Teacher Certification Changes

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New York is joining other states in reworking the way it certifies teachers, emphasizing classroom evaluation over written exams. Gotham Schools managing editor Philissa Cramer talks about the changes. Teachers, what do you make of the changes? How were you evaluated, and was it effective? What's the best way to decide who gets to teach? Call 212-433-9692 or post here!

Comments [19]

Barbara Madeloni from northampton, ma

Regarding the new pre-service teacher assessment, the TPA, as discussed on the Brian Lehrer show, a few thoughts from someone who has worked with the TPA in MA. First, the TPA, at least in MA, does not replace a paper and pencil test. The MA paper and pencil tests for certification (Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure or MTEL) are gatekeepers for entry into student teaching. The MTEL 'assesses' reading, writing and content area knowledge. The TPA is being used to evaluate students at the end of the student teaching semester. Therefore, the TPA is replacing observations and evaluations completed by university supervisors and cooperating teachers. For example, where I teach, student teachers are observed 5 times by a supervisor. This supervisor meets with the student teacher and the cooperating teacher to discuss the students development, the students are in weekly contact with the supervisor and, when needed, the supervisor meets more often and completes more observations. Students also participate in a seminar where they review and share their work with each other and faculty. Supervisors and cooperating teachers decide if students should pass student teaching-not a test. Could this be improved? Yes, with more observations and more opportunities to discuss the student teacher's development. But the TPA is replacing the evaluations of supervisors and cooperating teachers with a PAPER AND PENCIL test, in which students WRITE about their teaching and then have their writing, and a brief video clip, evaluated by a person who does not know the student teacher or the context. My understanding, from colleagues in California who have been working with the Performance Assessment for California Teachers(PACT) from which the TPA is derived, is that when students fail the PACT, remediation is not about their teaching, but about their writing about their teaching. The TPA is a paper and pencil test that rewards facility with language as much as any standard essay examination.
And none of the above even begins to address that this is a huge money grab for Pearson, whose interest is profit not democratic education.

Aug. 01 2012 07:50 AM
scott from soho

I took this passage from an article in the Wall Street Journal. I know it's not the favorite paper of WNYC, but it does have pretty good information.

"Since 1970, the public school workforce has roughly doubled—to 6.4 million from 3.3 million—and two-thirds of those new hires are teachers or teachers' aides. Over the same period, enrollment rose by a tepid 8.5%. Employment has thus grown 11 times faster than enrollment. If we returned to the student-to-staff ratio of 1970, American taxpayers would save about $210 billion annually in personnel costs."

I think it would be a great idea to audit the system, get rid of the useless and or underperforming staff, and give all of the hardworking teachers a big raise.

Jul. 31 2012 11:23 PM
Garanamoo from Nassau County

The issue of training teachers won't be resolved until we demonstrate we value teachers and teaching. It wouldn't be terribly difficult to imagine and establish an effective internship system that combines on-the-job training with study of pedagogy and content. However, such internships would need to be lengthy, time-consuming, extensive, intensive, costly. We don't value teaching--and our children--enough to spend the time and spend the dollars.

Jul. 31 2012 01:41 PM
maureen from Middletown, New Jersey

I agree that prospective teachers need to get into the classroom way before they student teach. I recently had a student teacher who was a grad student with only his student teaching to complete. He was a poor planner, was extremely unmotivated in the classroom, could not engage the students, and did not adjust his style after numerous discussions with me and my co-teacher. Our evaluations of this man were honest and critical. Well, he knew how to impress in an interview, and he was hired for the next school year as a full time teacher. He could have been weeded out before he invested 45 credits in school. And...the poor kids!

Jul. 31 2012 01:33 PM

In the 90's I went back to school thinking I wanted to learn how to be a teacher. There was very little in the curriculum to educate future teachers about how to work in a real classroom. Education majors NEED many many many more credits earned from classroom observation, participation and mentoring from effective experienced teachers and this should not mean that a classroom teacher must "handover" the class to student teachers for 3 months.

Education programs need to be aimed at classroom effectiveness besides competency in a given subject.

Jul. 31 2012 11:33 AM
B from nyc

Whether the evaluation is observation or interview (which I had 40 years ago along with standardized test), it's important to know who the evaluator is and whose interests they represent. A one time evaluation is fraught with potential issues - ongoing evaluation and support are what teachers need. More classroom time in student teaching would benefit potential teachers as well...apprenticeships for instance.

Jul. 31 2012 11:33 AM
AP from CT

John from NTC:

That's a great idea. It would work better if teachers were paid better and the students you're describing (at top universities, with top grades) were encouraged to go into education rather than law, finance, medicine, etc. I am a high school teacher who went to the University of Chicago and has a master's degree in literature, and despite the fact that I love my job, and have, in fact, published since beginning to work, am often met with anything ranging from incredulity to condescension when I tell former classmates that I teach high school.

