Putting a Creative Spin on Teacher Training
Some radical changes are coming to teacher training in the US.
New York and up to 25 other states are moving toward changing the way they grant licenses to teachers. They plan to de-emphasize tests and written essays in favor of a more demanding approach that requires teachers-in-training to prove themselves through lesson plans, homework assignments and videotaped instruction sessions.
In other words, they want to make sure that teachers can actually teach, that they have the ability to lead classrooms and handle students of differing abilities and needs, often amid limited resources.
My own training at the University of London, England, did indeed include several videotaped sessions, as well as many weeks of actual teaching, with a lot of monitoring from my instructors. That teaching practice was vastly more useful to me than the lectures on educational philosophy and psychology, given by aging men who probably had never seen the inside of a classroom.
So these changes sound excellent to me.
It is also a reaction to a criticism of some teachers’ colleges, which have been accused of minting diplomas but failing to prepare teachers for the kind of real-world experience where creativity and flexibility can be the keys to success.
The new licensing standards will be required next year in Washington State and have been committed to in Minnesota. New York will impose the new standards starting in 2014 with the estimated 62,000 students expected to graduate with teaching degrees.
Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee are also moving toward mandating the new assessment in the coming years, and about 20 other states are testing it through pilot programs to determine if they will ultimately use it.
“We don’t want to know if you can pass multiple-choice tests,” said Stephanie Wood-Garnett, an assistant commissioner in the New York State Education Department’s office of higher education. “We want to know if you can drive.”
The model for evaluating educators, known as Teacher Performance Assessment, was designed by Stanford University, with input from more than 600 educators, including university professors, across the country.
Here’s how it will work: a teacher’s daily lesson plans, handouts and assignments will be reviewed, in addition to their logs about what works, what does not and why. Videos of student teachers will be scrutinized for moments when critical topics are discussed. Teachers will also be judged on their ability to deepen reasoning and problem-solving skills, to gauge how students are learning and to coax their class to cooperate in tackling learning challenges.
OK, so far so good. It makes sense that passing a written test in no way guarantees that a student can actually teach.
But here comes the problem: the new system will require teachers to electronically submit their work, including the videos, for grading by trained evaluators who have been recruited by the education company Pearson.
Why on earth is a giant for-profit company like Pearson involved in the evaluation of teachers?
Many teachers are up-in-arms about the idea of outsourcing teacher evaluation, as The New York Times reports:
At the University of Massachusetts, 67 of the 68 students in a program for future middle and high school teachers refused to submit two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, as well as a 40-page take-home test. The students said that evaluators chosen by Pearson were not qualified to judge their abilities, and should not be allowed to do so over their own professors.
Textbook publishers, testing companies and yes, Pearson Education, are already making a fat profit off the backs of educators. Let’s keep Pearson out of the evaluation of teachers.
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