Would-be teachers show their skills

Would-be teachers are teaching on video as part of a new licensing system being tested in 19 states.  Student teachers must must show they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to different levels of students and teach it effectively, writes AP’s Chris Williams.

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.

Minnesota will adopt video assessments in 2012. Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington plan to make the switch in five years.

Stanford University, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed TPA.

California and Arizona are the only states that currently require performance testing to license teachers. Two of California’s three different performance tests use video review. The third California test and the one in Arizona requires evaluators to sit in the classrooms and observe the teachers-in-training.

The consortium plans to track teachers to see if the assessment accurately predicts their students’ performance.

Minnesota’s Board of Teaching plans to use the data to track how well teaching colleges are preparing students.

Tom Dooher, president of the Minnesota’s teachers’ union said the group supported it because of its emphasis on developing real-world teaching skills. “This is what education reform should look like, for practitioners by practitioners,” he said.

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, warned that passing scores on performance assessments often are set so low that nearly everyone passes.

About Joanne


  1. tim-10-ber says:

    this is a good start but what does it prove other than someone knows how to manage their presence on a camera…why not require a two year internship with a close mentor and extend tenure decisions out to five years? Of course, I want tenure abolished but this approach might weed out the ineffective teachers and those that don’t want to teach, can’t teach, etc quicker with less harm to the students as the mentor would be able to quickly recognize, correct, remediate and do what is right for the kids and the student teacher…this would make teaching a 6 year program. Teachers would get a masters degree for this program and additional classes yet get paid, too.

    Just random thoughts…

  2. God, what a joke PACT is.

    A direct quote from the adviser helping us at Stanford to prepare our PACT (literally copied from the email I still have):

    With regards to the PACT, remember it is all about being reflective as a teacher; the quality of the lesson is secondary to the quality of the reflection.

    In other words, it doesn’t matter if your lesson is horrible and your teaching dismal, so long as you write earnestly about it.

    It’s a joke. But it’s expensive, time-consuming, tedious, and smug, so naturally it’s a big success.

    I mean, please. Does anyone think that ed schools are going to flunk more than one or two of the candidates? So what’s the point?

  3. NY used to have a video requirement for certification up until about 5-6 years ago… and of course, like everything else, there was a separate $150 or so fee to have your tape evaluated. The requirement was dropped, from what I have heard, because the State Ed Dept just didn’t have the manpower to watch all the videos. While I don’t have first hand knowledge of this, I did hear stories of people sending in tapes with random stuff on it or movie clips from teaching movies and still getting certified.
    My guess is that this *new* idea will fall to the same fate.
    I agree with Tim that the performance component should be evaluated by the school districts for the first couple of years.

  4. Homeschooling Granny says:

    I like Tim’s idea but why wait until the teacher-candidate has completed four years of college. Why not run ed schools like med schools. All ed schools should have lab schools. Prospective teachers should see it, do it, teach it. All ed profs should teach while teacher interns act as teacher aids. Upper college years spent as interns and residents. Then if a certified teacher fails, go back to the ed school as ask why that person was certified.

  5. As ever: “What works?” is an empirical question, which only an experiment can answer. Numerous local policy experiments will generate more information than will a State-monopoly system.

    I would recommend to a local school board that they empower principals to hire anyone with relevant experience or coursework as a teachers’ aide, department gofer, and in-house substitute for a year or two. Keep the ones who work out. Schools could trade gofers if one has a Math position and no Math Department gofer and one has an English position and no English Department gofer.

    College of Education credits should count against applicants for teaching positions, imho, but I would not recommend that as State-wide policy.

  6. We had this when I was in ed school. I understand it has since been dropped because a) nobody looked at the tapes in the first place and b) privacy issues for the students who appeared in them.

  7. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Having video evaluations won’t do a damn thing unless you’ve got sensible, competent people to evaluate the videos. If one anti-intellectual incompetent “approves” another, that doesn’t make either of them into good educators.

