California expanding options for exams required to earn teaching credential

Posted at 7:14 AM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 16:37:01-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Students aspiring to one day lead the classroom themselves now have a few more options for getting their teaching credential.

The newly adopted state budget now allows candidates to use coursework in order to meet the requirements of the California Basic Skills Test, or CBEST, or the California Subject Matter Exams for Teachers, referred to as CSET.

“Essentially what these changes did was allow multiple additional options for future teachers to meet these requirements for basic skills," said Mary Vixie Sandy, executive director of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

For many students looking to get their teaching credential, passing these exams can feel like a roadblock.

According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 66% of candidates passed the CBEST on the first attempt in 2019-2020 and 67% passed the CSET on the first try.

The CBEST tests reading, math and writing skills and is usually taken before a student is accepted into a teacher preparation program. The CSET tests a teacher candidate's proficiency in the subject they will teach.

“This change in law will allow them to take the test," Sandy said. "If they don’t pass the test or pass portions of the test, but they’ve got coursework they can blend coursework.”

Now, students and candidates entering a teacher preparation program who are looking to skip one or more of these exams can do so if they complete qualified college coursework.

For the CSET exams, candidates can demonstrate their competency through the following options:

  • If someone has completed a degree (BA or BS) in a subject that corresponds with the name of a credential issued by the Commission, that degree serve as their demonstration of subject matter competence.
  • Successful completion of coursework, as verified by a Commission-approved program of professional preparation that addresses each of the Commission-adopted domains of the applicable subject matter requirements.
  • A combination of coursework and examination options that meet or exceed the domains of the subject matter requirements. This option is only available for candidates enrolled in a CTC approved preparation program that allows for this option.

Those looking to teach a single subject in middle school or higher only need to pass the CSET in the area they're looking to teach. Those looking to teach elementary school or special education must pass multiple CSET exams.

“I wish I would have been able to have that opportunity,” said Magda Lopez, a credential candidate who has spent 10 years trying to pass these exams. She estimates she’s spent around $4,000 on previous attempts.

While she worked towards her credential, Lopez was lucky enough to begin student teaching which she said was a better test of her teaching ability than the exams.

“During those 10 years, I would always ask myself, 'If I majored in liberal studies, why do I still have to take the CSETs?”

Now, candidates having difficulty passing one or more of the exams may be able to use coursework to meet those requirements. Also, candidates who earned a degree in the field they plan to teach may also be able to skip the exams.

These changes are similar to the system now in place in the California State University system, where students pursuing a liberal arts degree can graduate and receive a waiver for some CSET exams. Now the program is expanded to include the new options.

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For students who are pursuing or completed a degree outside of liberal arts can also now ask their program to review their transcripts in order to use coursework in place of some exams.

Candidates who either pass the CBEST or CSET — or use coursework to meet those requirements — must still pass the complete the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment and Teaching Performance Assessment in order to complete their credential.