The Pleasanton Unified School District was granted full accreditation last month after a year of being in a probationary period where it had to address and meet certain conditions set by the state for better support for new teachers.
According to the 2021 report, the California Committee on Accreditation last year found several areas where PUSD needed to improve how it supported teachers joining the district for the first time, leading to PUSD getting accredited with probationary stipulations.
Those stipulations, or suggestions, were based on remote interviews with various stakeholders such as administrators, coaches for new teachers, teacher candidates and other district personnel.
But on the accreditation committee's revisit this year, officials said all the suggestions were met, resulting in PUSD receiving full accreditation. However, two follow-up reports must be submitted in the coming year to assess how the district continues to support staff.
"I would say we actually bolstered our program beyond the excellence that was already there and then the accreditation report and the committee that took action on the 29th of this past month just reaffirmed all the great work that's been done," said Michael Williams, PUSD's director of human resources.
The California Commission on Teaching Credentialing, which is the nation's oldest independent teaching standards board, revised its longstanding program review framework to include a formal accreditation process in 2020, assigning the task of accrediting and auditing schools to the Committee on Accreditation.
All school districts along with any higher education institutions undergo the accreditation process to assure the public that these institutions are effectively training and supporting school personnel on how to do their jobs.
Some of the areas Pleasanton needed to address, according to the 2021 report, were: the process of teachers getting their credentials; how those teachers are supported and coached throughout that process; and implementation of ways to support special education teachers who were not getting as much support in general.
Teachers go through a two-tiered credentialing system in California where they obtain an initial teaching credential after taking the courses, doing the field work and proving their knowledge. After that, they must complete a two-year job-embedded induction program where they receive coaching and support during the first two years of teaching.
During the 2020-21 academic year, which was what the initial accreditation report was based on, the district started its own single-district teacher induction program, the Pleasanton New Teacher Project (PNTP). Before that it belonged to the Tri-Valley Teacher Induction Project, which Williams said was started in Pleasanton and now is made up of Livermore Valley, Castro Valley and Dublin unified school districts.
Pleasanton split from the Tri-Valley program due to recent fiscal changes in the Local Control Funding Formula, which funds state school districts, according to the 2021 accreditation report.
The accreditation committee stated in its report that, while the new Pleasanton program had its strengths in supporting teachers, the "operations are reliant on individuals rather than on sufficient structures for sustainability and continued success."
It also stated that the credential recommendation process lacked monitoring on how teachers were doing as they are coached through the process of getting their credentials after being recommended by the teacher induction program.
"The site visit team did not find evidence that a system of checks and balances exists in which the coach's recommendation to the program director and the program director's subsequent recommendations to the commission are double-checked," the 2021 accreditation report stated.
Another thing the report touched on was positions not being filled in the area of special education, which was causing special education teacher candidates to feel like they were not getting the apportioned amount of coaching. The reason for these vacancies provided by the district during the 2021 visit was because of the pandemic.
"The PNTP program does not currently employ a coach with a special education credential, and through stakeholder interviews, the team found that education specialist educators severely lack the support needed to demonstrate competencies required of the credential they seek," the report stated.
Special education teacher candidates, who account for over 20% of the candidates in the PNTP according to the report, were being supported by general education coaches -- rather than a special education coach.
The report stated that there was "not enough programmatic supports in place to support the education specialist candidates," as these candidates did not receive support specifically related to special education teaching.
But Julie Twisselmann, coordinator of human resources for PUSD, told the Weekly that since then the district has hired a special education induction coach who will be working one-on-one with new special education teachers.
She also said the district created an advisory team with stakeholders from around the district, including senior director of special education Jeni Rickard, teachers, administrators and representatives from local universities, to look at data for continuous program improvement.
Twisselmann added that a new special education website was created to serve as a one-stop-shop of resources for all teachers.
She along with Williams said that suggestions made by accreditation committees are normal in the overall process and are necessary for growth. Williams pointed out -- which was also noted in the report -- that the accreditation visit was done virtually and if that was different, maybe the report would not have been the same.
Despite that, they also said that the district will continue to work on improving its new induction program and supporting all teachers to get their teaching credentials.
"We don't just hand people paperwork to fill out and let them sort of figure things out on their own," Twisselmann said. "We have one-on-one support with veteran colleagues that can guide them and help support them so they can accelerate their growth. Our goal is to retain teachers and also help them grow as the most effective teachers they can be."