California and Arizona are the only states that currently 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 require evaluators to sit in classrooms and observe the student teachers.
Once more states adopt the program, Pecheone said, the consortium plans to track the performance of teachers who passed the assessment to see if they perform better than teachers who went through the old licensing process.
Karen Balmer, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Teaching, said the assessments will mean more accountability for teaching colleges. For the first time, she said, her agency will have independent data that show how well teaching colleges are preparing student teachers. Those that consistently produce low-performing graduates could be ordered by the state to improve their programs.
Balmer said the student teachers will pay some of the cost of the new program—probably around the $70 they now pay for the written test in Minnesota. At least initially, student teachers will take both tests, but Balmer said the state might consider dropping the written test in the future.
Students that fare poorly on the teacher evaluation assessments likely would be required to retake them. If they do not test again, some student teachers still could get a Minnesota teaching license if their teaching college determines there were special circumstances—such as if the student was ill—and recommends licensure, Balmer said.
Tom Dooher, president of the Minnesota’s teachers union, said the group supports the new teacher evaluation system because of its emphasis on developing real-world teaching skills. “This is what education reform should look like, for practitioners by practitioners,” he said.
Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude about the program.
Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the nonpartisan National Council on Teacher Quality, said she would support any test that could predict who will be a good teacher, but she’s not sure performance assessments are it. Too often, she said, the passing scores on such assessments are set so low that nearly everyone passes and the weakest teachers aren’t held back.
For Zeppa, the student teacher, the pondside session with the rambunctious fourth-graders was just practice for when she goes through the teacher evaluation process in spring 2012. She said it’s making her a better teacher, even if the process can be painful.
“It’s nerve-racking, the idea that every mistake you make is on film,” she said.
Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium