New test for new teachers: Can she teach?

More than 10,000 teachers-in-training in 25 states will field-test a new way to evaluate classroom competence, writes Sarah Butrymowicz on the Hechinger Report. Eventually, states may use the Teacher Performance Assessment to decide who qualifies for a teaching license.

Currently, most states require would-be teachers to take pencil-and-paper exams — usually multiple choice — covering basic skills and knowledge of specific subjects, writes Butrymowicz. “Some states also include tests that focus on teaching strategies.”

(TPA follows) candidates through a classroom lesson over the course of a few days, complete with detailed pre-lesson plans from teacher candidates, in-class video, and post-lesson reflection.

Aspiring teachers will be graded on a scale of 1 to 5 by national reviewers, who will look for evidence of student learning. Developers of the assessment recommend making the lowest passing score a 3, but states will be free to set their own passing mark.

Stanford is working with Pearson Education to develop the assessment. Ray Pecheone, co-executive director of the Stanford School Redesign Network, streamlined his model for evaluating  already-certified teachers.  He predicts 10 to 20 percent of would-be teachers will fail the field test, but that will fall to under 10 percent with time.

University of Massachusetts teacher candidates are refusing to send the classroom videos for evaluation, reports Michael Winerip in the New York Times.

The UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.

Lily Waites, 25, who is getting a master’s degree to teach biology, found that the process of reducing 270 minutes of recorded classroom teaching to 20 minutes of video was demeaning and frustrating, made worse because she had never edited video before. “I don’t think it showed in any way who I am as a teacher,” she said. “It felt so stilted.”

Pearson advertises that it is paying scorers $75 per assessment, with work “available seven days a week” for current or retired licensed teachers or administrators. This makes Amy Lanham wonder how thorough the grading will be. “I don’t think you can have a genuine reflective process from a calibrated scorer,” said Ms. Lanham, 28, who plans to teach English.

In traditional evaluations of student teachers, nearly everybody passes.

New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington plan to adopt TPA in the next few years. Other states are waiting to see how it works.

About Joanne


  1. So Pearson Education doesn’t make enough money assessing children all year long and now they have to assess teachers, as well?

    Administrators need to be trained to do assessments. They can pop in and out all year long to get the whole picture, know the struggles teachers are having with individual students, and be there to help teachers improve their teaching. Administrators must be trained and trusted to assess their staff and hire new staff.

    Summative assessment for teachers isn’t any better for our educational system than repeated summative assessment for students. A video can be faked or edited to show success when there wasn’t any. I’ve watched teacher candidates do this for portfolios.

    What makes anyone think that high-stakes testing for teachers will bring out the best in anybody?

  2. Supersub says:

    The UMass situation shows the exact reason why NY dumped the video tape portion of its certification process – it was a poor measure of teaching ability and there simply was not enough time and manpower to adequately judge the submissions. I’ve heard from multiple stories of teachers who would intentionally insert short clips of them cursing out the evaluators or, in one classic tale, a whole episode of Welcome Back Kotter and still get certified.

    Ultimately, the push for increased amounts of teachers in the 80’s and 90’s is the cause of this mess. Colleges popped up all over the place to meet the demand for new teachers and took anyone interested. States looked the other way and gave the graduates of those programs certifications. Districts, trusting the certification system, hired anyone with that piece of paper.

    Districts need to get serious with the tenure issue now. Rather than giving it to 99% of the teachers, they should use the denial of it to push out the underqualified teachers.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    is there no way ed schools can weed out these students and help guide them to a field they are better suited for before they waste their money on seeking an ed degree? Isn’t this the school’s responsibility? if not, where in the world is the accountability for those that supposedly “train” teachers that are “ready” for the classroom?

  4. The Ed schools can’t be trusted to week out students who won’t make it as teachers because their enrollments would drop. An older friend of mine (in her 50’s) went all the way thru ed school training to be a middle school social studies teacher. Any of her friends could have told you she would not make it as a teacher, and especially not at that age level. The school did not tell her that she wouldn’t be certified until after she had spent 4 years. Pitiful.

  5. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Pearson assessments are crap. Let the principals decide. It’s not ideal, but at least they have to live with their decision.

    • Obi-Wandreas says:

      Pearson wrote the NY state exams. I got tired of counting questions which tested things that were not actually listed in any of the standards for those grades.

  6. This is just PACT in another form. PACT is a joke.

    And those of you who think that all the teachers passing is some sort of mistake, or that a better evaluation process would somehow identify them, think again. And then again. Anyone can teach. It’s not that hard. The idea that we should be vetting teachers based solely on how they could teach low income near-illiterates is just moronic.

    • Anyone can teach. It’s not that hard.

      That may be the stupidest thing anyone has ever said.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      If you know the subject matter, are reasonably eloquent, and the kids want to learn, it’s not that difficult.

      Alas, three out of three is rare.

      The third doesn’t happen much, in any case. Which is perhaps why very little learning actually gets done even with “good” teachers (memorizing and forgetting a month later doesn’t count).