Education Week - December 12, 2012 - (Page 14)
DECEMBER 12, 2012
Union Pushes Higher Standards for New Teachers
By Stephen Sawchuk
In a move signaling its entrance into a burgeoning conversation about teacher-preparation reform, the American Federation of Teachers has unveiled an ambitious initiative calling for higher standards for teacher education—and the creation of a “universal assessment” for teachers. Such an exam would be analogous to the bar exam for lawyers, and states could choose to adopt it as part of teachers’ initial licensing as a measure of when candidates are ready to lead their own classrooms. The 1.5 million-member union called on the Washington-based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which runs a prestigious advanced-certification program, to oversee the initiative and to drum up support among the higher education community and state policymakers. “It is very important that the profession buy into this, that it’s not just the aft and the national board,” aft President Randi Weingarten said. mends that teacher-preparation programs raise their entry standards to attract academically capable students. The programs should require candidates at both the elementary and secondary levels to have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and get a minimum grade on college- or graduate-school-entrance exams, such as a 24 on the act out of 36. All teacher-candidates should undergo a year’s worth of studentteaching, the report says, and candidates should be taught to diagnose learning problems, align curricular units to state standards, and use assessments to tailor instruction. Finally, it calls on the nbpts to devise a rigorous exam measuring content, pedagogy, and classroom practice, based on a cohesive set of teaching standards crafted by practitioners. States would voluntarily choose to use the exam for licensing. The union envisions the test to be similar to state bar exams, with a common body of knowledge assessed, but with possible state adaptations. The union proposed similar ideas as early as the mid-1980s, without success. But teacher preparation has drawn renewed policy attention of late, with the U.S. Department of Education, national accreditors, the National Education Association, and advocacy groups all unveiling initiatives in recent months. The report also reflects the aft’s continued uneasiness with alternative-certification programs
It is very important that the profession buy into this, that it’s not just the AFT and the national board.”
President American Federation of Teachers
Ms. Weingarten added during a press conference: “If [the exam is] adopted for teachers who come out of [traditional teacher preparation], it has to be adopted for teachers who are alternatively certified as well. One has to level the playing field for all.” The first step for the national board is to establish a commission to craft a cohesive set of standards for what beginning teachers should know. The president and chief executive officer of the nbpts, Ronald Thorpe, said he would move to create that commission within 90 days. “It’s an opportunity for the profession to step back and say these are our expectations, based on what the profession sees as important to have when you set foot in the classroom on the first day,” Mr. Thorpe said.
and with the Education Department’s pending overhaul of federal teacher-training rules. The union’s view of improving teacher preparation, the report says, “is neither to create an endless array of externally driven requirements by government and accrediting agencies, nor to create endless alternativecertification models designed to save the system.” Any new assessment also seems likely to dovetail with the edtpa, a performance-based licensing assessment more than 20 states recently piloted. Jane West, the vice president of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a partner in the creation of that exam, said that it wasn’t entirely clear how
Old Idea, New Context
The product of months of discussion by an aft task force, the report, released last week, recom-
the efforts would be coordinated, but that they seemed to be “moving in the same direction.” “I don’t envision them creating from scratch one test everyone would have to take,” she said. That said, the challenges of instituting the union’s agenda are many. Neither the aft nor the nbpts has any direct control over licensing or certification, a state responsibility. Even the process of crafting beginning-teacher standards could pose difficulties: Many such sets of standards already exist. Longer-term issues include whether states that adopted a universal licensing exam would agree to use the same cutoff scores. Also, teacher-educators have been hotly debating the worth of raising their entry requirements. And alternative-route programs, which provide the bulk of their training while teachers are already on the job, might balk at the union’s call for a yearlong apprenticeship. Still, Mr. Thorpe said he feels the profession is prepared to take a serious look at the union’s ideas. “I think we are more ready for this than ever before,” he said.
Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “Raising the Bar.” www.edweek.org/links.
