Getting credentials at CSUN more than just a single exam

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In the 2004-05 school year, 3,974 CSUN students earned their teaching credentials from the College of Education, according to university officials.

“It is possible to complete the credential program in four years while getting an undergraduate degree,” said Bonnie Crawford, director of the Credential Office in the College of Education. “Sometimes people apply as a post-graduates and can get their credentials in one year as a full-time student.”

CSUN has several credential programs, ranging from a multiple-subject credential to a credential in art, English and other specialized areas, such as biological science and Korean.

There are three major categories of credentials available from the College of Education: teaching, specialist and service credentials.

Within the teaching credentials category are various options, including multiple-subject, single-subject or even multiple and single subject with a bilingual emphasis.

At least 1,500 students will earn their CSUN credentials through the Integrated Teacher Education Program, the Four-Year Integrated Program, or earn their credentials after obtaining their bachelor’s degree at any given time, according to Crawford.

Students who want to receive teaching credentials in one year, who are typically full-time students, must take 15 units each semester of upper-division classes and complete mandated classroom time as a teacher.

“Most students average 10 units a semester,” Crawford said. “Classes are offered at various times and a course load to fit a student’s need. There are so many different programs that allow students to survive while getting their credentials.”

“Students have a contractual agreement to take over a class as a paid intern before they can receive their credentials and are also assigned a mentor to give them advice,” Crawford said. “They are also required to create a portfolio of what they have done, such as assessments and lesson plans.”

Some students encounter difficulties when trying to navigate the credential process.

Shandrea Daniel, a post-graduate psychology major from the University of Alabama and a native California resident, is working toward a single-subject credential in social studies.

“I wanted to be a teacher after being out of school for one year,” she said. “I was at the point of counseling, but I knew that there was something else that needed to be done in school.”

After returning to school, Daniel said she was confronted with the many facets of receiving her credential.

“It is a struggle here, especially with all the deadlines,” Daniel said. “They want us to be more independent, but a lot of times you can fall through the cracks.”

Daniel said she also had struggles with the way the portfolio is put together.

“When compiling our portfolio, all of it is make-believe,” she said. “How are we supposed to make things better regarding our classroom assignments when we aren’t in a real classroom? Some people don’t know anything about teaching, so making lesson plans and other things for our portfolio can be difficult.”

Although Daniel has had some difficulties, she said she plans to continue with the social studies credential program. She just started teaching at Magnolia Science Academy in Reseda.

“Sometimes I really feel like doing something else, but I will try to finish,” Daniel said. “It feels frustrating when some of the classes are a waste of time to me, but now I finally feel like I am getting somewhere.”

Corrin Press, liberal studies major in the ITEP program, has wanted to be a teacher since she was nine. She said she has had several problems with the credential program, and that going straight to the Credential Office is sometimes necessary to get the right information.

“I think they need to communicate better,” Press said. “We learn from word of mouth and we always have to come to the Credential Office to find out things.”

Press said there are a lot of tests she will have to take to get her teaching credential.

“You have to jump through a lot of hoops,” she said. “You have to take the (California Subject Examinations for Teachers), which is an all-subject multiple choice test, to get into the program. Then you have to take other tests like (the California Basic Educational Skills Test) for math and (the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment) for reading comprehension and literacy.”

While the credential program is considered difficult to navigate from some students’ perspective, options are available for students once they approach graduation.

The Los Angeles Unified School District sends representatives to CSUN every Tuesday in association with the Career Center to inform the students of what they must do to apply, according to Crawford and Rory Barksdale from the Career Center.

“LAUSD tells the students to send their applications in early,” Crawford said. “We do have students employed in other districts, such as Ventura County, Long Beach and Temecula. LAUSD speaks very highly of the students and say that they are well-prepared.”

A high number of CSUN students go into the LAUSD every year, according to Barksdale.

“Last year, LAUSD had over 300 CSUN students become teachers,” Barksdale said. “The students teach special education, math, science and speech pathology.”

While a number of CSUN students remain in Los Angeles to pursue their careers as teachers, some students must leave the county so they can afford housing, according to Crawford.

“Housing is cheaper in other counties,” Crawford said. “More schools are being built in other counties opening up jobs where housing is affordable.”

Michael Sullivan can be reached at editor@csun.edu.