  8. I would also prefer a system where 1st year teachers are hired as teacher’s aides or paraprofessionals. Only after successfully completing one year of that are they allowed to move to a full teaching position.

  9. Oh, for heaven’ s sake. Teaching is both not that hard and not that important. It’s not the frigging priesthood. Teacher’s aide indeed. Are you not familiar with the concept of student teaching?

  10. Teaching *well* is hard. Very hard.

    Teaching poorly is easy.

    Make note of that, Cal.

  11. Joanne, teachers all across America teach 80% of whites and Asians, and 40% of blacks and Hispanics to whatever published standard the state requires.

    Either teaching well isn’t that hard, or whites, asians and some blacks and Hispanics learn very well from poor teachers. Your pick.

  12. Michael E. Lopez says:


    You’re missing a premise. You need to assert either that one’s students meeting the published standards either constitutes, is identical with, or implies that one is teaching well. OR that meeting the published standards either constitutes, is identical with, or implies that one is learning well.

    Neither premise is going to be had from me without a convincing argument.

  13. J. D. Salinger says:

    Where is MIchelle Kerr teaching now?

  14. (Cal): “Teaching is both not that hard and not that important. It’s not the frigging priesthood. Teacher’s aide indeed. Are you not familiar with the concept of student teaching?

    1. If “teaching is not that hard”, why do we see such enormous variation in teacher effectiveness?
    2. Every game is as hard as you want to make it. Given 1 hour of instruction time a day, five days a week for 36 weeks starting at age 6, it’s not hard to teach 1/2 of the student population to add and subtract rational numbers with different denominators by age 18. It’s not so easy to get 10% of the population through Analytic Geometry by age 12 starting from age 6. Or maybe it is easy and we just don’t know how. Then we can up the ante and try for Differential Equations by age 9. That might be hard.
    3. A fundamental premise of the State-monopoly school system is that school is important enough to justify the enslavement of the entire age 6-18 population and the imposition of a $500 billion+ per year burden on taxpayers. I will agree to your proposition “it’s not that importent” if I get to interpret it to mean “it’s a mistake to let anyone other than individual students or, in the case of minor children, their parents, decide what instruction is important”.
    4. “Teacher’s aide” is different from “student teaching”. K-12 students, aspiring teachers, schools, and taxpayers would benefit from the substitution of paid apprenticeship teaching programs for College of Ed. certification.

  15. Just about everything I know about teaching came from my time as a substitute teacher and the year I spent as a student teacher. The classes I took for my master’s have had little effect on my teaching.

    I’d support like many others in this discussion that ed schools open up their own teaching schools and operate them like teaching hospitals.

  16. Malcolm,

    We don’t see all that much variation, actually, once you take race and income into effect. Toss in motivation and other forms of selection bias (that is, student variation) and whatever is left is much like the difference between doctors–useful and important to parents on the margin, but certainly not worth adding tons of dollars and time to the teacher credentialling process in the pretense that we’ll find a bunch of unqualified teachers.

    I actually agree that student teachers should be paid. It’s a bit annoying having to pay money to work so hard, while schools take advantage of free labor and new employee vetting.


    If the definition is “what Michael Lopez thinks is good teaching”, then who cares? I’m entirely uninterested in your definition–or mine, for that matter. Or any other individual. The state says that turning out students who have improved on their demonstrated knowledge is the metric.

    And who says I’m interested in convincing you, or anyone? I’m just pointing out the flaws in various arguments and expressing my opinion.

  17. Michael E. Lopez says:


    You have to choose.

    If what you are doing is “expressing your opinion”, and you’re completely uninterested in convincing people, then sure. I think everyone can agree that the statement “Cal thinks that something good is happening, either with teaching or learning, when most students meet state standards.” I doubt anyone is going to argue with your statement about what it is that you think.

    But if you’re trying to point out flaws in arguments, then you are inherently trying to convince people. You’re trying to convince them that there are flaws in certain types of arguments. (Either that, or you’re a very special breed of schizoid who talks to himself through internet discussion fora.) And you can’t simply by saying so change the nature of what it is you’re doing.

