Education Week - September 18, 2013 - (Page 26)

26 EDUCATION WEEK n SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 n COMMENTARY By Mary Brabeck & Christopher Koch F Why the New Teacher Ed. Standards Matter “ or some time, the central challenge of teacher preparation has been ensuring that new educators are prepared to help the nation’s increasingly diverse students meet increasingly complex expectations— in school, and then in college and careers. But only recently have preparation programs begun focus- ing their attention on those who have the biggest stake in a pipeline of effective educators: the nation’s students. That shift in focus represents a sea change in preparing the nation’s teacher workforce. New standards for accrediting teacher-preparation programs—put together by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and approved in late August by caep’s board, on which we both sit—will move providers from a process-oriented system of accountability to one that measures improvement against desired student outcomes, from inclusive to highly selective admissions, and from theoretical, academic preparation to an emphasis on pedagogy and clinical practice learned from hands-on experience in schools. In doing so, these standards will help elevate the teaching profession, better prepare prospective educators, and, above all, ensure that preparation programs are teaching new educators the skills that result in improved student outcomes. These changes were not imposed by policymakers in Wash- ington but by a broad cross section of stakeholders, including university and P-12 officials, representatives of nontraditional programs, chief state school officers, critics, union officials, and others who put aside their differences to create new expectations for the field. Members of the standards commission, chaired by Vanderbilt University education Dean Camilla Benbow and Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, understood that the status quo wasn’t working and decided to raise the bar themselves—not because of fear that others would set the standards, but because they know it is what is needed to actually improve teaching and learning for students. The new standards will require preparation programs, which currently have no set requirements for selectivity, to raise their expectations significantly. For example, programs will accept only the top 33 percent of students taking the ACT, the SAT, or the GRE by 2020. Much as rigorous admissions requirements for entry to other fields, including engineering, law, and medicine, are a key element in why these professions are so highly valued, we believe that high standards will improve public regard of educators and attract more of the best and the brightest. Furthermore, at a time when we need a more diverse teacher workforce that mirrors the students it teaches, we believe that increased selectivity will help to attract a diverse candidate pool, as has been the case with highly selective teacher education programs. Indeed, the new standards require programs to recruit, select, prepare, and graduate a diverse pool of teachers who meet a high bar. And as more students graduate from high school college- and career-ready, we believe we will have a higher-performing candidate pool as the requirements are introduced over time. The standards also will ensure that teacher-preparation programs prepare candidates in partnership with the schools and districts that will hire them. They will hold traditional and nontraditional programs to the same rigorous standards. And perhaps most importantly, accreditation of teacher-preparation programs will rest, in part, on solid evidence of pre-K-12 student achievement and growth in the classrooms in which their graduates teach. These changes reflect a broad consensus among experts and practitioners alike about what needs to be done to actually improve student outcomes. Most institutions have already increased their focus on clinical, school-based preparation, and there are few who would question the need for better evidence to gauge the efficacy of teacher preparation. But CAEP has balanced the need for greater accountability to high standards with the help and support institutions need to reach them. Our guiding belief is that accreditation should not just serve as a measuring stick, but also as a tool to help institutions become more reflective, address problems, and continuously improve. Nowhere is this more important than in the measuring of student outcomes. While results in the classroom must be the measure by which all teacher-preparation efforts are ultimately judged, data about student achievement also will help institutions by providing information about their graduates’ success in the classroom, which in turn will help them make needed changes to their preparation programs. This increased emphasis on student growth has been made possible by the potential for better and more actionable forms [A]ccreditation should not just serve as a measuring stick, but also as a tool to help institutions become more reflective, address problems, and continuously improve.” of data at the pre-K-12 level, including efforts by many states to develop robust data systems. However, we know that such systems are still in their infancy in many places, and CAEP will, over time, as the standards are gradually introduced, work to develop responsible ways to gather and report data. And this information will be a part of a broader array of evidence that will be used to measure the efficacy of teacher preparation, with an emphasis on using multiple measures while focusing on fewer, but more relevant, sources of data. We’ve already seen the promise of how providers can make use of this richer evidence. In Ohio, for example, education institutions are balancing the state’s value-added metrics and teacher-performance assessment with surveys of teachers and principals. The surveys were conducted both during and after preparation and focus on specific elements