New York and up to 25 other states are moving toward changing the way they grant licenses to teachers, de-emphasizing tests and written essays in favor of a more demanding approach that requires aspiring teachers to prove themselves through lesson plans, homework assignments and videotaped instruction sessions.
The change is an attempt to ensure that those who become teachers not only know education theories, but also can show the ability to lead classrooms and handle students of differing abilities and needs, often amid limited resources.
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.
“It is very analogous to authentic assessments in other professions, in nursing, in medical residencies, in architecture,” said Raymond L. Pecheone, a professor of practice at Stanford who leads the center that developed the new assessment. “In its most basic form, we collect authentic artifacts of teaching that all teachers use on the job.”
“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.”
Although there are myriad paths to becoming a teacher in New York, candidates typically must complete a state-approved undergraduate program, majoring in the candidate’s chosen subject, and pass three state tests. Candidates also usually meet some type of student-teaching requirements. Others can accomplish the same requirements in an approved master’s degree program.
The new assessment system replaces two of the three written exams, made up of multiple-choice questions and essays, and introduces the classroom assessment elements.
“It will be harder to meet the passing threshold,” said John B. King, the state’s education commissioner. “You will have to demonstrate more content knowledge.”
But critics are dubious that the new assessment system will produce better teachers and said that imposing a standardized program on education schools undermines their autonomy in preparing teachers. They also fear that the schools may have no choice but to adapt their curriculums to the new standards.
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. In New York, the system will be introduced in the fall at all 130 education schools and colleges that award teaching degrees.
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