Jul. 31 2012 11:28 AM
Guy from NYC

Public authorities and talk shows like this need to STAY on Pearson. This is the story. There is big money to be made and these companies have an interest in keeping the spotlight on "bad teachers" ineffective principles, etc.

The DOE privatizes a lot of its business to consultancies and these firms are not always pulling in the same direction as the DOE--they have their own interests.

Let's go media, stop following the company line and do some investigation.

Jul. 31 2012 11:25 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

How about all the people who pretentiously comment on teaching try to do it with a class of 25 kids and see what it's really like?

Jul. 31 2012 11:24 AM
Brian from South Orange

What about peer reviews/evaluation? The peer reviews/evaluation should be both scheduled and unannounced (surprise) performed by teachers other than school cohorts. This as well as mentoring and continuing education/training should make changes that lead to enhancing education.

Jul. 31 2012 11:24 AM
Richard Leslie from Brooklyn

As a 25 year college teacher who teaches grad students to teach through their TAships in field surveys, Pearson contacted me to be one of the evaluators via video. I refused for several reasons which relate to your discussions: the limits to such a brief encounter—the limits of both a brief video and a subcontracted feedback system—the unknown qualifications of other judges and the contractor, and the unknown uses made of such an evaluation in the overall scheme. However I support the use of video as one element in evaluating the public aspect of teaching but mofre for the sake of the teacher's self-improvment.

Jul. 31 2012 11:24 AM
John from NTC

How about prospective teachers:

Go to a good college

Get into a top university and get a REAL masters degree in their field of study

Do a one year program in pedagogy

Pass a DIFFICULT licensing exam

Do an internship and get mentored

Take continuing credits every year

Do work – publish articles, do projects, etc.

That’s what doctors, engineer, and architects need to do. And architects get paid a lot less than teachers.

THEN – good teachers will stay in the profession because their colleagues will be people they want to work with.

Jul. 31 2012 11:20 AM
john from office

It always seems that in education, the process becomes more important then the goal, which is to teach. Lots of programs, catch phrases, and pychobabble words. The students lose in the end.

Jul. 31 2012 11:20 AM
JR from Bronx

There is no irony about this new evaluation system, in so far as it also out-sources the 'evaluation' to the same mega-testing for-profit company that runs the students evaluations, and reduces the input of the actual supervisors and school staff, who are seeing a lot more than an edited tape of the student teacher's work. More authentic evaluation is obviously the right thing to do -- demonstrating that you can actually, you know, teach, seems like a good goal for a teacher evaluation, but the idea that this can be graded off-site in the same way as the high stakes student evals, is just another step in the corporatization of public schools.

Jul. 31 2012 11:19 AM
Ellen from Manhattan

I echo the caller who said principals can not always be counted on to make thorough, useful observations of their staff. My current principal takes this very seriously, but I have also been in a school where the principal never observed teachers and then made tenure decisions based on very little information at all. That principal was removed, but the staff and children who were under her leadership suffered for three years with inadequate leadership. Principals and administrators should be under the same (if not more) scrutiny as teachers. And yes, mentoring is crucial, especially for fellows and other brand new teachers.

Jul. 31 2012 11:18 AM
Dan Wagenberg from Stamford, CT

I became a teacher as a second career, getting my Masters in 1997. At that time, NY state required a 20 minute, unedited video of my teaching a class. NY City required an oral exam for licensure.

Teachers everywhere are constantly being subjected to the reinvention of the wheel, old wine in new bottles, etc.

Why do we permit the Dept of Education to be headed by someone with no training or experience as an educator????

Jul. 31 2012 11:14 AM
Nina from Brooklyn

what about teachers who have been in the system for awhile- will they be re-tested?

Jul. 31 2012 11:14 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

When I took the certification tests at age 50, they were a breeze for me. The 18 Education credits I wasted my money on at Brooklyn College back in the early 1990s were absolutely absurd, having nothing to do with the reality of "teaching" kids. I pray things have improved since I did that teaching "thing" 17 years ago.

The reality is you have to be young, strong, and be able to control a classroom with no powers to discipline. Kids either love you, or fear you, or disrespect you. You either have what it takes, or you are out quickly. After all the tests and the education course and all of that waste of time and money, I spent about a month in the "system," and took a powder. I was too old, too tired, and too naive to do the job at age 50.

Jul. 31 2012 11:13 AM
Randy deutsch from Riverdale, NY

My friend and I run a photography program for 5th graders wherein we volunteer our time, cameras, etc.

This year our class was made up of students some of whom were bright and articulate - reading the Hunger Games, for example. And students who had much difficulty reading, even on grade level.

My question: How can a teacher possibly teacher to both groups and do justice to either of them?

Jul. 31 2012 11:12 AM

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