A new licensing system is being tested in 19 states that includes filming student teachers in their classroom and evaluating the video, also candidates must show they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to different levels of students and present it effectively.
Most states only require that would-be teachers pass their class work and a written test. Supporters of the new system say the Teacher Performance Assessment program is a significant improvement, while others are a little more cautious in their praise, warning that it's not guaranteed it will lead to more successful teachers.
The assessments also place responsibility for grading the would-be teachers with teams of outside evaluators who have no stake in the result. Currently, the teachers-in-training are evaluated by their colleges, which want their students to get their teaching licenses.
Sounds good and yet another way to assess preparedness to teach in a classroom. Guess where it's coming to?
Minnesota is scheduled to be the first state to adopt the new system when it implements it in 2012. Four other states - Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington - plan to implement it within five years. Fourteen more states are running pilots.
So we have a new teachers contract with more ways to evaluate our teachers. We will soon have a new way to review student teachers to make sure qualified teachers get into the classroom. Sure sounds like progress towards better teachers coming in and staying in our classrooms.
The teacher assessment program is a joint project by a consortium made up of Stanford University, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Sharon P. Robinson, president of the AACTE, an umbrella group for schools that specialize in training teachers, said the assessment will mean better teachers - and ultimately more successful students.
The assessment was developed at Stanford's Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity. Ray Pecheone, the center's executive director, said more than 12,000 teaching candidates have gone through it in four years of testing in California.
This helps make sure that teaching colleges aren't just churning out teaching candidates.
Karen Balmer, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Teaching, said the assessments will mean more accountability for teaching colleges. For the first time, she said, her agency will have independent data that shows how well those schools are preparing students. Those that consistently produce low-performing graduates could be ordered by the state to improve their programs.And guess who isn't that impressed? The folks over NCTQ.
Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the program.
Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the nonpartisan National Council on Teacher Quality, said she would support any test that could predict who will be a good teacher, but she's not sure performance assessments are it. Too often, she said, the passing scores on such assessments are set so low that nearly everyone passes and the weakest teachers aren't held back.
"The track record of these kinds of assessments actually being able to separate wheat from chaff is not so persuasive," Jacobs said.
Why again do we need TFA and their speed-dial 5-week training?