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.

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.