PACT stands for Performance Assessment for California Teachers, aka "How to Lose Your Mind In Four Months." Some other people refer to it as Teacher Performance Evaluation (TPEs).
There are several versions of this thing: one for every single subject credential, and two at the elementary level, for math and language arts (language arts requires an additional case study).
Here's what you're supposed to do:
1) Write a unit's worth of lesson plans. That's about 4-8 full, formal LPs. PLUS, a unit plan, which tells you what the lesson plans are about. As if the lesson plans themselves don't tell you what they are about. The plans can be based on district mandated curricula, outside resources, or you can make it up yourself.
2) Teach the unit. Technically, you're supposed to teach the entire unit. However, the PACT is supposed to be done during your student teaching, and you don't actually get to teach everything until closer to the end of the semester. Thus, in reality, you will probably only get to teach 1-2 of the lessons in the unit. I know of no one who has taught more than 2 lessons from their unit.
3) Record a video of yourself teaching. The clip has to be at least 15 minutes long. It can be edited, but it has to be from the same lesson, same day.
4) Write a super long paper discussing your unit, your lessons, your teaching, your students, your classroom environment, what happened before the lesson, what happened after the lesson, how and why you would change the way you taught the lesson and a bunch of other stuff. With references to research, and other resources. There are prompts to guide you through this part.
5) Take copies of three samples of student work - one low performer, one high, and one middle. Analyze, critique, and reflect upon student work as it pertains to the unit/lesson/your teaching/their performance. The samples don't have to be from the exact lesson you video taped yourself teaching, but it should be related in some way. Add this part to your paper from #4.
6) Submit the whole thing to the CCTC.
7) Wait two months.
8) Get your results back. If you passed, congrats! If you didn't, go back to #1 OR add more stuff to your old PACT. The CCTC will tell you what went wrong, but they won't tell you how to fix it.
There are six different sections to the PACT, including the video. Each will be given an individual score between 0-5. You need to get a score of 3 in at least four, and a 2 in the other two sections, to pass. That's a minimum average score of 2.66. Apparently, it's super tough to get an overall score of 4 - it rarely happens. Or so my PACT instructor said.
Yep. There is a course, with an instructor, to help you get through the PACT. If there isn't, and your teaching credential program requires you to do the PACT, then there really should be. This thing is a hay bale maze of craziness.
The craziest thing of all? NOT EVERYONE IS REQUIRED TO DO IT. Yep. It depends on your program, once again. Most likely, the programs that only require six weeks of student teaching don't make you do the PACT. Which makes no sense to me. Why have all these high standards for teachers and then NOT enforce them for everyone? Sure, you'll get some really well-trained teachers out there. But you're going to end up with some really poorly trained teachers too. Which is exactly what you would have without all these standards in place anyway.
Despite the headaches, I found the PACT pretty useful in developing my teaching skills. I still use some of those reflection criteria to evaluate my teaching now. There are lots of things learn from, just in the act of planning, teaching, reflecting, re-planning, and re-teaching. I'm lucky right now because I teach the same lesson multiple times each week with art and tutoring. For classroom teachers, this cycle usually happens over a period of two years.