Education Week has posted a longer article about the American Federation of Teacher’s “bar exam for teachers” proposal. Some of the added details heartened me; most added to my misgivings.
The higher standards for education program entrants, it turns out, include test scores as well as grades:
the report released this weekend recommends that teacher-preparation programs raise their entry standards to attract academically capable students. The programs should require candidates at both the elementary and secondary level to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and get a minimum grade on college- or graduate-school-entry exams, such as a 24 on the ACT.
This last requirement might encourage teacher candidates to take tougher courses, especially higher level math. It might also serve as a slight corrective to rampant grade inflation.
I was far less encouraged by the description of elements that might appear on the “bar exam” itself.
Candidates should be assessed again midway through the program on such topics as whether they can diagnose learning problems, align units to state standards, and use formative assessments to tailor instruction, the report says.
And it calls on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to oversee a process of developing a rigorous exam measuring content, pedagogy, and practice—based on a cohesive set of teaching standards crafted by practitioners—that teachers would pass in order to show they’re ready for the profession.
Content gets listed before pedagogy and practice – that’s good news, I suppose. But I’m skeptical that lessons in “aligning curriculum” will better prepare would-be teachers than content-rich courses. I’m all for helping new teachers learn how to construct curriculum and develop meaningful assessments. I just think these lessons are better taught in the post-graduate clinic experience that the earlier article on this proposal mentioned.
The article also suggests that the proposed test could be intended as a potential barrier to teachers who pursue alternative routes to certification – and not as a potential means to attract smart students reluctant to pursue an undergraduate education major. According to Education Week:
The report is probably best thought of as the AFT’s entry into the teacher-preparation reform conversation, which has been gathering momentum over the past few years. The U.S. Department of Education, national accreditors, and the NEA all have unveiled reports outlining suggested reforms in recent months. And the Education Department’s new regulations governing the teacher-preparation provisions of the Higher Education Act are due out by early next year. Finally, the alternative-certification wars continue, and the NCTQ’s review of every preparation program will be unveiled next spring.
There are some telling hints in the report about where AFT stands on those initiatives. For example, the union says that its view of improving teacher preparation “is neither to create an endless array of externally driven requirements by government and accrediting agencies, nor to create endless alternative-certification models designed to save the system.