Facing an iron-CLAD test
A longtime teacher questions the value of the requirement
Even with 30 years of teaching under his belt, Tim Milhorn, an instructor at Orland High School, is at risk of losing his job. In fact, thousands of experienced teachers up and down California are facing the same fate.
This stems directly from their new obligation to earn a Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development (CLAD) certification before the spring of 2010. The state Department of Education is requiring that every teacher who has English-language learners in their classrooms, even just one, must be CLAD certified.
This requires either passing three CLAD examinations or taking California Teachers of English Learners coursework offered through the University of Phoenix that costs more than $2,000.
Milhorn and eight other teachers from Orland High received a letter from their district informing them that it was now policy to have this certification. Without it, they will face potential termination.
“This is unfair, undemocratic and against everything for which our country and education stand,” he said.
A call to the Orland High School administrative offices revealed it was closed until Aug. 3.
Ironically, Milhorn was informed about a year and a half ago that he did not have to be CLAD certified because he is a high-school teacher. Then, he suddenly had to shovel out more than $300 to take three exams to obtain an emergency CLAD certificate, when the ordeal would have been free for him five years ago.
But it’s not costing only money—it’s draining time and energy, too. Milhorn and his colleagues spent more than 150 hours over the course of three months preparing for the exam, which was administered July 13. The teachers used flashcards and supplemental material from the classroom and read pages and pages of books.
Still, Milhorn can’t say with any certainty that he passed the tests. The scores will be announced this week, but if he fails a section he will have to retake it and pay all over again.
The tests, Milhorn said, consist of dates, terminology and “jargon”—none of it information that would help create better teachers. Nor were the questions simple. The multiple-choice questions often were more than 45 words long and contained answer choices that were nearly as long.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher or not; if you’re not a solid reader, you’re going to have trouble with these tests,” he said.
Proficiency on the exams is supposed to prove that a teacher is capable of making sure an ELL student can acquire listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
While it’s every student’s dream to watch his or her teacher suffer through a dreaded test, Milhorn is convinced this certification will not help longstanding teachers. Instead, he is worried that the state is far too worried about cumulative test scores than the best interest of individual students.
“Apparently a teacher’s rights, experience and dedication to the job don’t matter anymore,” he said. “It seems the only thing that does is test scores.”