework, supervised teaching in a public school classroom, and a Teaching Performance Assessment, which candidates must pass to earn a credential.**
The preliminary credential issued upon completion of these requirements is valid for only five years.
California offers several alternative pathways to the preliminary credential. Special programs allow individuals to hold paid teaching positions while completing credentialing requirements, including professionals changing careers. In addition, private school, out-of-state, and out-of-country teachers may have certain requirements waived based on their prior training and teaching experience.
Two options for a "clear" credential
To continue teaching beyond the initial five years, an individual must obtain a clear credential by either completing an induction program or earning a certificate from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. A clear credential must be renewed every five years thereafter.††
Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) is a state-funded induction program that provides ongoing, individualized support for newly credentialed teachers. BTSA also includes participation in the Formative Assessment for California Teachers system, a process by which new teachers are measured according to the California Standards of the Teaching Profession.
To earn a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, candidates complete 10 assessments—four portfolio entries that feature teaching practice and six constructed-response exercises that assess content knowledge. This certification is generally considered rigorous and a mark of distinction.
* The basic skills requirement assesses fundamentals in reading, writing, and mathematics. There are four California assessments that candidates can use to satisfy the requirement. Basic skills exams from other states are also accepted.
† This can be accomplished by passing commission-approved exams-the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) Multiple Subjects exam or Single Subjects exam-or by completing a commission-approved subject-matter preparation program at a California college or university. For specialized science subjects, individuals may also provide verification of completion of subject-matter coursework to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
** The Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) is designed to measure how individuals meet California's Teaching Performance Expectations for beginning teachers. Credential candidates are scored on their ability to plan and teach lessons based on California academic content standards for all student levels, assess student performance, and evaluate their own effectiveness. There are three approved TPAs in California—the CalTPA, the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT), and a third alternative recently approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Each teacher preparation program administers its chosen TPA.
†† The CTC is gradually changing the Specialist Credential to the preliminary/clear model, which will align it with the structure of the other credentials.