    Furthermore, if you’re trying to convince people of something, you need to be explicit about your definitions. Otherwise when you’ve got their ostensible agreement, you can never be sure if it’s really agreement or just a disagreement that’s veiled behind some ambiguity.

    What I am trying to do is explain to you that you’ve put forth an argument that implicitly relies on certain unstated assumptions — assumptions that the establishment and fulfillment of state learning standards carries with it some sort of normative force that entitles us to talk about “teaching well” or “learning well.” And it’s normative because that’s the sort of word “well” is — when we say that something is done “well” we are saying that it is a good example of that kind of activity. One pitches well when the opposing batters have difficulty getting on base and/or making contact with the ball. One runs well when the body’s balance is kept, one’s stride is even, and one’s speed is great. One sleeps well when the sleep fulfills its function of giving the mind and body rest, allowing the subject to wake, ready to face a new day.

    One can say that one teaches well when one presides over students who meet state standards. But one can also say that one teaches well when one’s students do not spread feces over themselves, or that one teaches well when one meets the minimum requirements for performing one’s tasks as set forth in the union contract. One could even say that students are “learning well” when they become sadstic, sociopathic murderers with a hatred of literacy and a fear of math.

    We can say all of these things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them so. “Well” is a normative word, and it implies a certain amount of excellence. I merely want you to be explicit about what you want to say, and I also want to let you know that, to the extent that your posting was intended to convince the audience that state-standards can be taken as a threshold for teaching or learning “well” (and it seems obvious that, despite your protests to the contrary, it was) it’s failing as far as I’m concerned. State standards are laughable. Literally: I laugh when I see them because they are so often as insubstantial as they are ridiculous.

    Now, your first inclination is probably to respond that you don’t care what I think, and that whether Michael Lopez agrees with you is irrelevant to whether you are right or not. That’s fine. To the extent that there exists the possibility that you’re right, I wish you the best of luck convincing everyone else, and I hope that I have the patience and prowess to understand your point if it does prove to be correct.

    But in the meantime I’ll be doing my best to undermine your efforts to that effect here because I think you’re absolutely wrong, and it is the nature of discussion fora such as this that we are able to argue our points for the benefit of the readership.

  18. But if you’re trying to point out flaws in arguments, then you are inherently trying to convince people.

    No, I’m really not. People can do what they want. And no, I don’t have to choose.

    Go back to your original post. Read how often you tell me what I need to do. And you do it in the follow up, too. Dude, I don’t have to do a thing. I’m creating content for a blog on a subject matter that interests me. If you make a comment or critique I find worth answering, I’ll answer. If you just haughtily seek to redefine the terms, I’ll laugh at you. Whatever.

    Again, my assertion is pretty straightforward, but I’ll repeat it in case you were able to understand it the first time.

    Teachers manage to turn out educated whites and asians at a rapid clip. The problem is that teachers are not able to turn out educated blacks and hispanics at the same rate. This is the whole reason that NCLB and Race to the Top exist–because of the achievement gap.

    Rather than wonder if perhaps the goal can’t be achieved, we decide it’s the teachers’ fault. And so, we’re now going through the exercise of pretending it has something to do with teacher training. Never mind the fact that we did very well with far less teacher training back when our drop out rate was higher and we didn’t have to educate low-skilled students (of any race).

    The whole thing’s a joke, because we aren’t ready to acknowledge that it’s not the teachers. I’m not disputing that bad teachers exist–quite the contrary. Nor do I hold that teacher training is valuable. But neither bad teachers nor teacher training are responsible for the real problem we aren’t prepared to acknowledge.

  19. Mike Curtis says:

    Is there a corresponding requirement for the licensing of Administrators, or, is the disgruntled teacher with a Master’s in Underwater Basket Weaving still all that’s needed to qualify…cousins in the institution notwithstanding?