Brand-New NAEP Report on Vocabulary Shows Same Old Gaps
By Erik W. Robelen
A new analysis of federal data that provide a deeper and more systematic look into students’ ability to understand the meaning of words in context than was previously available from “the nation’s report card” finds stark achievement gaps in vocabulary across racial and ethnic groups, as well as income levels. The analysis aims to offer greater insights into reading comprehension. The first-of-its-kind National Assessment of Educational Progress report suggests a consistent relationship between performance on vocabulary questions and the ability of students to comprehend a text, which experts say is consistent with prior research on the subject. In 2011, 4th and 8th graders performing above the 75th percentile in reading comprehension on naep had the highest average vocabulary scores, the report says. Likewise, those 4th and 8th graders scoring at or below the 25th percentile had the lowest average vocabulary scores. “Today’s special report puts an important spotlight on something that’s not discussed nearly enough on its own: vocabulary,” Brent Houston, the principal of Shawnee Middle School in Shawnee, Okla., and a member of the naep governing board, said in a statement last week. “We discuss concepts such as reading comprehension and reading on grade level, but we can’t have success in those areas if our students also do not learn to understand the meaning of words in a variety of contexts.” What was especially troubling, Mr. Houston said, were the achievement gaps identified in the report. “Perhaps what struck me most—and what hits closest to home—is observing the performance trends by family income,” he said. As Mr. Houston pointed out, the data reveal large gaps in vocabulary achievement between students who are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch and those who are not. In 4th grade, the gap was 31 points on a 0-500 scale. In 8th grade, the gap was 28 points. The report does not provide achievement levels for students, such as “proficient” or “basic,” as is typical for naep. Data from the broader naep reading report for 2011 found just 34 percent of both 4th and 8th graders scoring at or above the proficient level. The new report offers a sampling of vocabulary words that tripped up many students. The word “permeated” was a trouble spot for a lot of 8th graders, with nearly half failing to correctly identify its meaning in a nostalgic passage about eating a “mint snowball” at a small-town drugstore. And “puzzled” was apparently puzzling for 49 percent of 4th graders, who misidentified its meaning in a passage from the story “Ducklings Come Home to Boston.” University of Pittsburgh, said in a statement that the new assessment is distinct from traditional vocabulary exams in three ways. First, it’s not based on a list of specific words. Second, the “target words” appear within the context of a passage, “rather than in isolation.” And third, the naep items emphasize an understanding of a word’s use within a given context, rather than the definition of the word on its own. “This decision represents the major rationale for the assessment,” Ms. McKeown said, to measure “the kind of knowledge that students need to have about words in order to use the words to understand what they read.” She added: “Although we are in the early stages of assessing vocabulary in naep, these initial results may give us some clues on patterns and how vocabulary fits into reading comprehension. ... Future naep reports in this area will provide invaluable data and trends on vocabulary in text that provide a better grasp of the nature of comprehending text and the role vocabulary knowledge plays in the quality of comprehension.” Ms. McKeown served on a naep planning committee charged with developing recommendations for the current reading-assessment framework. The report includes achievement data for 2009 and 2011 at grades 4 and 8. The average overall score did not shift by a statistically significant margin at either grade level. But there were changes in certain categories. For example, the lowest-achieving 8th graders, those at the 10th percentile, saw a gain of 2 points on the naep scale, which was statistically significant. On the issue of achievement gaps by race and ethnicity, the analysis found that in 2011, black students trailed white students, on average, by 29 points in both the 4th and 8th grades. Changes from 2009 to 2011 were not deemed statistically significant. Meanwhile, Hispanic 4th and 8th graders also trailed their white peers, by 28 points in 8th grade and 29 in 4th grade in 2011. Girls outperformed boys by slight margins in grades 4 and 8 (2 points and 3 points, respectively) in 2011. The 1-point difference in 12th grade, from the 2009 assessment, was not statistically significant. In 2011, 12th graders were not tested.
‘Barren’ and ‘Eerie’
A chart in the report highlights some vocabulary words tested and how students fared in recognizing their meaning in context. In grade 4, words like “barren,” “detected,” and “eerie” posed problems, with fewer than half of students correctly identifying their meaning. But “created,” “spread,” and “underestimate” were correctly understood by 75 percent or more. The word “urbane” was difficult for both 8th and 12th graders, with fewer than half getting the correct answer. But “anecdotes” was correctly understood by three-quarters of 8th and 12th graders. Several criteria were used to select words for inclusion in the vocabulary questions, according to the report. Those words were to be: characteristic of written language, as opposed to everyday speech; used across a variety of content areas, rather than being technical or specialized language; generally familiar concepts, feelings, or actions; and necessary for understanding part or all of a passage.
Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “Vocabulary Results From the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments.” www.edweek.org/links.
‘The Early Stages’
A revised naep framework for reading, instituted in 2009, seeks to provide a more detailed and “systematic” measure of vocabulary. While previous reading assessments had included some vocabulary questions, the revised framework set new criteria for developing vocabulary questions and increased their number. The changes, a naep fact sheet says, allow the test to “reliably measure students’ vocabulary performance and report it separately.” Vocabulary questions were multiple-choice and appeared in two sections of the reading exam: comprehension and vocabulary. Margaret McKeown, a senior scientist for learning research and development at the
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - December 12, 2012
Education Week - December 12, 2012
Test Designers Tap Students for Feedback
Race to Top Draws Out New Suitors
Common Core Taught Through the Arts
Federal Attention on ELL Needs Seen to Wane
News in Brief
NAEP Seeks to Test New Measure Of Student Poverty
In Rural Areas, After-School Efforts Must Stretch to Provide Services
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: McGraw-Hill Education Sale Highlights Publishing Trends
K-12, Higher Ed. Unite to Align Learning In Minnesota
States Pledge to Expand School Hours, Days
Absenteeism Linked to Low Achievement In NAEP Time Study
Union Pushes Higher Standards For New Teachers
Brand-New NAEP Report on Vocabulary Shows Same Old Gaps
Psychiatrists Revising Manual On Mental Disorders
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.C. Law Protects Educators From Online Harassment
Blogs of the Week
Education May Not Benefit From Brighter Financial Outlook
K-12 Education Advocates Lobby To Avert Fiscal Cliff
Louisiana’s Ambitious Voucher Effort Unclear Following Judge’s Ruling
BARNETT BERRY & FREDERICK M. HESS: Expanded Learning Time: An Avenue to Greater Change
DAVE POWELL: Confusing Achievement With Aptitude
ANITA N. VOELKER: Smokeless Santa? Sanitizing a Child’s World
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES S. LIEBMAN: Ending the Great School Wars
Education Week - December 12, 2012