Judge teachers on performance, not ‘bar exam’

Teacher Bar Exams Would Be a Huge Mistake, argue Jason Richwine and Lindsey M. Burke in The Atlantic. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) called for a rigorous exam for would-be teachers — like those for fledgling lawyers or doctors — in Raising the Bar.

Barriers to entry will discourage smart people from entering teaching as a first or second career, they write.

 High-ability college students must sacrifice time spent studying math and science in order to take required education courses and bone up on the latest trends in pedagogy.

Furthermore, test scores don’t predict teacher effectiveness. Neither does level of education, licensure or experience beyond the first few years of teaching.

Even raw intellectual ability as measured by IQ tests has only a small positive effect on how much knowledge teachers are able to impart to their students.

Clearly teachers need to be intelligent and knowledgeable, but effective teaching requires a rare blend of patience, empathy, articulation, and motivation — qualities that cannot be easily measured on a bar exam or other standardized test.

. . . a bar exam is not any more likely to put effective teachers in the classroom than existing certification tests are. This is especially true if the bar exam covers faddish pedagogical theories that often lack a scholarly foundation.

Richwine and Burke suggest the opposite approach: Let any plausible candidate try teaching, but be much, much pickier about who stays in the classroom.  “Teachers who show strong performance — as measured by student tests and principal evaluations — should quickly move up the pay scale,” they write. Poor performers should be let go.

Economists Douglas O. Staiger and Jonah Rockoff simulated this system, they write. “In their view, only the top 20 percent or so who performed best during their tryout period should be kept on.”

I wonder who gets the try-out teachers?

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  1. But if they dispensed with the course requirements and had no “bar exam”, however would they assure that everyone at the front of a classroom had the proper “dispositions”?

    Empiricism is so un-PC!

  2. Bostonian says:

    To call the AFT’s bluff, require that current teachers pass the bar exam to keep their teaching licenses. It’s easy to support a tough exam that none of your members have to take.