of preparation programs. Missouri is developing preservice assessments for prospective educators that relate instruction to student outcomes. And some institutions, such as New York University’s Steinhardt School, are building their own data-collection systems to track candidates and follow them into the field, partnering with the state department of education and other colleges to share information. Institutions are rightly wary about the use of data. Most are already awash in data—and, as part of traditional accreditation procedures, they are often asked to develop even more. Making matters worse, such data are rarely put to good use, largely because they haven’t been relevant to the kinds of things providers need to know to improve their programs. The new standards address these concerns. They identify the kinds of data that will hold providers to high standards, but Unfairly Fired Teachers Deserve Court Protection ByW. James Popham & Marguerita K. DeSander W e believe that thousands of American teachers will lose their jobs in the next few years because of the recently designed, more demanding evaluation systems now found in most of our states. These new teacher-evaluation procedures were triggered by a pair of federal initiatives that mark a sea change in job security for the nation’s teachers. Most U.S. teachers, however, don’t seem too worried about these looming dismissals because they believe that teachers who are fired as a result of unsound evaluation systems can readily get those dismissals reversed in court. But they’re mistaken. In the Obama administration’s 2009 Race to the Top initiative and in the subsequent No Child Left Behind waiver program allowing states to avoid federal sanctions under the NCLB law, state education au- thorities were urged to establish morerigorous teacher-evaluation programs. These new evaluation systems were to be based on multiple kinds of evidence, such as classroom observations and administrators’ ratings, but would also need to include students’ test scores as a “significant factor.” Thus, states were allowed to fashion their own teacher-evaluation systems, but in accordance with such federal guidelines as the insistence that evaluative results would contribute to personnel decisions. Although school districts sometimes made minor adjustments in state-determined evaluation procedures, the federal demand for morestringent evaluations typically trumped local preferences. The trouble is that many of these recently fashioned evaluative systems contain serious shortcomings. For instance, they often rely too heavily on traditional achievement tests, such as off-the-shelf nationally standardized tests or, more often, standardized tests developed specifically for a given state. These annually administered accountability tests, although useful for other educational purposes, are unaccompanied by any evidence that they are able to distinguish between well-taught and badly taught students. Other teacher-evaluation procedures use classroom-observation systems requiring an excessive number of judgments to be made by observers during abbreviated classroom visits. When classroom-observation procedures call for observers to rate a teacher’s classroom performance on 40 or 50 separate dimensions, and do so during a handful of 30-minute classroom visits, the resultant observation data are often of little value. So, let’s suppose that Teacher X in District Y of State Z has been unfairly dismissed because of a flawed teacher-evaluation system. For those who think that unjustly fired teachers will be protected by our court system, and many do, the picture is not rosy. The nation’s courts have historically refused to substitute their judgment for that of a school board in cases where a teacher (whether tenured or probationary) has been terminated for substandard job performance. This has been true if the termination is based on even a scintilla of evidence. The only exception occurs when the fired teacher is a member of a legally protected class of citizens (for instance, a designated racial group) who can demonstrate that the termination was based on bias or discrimination. The burden of proof would then be on the terminated teacher to demonstrate that the teacher-evaluation procedures being used were either intentionally designed to adversely affect a protected group or, if unintentional, still resulted in such an adverse impact. In either case, the burden of proof is significant and difficult to satisfy. Both federal and state courts have categorically declined to weigh in on the quality of evaluative procedures measuring the performance of teachers. The role of the courts has always been to review the record to determine whether law, policy, and procedures established by the state and local authorities have been followed and, along the way, that due process was not denied. ▲

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 18, 2013

Education Week - September 18, 2013
Calif. Testing Move Hits Federal Nerve
Teacher-Review Tool: Classroom Portfolios
TFA Educators Found to Boost Math Learning
Assessment Group Sets Accommodations Policy
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Spoken-Word Poets Bring Words to Life for Students
Partnership in Bronx Aims to Build Skills On Behalf of Parents
National-Board Certification to Be Cheaper, Smoother
Iowa District Reimagines the Five-Day School Week
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Consumer Demand for Digital Ed. Games Seen Rising
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept., Arizona in Clash Over Waiver
Congress Gears Up for Higher Ed. Law Renewal
Policy Brief
Louisiana Vouchers, Desegregation Case Prove Volatile Mix
House Panelists Question Relevancy of Education Dept. Research
Why the New Teacher Ed. Standards Matter
Unfairly Fired Teachers Deserve Court Protection
A Sandy Hook Parent’s Letter to Teachers
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Encouraging Courage

Education Week - September 18, 2013