From Black Voices — Much of the blame or responsibility for low student achievement or high achieving students has been placed on teachers lately –with Race to the Top programs providing financial incentives for teachers who produce top students, to the documentary “Waiting for Superman” which poignantly highlights the failures of the American education system.

A new class of aspiring teachers are getting ready for new, more demanding requirements to receive their teacher license. A new licensing system is being tested in 19 states that includes filming student teachers in their classroom and evaluating the video. Candidates must show they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to different levels of students and present it effectively, according to an AP report.

Most states only require that prospective teachers pass their courses and a written test. Supporters of the new system say the Teacher Performance Assessment program is a significant improvement, while others are a little more cautious in their praise, warning that it’s not guaranteed it will lead to more successful teachers.

The assessments also place responsibility for grading the would-be teachers with teams of outside evaluators who have no stake in the result. Currently, the teachers-in-training are evaluated by their colleges, which want their students to get their teaching licenses.

But beyond that it also places a tremendous onus on the teacher — a profession that is more fluid that concrete, more trial and error than an exact science. There are good days when the students are engaged and understanding the material and other days when it is a struggle . The idea is that, much like parenting, there is a method to the madness. You are repeating yourself often. And it is often not until years later — as a parent when your children become adults — that you realize they have been listening.

Minnesota is scheduled to be the first state to implement the new assessment system in 2012. Four other states – Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington – plan to implement it within five years. Fourteen more states are running pilots.

The teacher assessment program is a joint project by a consortium made up of Stanford University, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Currently, California and Arizona are the only states that require performance testing to license teachers. Two of California’s three different performance tests use video review. The third California test and the one in Arizona requires evaluators to sit in the classrooms and observe the teachers-in-training.

(Continue Reading @ Black Voices…)

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  • Gigi Young

    This is such a difficult topic. Most teachers today are required to be surrogate parent-instructor-friend-displinarian, all the while dealing with inflexible and broken educational standards. To make matters worse, those who receive the best and most rigorous education are children in private or prep schools (where teachers have the freedom to create more rigorous and creative curriculum), or schools (usually in wealthy neighborhoods) with strong PTAs. If anything, it’s the parents who are letting the kids down, and the terrible funding structure ($$$ based on test scores, when the schools in lower income neighborhoods already draw from a limited tax resource), which is passed on to overworked and underpaid teachers. From what I’ve read, the average turnover for a new teacher is three years, after which they either leave the profession or get out of the public school system and head for private schools.

    But, at the same time, when it comes to education, I must ask what are our priorities? Everyone always talks about math and science, and how America lags behind in those areas, yet all of the innovative technology flows from this country (Twitter? Facebook? Google?). Sure, this is supplemented by highly skilled immigrants, but there is still a thriving and vibrant generation of savvy individuals. And the massive economy of America is built on the service industry, on entrepreneurship. If anything, schools should prepare students for a well-rounded adult life rather than continuing to create vague tests focusing on the equally vague goal of increasing math and science and reading levels.

  • Clnmike

    Hell no it wont make better students, teachers are only partly responsible for the education of kids, the rest of the praise or blame falls squarely on the shoulders of parents who treat schools like daycare centers and show little to no interest in their kids education. Cant get their butts to show up to a PTSA meeting but damn if they are not at the football game threatening you because little Fred didnt get any game time. Wont return calls when their kids are cutting a fool in the class but rasing hell in the office if your ready to kick the little monster out. Kids leave the house and come back to the house with not a book or pencil in their hands yet they dont think to ask a question till the kid is being held back a grade level. If there is no value for education in the house then the teachers are fighting an uphill battle.

    • Alexandra

      “If there is no value for education in the house then the teachers are fighting an uphill battle.”

      Yes. They really need to stop blaming the teachers. Some parents aren’t making the effort to make education a #1 priority in their children’s lives. <—That…and other issues that may affect children. The student is also responsible. If they dont have the urge to learn, what is the teacher/ parent to do?

  • Brasilia

    @Gigi Young and Clnmike, both of you took the words right out of my mouth. I work in special education in an inner city high school and everything you both said hit the proverbial nail on the head. I love what I do but when I got into teaching a few years ago, I called all of my friends and relatives who are teachers and apologized to them because I was of the mindset that it was the fault of the teachers that our young people weren’t learning. Don’t get me wrong, there are some lousy teachers as well as good teachers, but it is a team effort between the teacher, parent and student. Also, if the teacher has the backing of their administration, that also makes a difference. This is a battle that I and many of my colleagues are fighting, we follow the rules, however if a student is failing or acting up, my administration will pressure us into passing the student, regardless of the grade they earned due to poor performance, absenteeism or bad behavior. Like I said, I love my job but it is a never ending battle between the student, the parent and the administration. Sorry for the long post, guess I just needed to vent.

    • Clnmike


      I know exactly how you feel.

  • LindyLouWho

    First, I’d like to point out that the information given at the end is not entirely accurate: Arkansas also requires performance exams before teachers can receive their licenses. I’ve no idea about any other states. (Arkansas teachers are required to pass the Praxis I, II, and III exams which test basic reading, writing, & arithmetic skills, knowledge of subject content & pedagogy, and the in-class evaluation by a random examiner assigned by the state DoE, which takes place after graduation.)

    To me (and I may have been a bit obtuse here) it was strange and maybe a little shocking to hear that so many other states do NOT require their teacher candidates to pass this sort of teaching exam.

    @ Cinmike, I totally agree that it is not all on the teachers, but (at least for me) passing such rigorous exams helped affirm that I at least have the skills to give my students as much support in the classroom as I can. Besides, if your education program is done well, that exam should be old hat!

    My program (which isn’t, I believe, completely typical of universities in the state) put us into the classroom almost immediately, not just for our final internship, and our instructors routinely evaluated us in the same manner that the Praxis III is conducted. We also had to experience taping ourselves for evaluation (and didn’t that cause new and “interesting” reactions in a bunch of 3rd graders). When it came time to be examined, I was nervous yes, but I already knew that I had the skills necessary to get my license.