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Travis Wittwer | Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 6, 2012

Rigorous Teachers

7

By Travis Wittwer

I typically do not post on other posts. However, a post from Education Week caught my attention and shares a great deal of what I hope for Washington when I think of its future as an education state. 

The AFT (American Federation of Teachers) has an ambitious plan and I can get behind much of it.

I found myself nodding my head to was the call for rigorous, and consistent standards in teacher training programs. It is good for students and Washington because everyone gets a stronger teacher. It is also good for the teaching profession because it raises the quality of teachers which will raise the respect the profession gets.

Another salient point is that this proposed rigorous program is not more hoops. Nor is it just more time to do the same old thing. What it is, is better goals and better use of time.

When people ask me what teacher National Board certification is, I give the comparison to the board exams of doctor and lawyer programs. For teachers it is National BOARD of Professional Teaching Standards. I value the NB purpose and practice so who better than NBPTS to "develop a rigorous exam measuring content, pedagogy, and practice" (Sawchuk) which is much of what NBPTS does already.

A stronger teacher program will reduce the deer-in-the-headlights feelings of first year teachers and increase teacher retention. Again, this is good for students and Washington, and good for the teaching profession.

Whether unions, citizens, and teachers will support a required, rigorous, continued board process is only known by the future, and it will lead to a tough situation of balancing Want with Will. What does Washington Want, and Will Washington pay for it? Pay for it with support, time, money, and respect?

Washington won't attract the strongest teachers if the process of board certification does not have a pay-out that is commensurate with the certification. At some point, even the most giving teacher won't find the intrinsic rewards of teaching to be enough.

Raise the standards of teaching and raise the profession of education. Everyone is for higher standards. Everyone is for stronger education in Washington. But this has a cost. Our students are worth that cost.

Regardless of your views of the ATF, look at the larger idea and consider how you can help improve the teaching profession. I want to hear your take on this proposal. What do you think?

Here is the full post by Stephen Sawchuk, in Teacher Beat through Ed Week Blog. 

Comments

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Tom, for the record, I note that you did not say those exact words that I used in my paraphrase.

For the record, I didn't say "The last thing we need to do is spend money on something that won't work."

What I did say is "The last thing we need is to spend more money trying to emulate the legal profession with a redundant pre-service assessment."

A new pre-service assessment probably would work; at least as well as the pre-service assessments we already have and at least as well as the legal system's bar exam.

Something. That is all I am saying. Something is needed. Moving in some direction, discussing in some direction is better than nothing.

Teacher are getting better. The profession is more effective than ever. However, there is still much to do.

Bachelors, teach, Pro-Cert, teach, Masters, teach, NB....there is a progressive way to help improve the effectiveness of teachers, or help those that need it, or show some that teaching is not where they want to be for their career.

I am not saying that the above series is the best. However, it is a series, and one that is there, sort of, but is not organized or supported in such a way that makes the series effective. There are teachers who have taught for 15 years doing Pro-Cert, and there are teachers that have taught for 3 doing NB.

This does not even include "apprenticeship" style work within the teacher preparation school. I wanted to be a teacher, but for many, 3 months of student teaching is not enough for a teacher-to-be to be prepared.

Travis, I agree with you that something needs to change--but I see a job-embedded assessment like NBPTS certification not being relevant or possible as an entry exam. I am curious what the items on the assessment will look like, which is why I'm not yet convinced that this is the right way. Maybe the identify vs. enact assessment kind of entry test would be fine. Maybe a continuum is the answer: tougher entry-level assessment, a NB-short-form kind of embedded re-cert requirement in years 1-3, and then in years 4-10 a next level... I don't know. Like I said, I don't disagree with the premise, but I don't see how a job-embedded assessment like current NBPTS certification would transplant easily or well. I am not an elected official, though, so I am open to changing my perspective when more details are determined.

Travis A. WITTWER

Tom, Mark, your points are taken, and while I do not disagree with your perspectives, nor your rationale, I think it would be hard for either one of you to say it wouldn't work just like it would be hard to say your ideas won't work.

I am not offended, and I value te discuss so I will keep it going. Tom, you mention that the last thing we need to do is spend money on something that won't work. I agree. Your statement has a perceived outcome--it won't work. I certainly would not recommend something that wouldn't work nor would I want to spend money on something that wouldn't work.

This would be like me saying, the last thing we need to do is sit back and do nothing. Perceived embedded outcome. Negative.

I watch teachers and view their lessons and see their student outcomes. I know you do as well. There are great teachers. What surprises me is that there are ineffective teachers. This is what I would like changed, improved.

The post that I reference talks of an idea. I think pursuing that idea and seeing how I can be managed is good, even if the outcome is not a full version of what the post stated. Most any other profession in which I have worked, or that of my friends, has a rigorous entry procedure. Teaching is about getting a certificate and impressing people at an interview. There is little rigor in that.

If the only thing gained from this discussion is that there is not a need for an entry exam into teachin school, but a need to increase the quality of the teacher programs, that is good.

As a parent, I would want the strongest teacher for my sons. As a teacher, I am open to discussing ways that would impact me, but improve the teaching profession.

Yes, the last thing we need is to do something that does nothing but costs everything. How about we agree that we should do something that improves something by increasing something for the good of everyone.

Travis-

I have a different take on this "plan" which is the topic of a post set to come out on Tuesday. (Foreshadowing!!)

For now, suffice to say that the last thing we need is to spend more money trying to emulate the legal profession with a redundant pre-service assessment.

I have mixed feelings. I agree with the premise of higher standards for entry into teacher ed programs. I agree with the premise of higher standards for entry level certification. I don't know if this is the right way to approach that reform, though. Part of what makes NBPTS certification valuable (in my opinion) is that it is engaging a professional while they are a professional--during the experience. The power of NBPTS certification comes not from book study or being on the receiving end of a lecture, but from evaluation of one's practice based on a standard. I worry that a career-entry "assessment" screen would end up being the lowest level of Bloom's: Identify the standard. We all know that "identify" the standard and "enact" the standard reflect two dramatically different degrees of efficacy, and success in the former doesn't guarantee achievement of the latter.

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