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Senate Committee On Education Testimony

Prepared remarks of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on March 5, 2014, at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Good morning and thank you, Senator Liu (chair) and Senator Wyland (vice chair). I appreciate your attention to an issue that I think lies at the heart of education in California: the quality of our teaching and learning.

I spent most of the last four decades in the classroom. I can tell you that we are blessed to have outstanding educators already in our schools. And every child deserves a great teacher, one who helps prepare them for the society and the economy they will find when they leave our classrooms.

As you know, I created the Task Force on Educator Excellence in 2012 and charged its members with taking the most comprehensive look in a generation at the teaching profession in California. Their report—which we call "Greatness by Design"—treats the teaching profession as what it is: both a career and a calling.

This task force was chaired by some of the most renowned leaders in their fields: Stanford professor and education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, and Long Beach Unified Superintendent Chris Steinhauser.

We brought some of California's leading teachers together with parents, administrators, business leaders and many of the best minds in education research to answer some basic—but vital—questions:

Mary Sandy and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing—whom you will hear from soon—were our partners in this effort and in the time since. Since the Task Force issued its report, we have worked together in many areas to see these recommendations brought to life.

We have begun piloting in districts throughout the state new and innovative systems for identifying and encouraging great teaching.

I approved the Quality Professional Learning Standards intended to help guide the state, regions, districts, and schools in developing and providing these all-important opportunities for teachers.

We have provided more than a dozen professional learning modules for teachers to help them achieve career and college readiness for their students. We are working on the same kind of professional learning opportunities for administrators, which will include guidebooks and videos.

We have updated and strengthened the California Professional Standards for Educational Leaders to ensure they are focused on developing leaders who can guide students and schools to high levels of performance.

In short, as you can see, we are well into the transition from the theories and recommendations outlined in Greatness by Design to action.

My California Department of Education is working with stakeholders to build an implementation framework for an Integrated Professional Learning System. This learning system will provide districts—and ultimately schools—the tools for developing and sustaining a professional learning system that includes induction; professional and career development for teachers and administrators; teacher and administrator evaluation; and intervention and mentoring.

Finally, I look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the Legislature this session to reinvent California's loan assumption program for teachers. We want to be sure it is in keeping with the needs of the field.

Clearly, these are not changes that are going to be accomplished just in the coming months or year—this is a comprehensive rebuilding of a system that has suffered from years of budget cuts and economic uncertainty. But still we are asking our teachers and schools to reimagine college and career readiness for every student and to help education keep pace with the ever-changing nature of the global economy. Thank you.

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