JOHN MERROW: Is this a good time to become a teacher? Salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, tenure is under attack, and standardized test scores are being used to fire teachers.
It was commonplace in the days of the old Soviet Union for the bureaucrats to erase from textbooks the names of those who had been purged by the communist leadership. For many in the upper echelons of New York State they wish they could do the same for John King.
Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post quotes King,
“In the first couple of years there will be what I characterize as process wins. You’ll see an evaluation system for teachers and principals, with student achievement built in as a meaningful component.…
As it turns out King’s tenure was a disaster, over 200,000 parents opting out of state tests, the Common Core being re-evaluated and the teacher evaluation process in disarray.
What has not gotten enough ink is the total chaos surrounding the King regulations intended to increase the proficiency of new teachers and the teacher training regulations that drive the over 200 teacher training programs in the state.
Regent Cashin, the co-chair of the Higher Education Committee of the Board of Regents held public hearings in Buffalo, New Paltz and New York City, hundreds of college professors attended and many testified, all sharply criticizing the impact of the King imposed regulations.
We all agree that we should seek the best candidates for the teaching profession, assure that college programs prepare prospective teachers adequately and have some sort of exit exam to assure competency.
In December, 2012 the American Federation of Teachers, the union representing over a million public school teachers issued a report,” Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession,” the report avers,
As in medical, law and other professions, all prospective teachers—whether they come to the profession by the traditional or an alternative route—should meet a universal and rigorous bar that gauges mastery of subject matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it. Also, the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the teaching profession’s standards and ensuring the cohesion of teacher preparation programs must reside with practicing teachers in K-12 and higher education.
And, the report makes three recommendations.
- All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that teacher preparation standards, programs and assessments are aligned with a well-grounded vision of effective teaching.
- Teaching, like other respected professions, must have a universal assessment process for entry that includes rigorous preparation centered on clinical practice as well as theory, an in-depth test of subject and pedagogical knowledge, and a comprehensive teacher performance assessment.
- Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and ensuring the quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with members of the profession—practicing professionals in K-12 and higher education.
Unfortunately in New York State the stakeholders were excluded from the King-driven process. “Practicing professionals” were cast aside as the former commissioner imposed a tangled web of requirements and turned schools of education into test prep mills.
Enrollment in teacher education programs around the state has dropped between 20% and 40%, students choose not to even take the exams and seek employment in non-public schools, charter schools or out of state, larger percentages of Afro-American and students whose native language is not English are failing the exams, and, the best candidates may be opting out of the teaching profession.
King decided to ignore what was going on nationwide.
Over a number of years an organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation, known by the acronym, CAEP, has been working to create a standard for all teacher education programs across the nation. While the accreditation of a program is not mandatory must states “strongly advise” teacher education programs to undergo the rigorous accreditation process.
Required Component. The provider [the college] sets admissions requirements, including CAEP minimum criteria or the state’s minimum criteria, whichever are higher, and gathers data to monitor applicants and the selected pool of candidates. The provider ensures that the average grade point average of its accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds the CAEP minimum of 3.0, and the group average performance on nationally normed ability/achievement assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE:
- is in the top 50 percent from 2016-2017;
- is in the top 40 percent of the distribution from 2018-2019; and
- is in the top 33 percent of the distribution by 2020
Over time, a program may develop a reliable, valid model that uses admissions criteria other than those stated in this standard. In this case, the admitted cohort group mean on these criteria must meet or exceed the standard that has been shown to positively correlate with measures of P-12 student learning and development.
In other words, these are the admission standards; however, we recognize that states may create their own standards that are the equivalent or higher.
John King decided to ignore CAEP and set his own exit standards in addition to the CAEP standards.
New York State requires candidates to take four exit exams:
A Stanford created exam that “is a student-centered multiple measure assessment of teaching. It is designed to be educative and predicting of effective teaching and student learning.” The student creates a video of a lesson they teach and completes a template assessing the lesson.
* Liberal Arts and Science Test (LAST)
80 multiple choice questions based on reading passages and one essay (all computer-based), the questions are divided into subareas: Scientific, Mathematics and Technical Process, Historical and Social Science Awareness, Artistic Expression and the Humanities, Communication and Research Skills – Click on the link above and try the sample questions.
* Educating All Students Test (EAS)
A computer-based test, 40 multiple choice and three constructed responses (essays). } “The EAS test measures professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills necessary to teach all students effectively in New York State public schools. This test consists of selected-response items (multiple choice) and constructed-response items (essays). Each constructed response item will share scenario-based stimulus material with several selected-response items.”
* Content Specialty Test (CST)
The CST is required in each certification area – a math question on the Grades 1-6 test is below:
- A third-grade teacher is preparing to teach the following standard from the New York State P–12 Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics.
Explain equivalence of fractions in special cases, and compare fractions by reasoning about their size.
Which strategy is likely to be most effective as part of an introductory lesson designed to meet this standard?
- teaching that is equivalent to by showing how they represent the same point on a number line
- teaching that is equivalent to because according to the rules of fractions
- teaching that is equivalent to because 6 is the least common denominator of 2 and 3
- teaching that is equivalent to by showing cross multiplication of 1 x 6 = 2 x
The cost of the four tests is $600 – with additional cost for re-taking failed sections – plus study guides and tutoring sessions the cost can escalate to $1,000.
The core question: are the tests “valid and reliable,” will they produce more effective teachers? The answer is the test makers have no idea. Another core question: in standardizing the test – who was the sample population? In other words, are the tests biased? Since these are all Pearson tests none of that information is available.
The colleges are forced to decide: do we create entirely new course curricula to embed the test requirements? Do we provide cram courses to prepare students?
At the three forums held by Regent Cashin the college instructors were sharply critical. Students who were excellent in class, excellent in their student teaching, were failing the exams, the entire process was challenging the judgment of the instructors who work with student each and every day. King made it abundantly clear that down the road the state intended to track the effectiveness of teachers based on the teacher evaluation system and attribute the score to the college program, with a threat of negative consequences for the program if students did poorly on the state tests, regardless of the at-risk nature of the students.
A negative incentive to prepare students to teach the neediest populations.
In the first few years of the state-required test students of color are not faring well on the exams. At the same time across the nation there are calls to increase the diversity within the teaching corps.
The New York Times, in an article titled “Where Are the Teachers of Color” writes,
… researchers who have found similar academic effects say more than test scores are at stake. “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University.
The New York City Department of Education has set a goal of recruiting 1,000 black males teachers over the next two years, at the same time that the state appears to be reducing the pool.
At the Regents Meeting next week I expect that Regent Cashin and the other members of the Higher Education Committee will be putting forth a number of proposals to bring sanity to the mess created by King.
If the Common Core had been phased in, perhaps beginning with the early childhood grades, moving up one grade each year, if the state and local school districts had initiated professional development programs to bring teachers up to speed, if the exams had flexible cut scores the current school wars would never have occurred.
If the state had begun to revise teacher education requirements by including the professionals, as recommended by the American Federation of Teacher report,
- Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and ensuring the quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with members of the profession—practicing professionals in K-12 and higher education,
we would not find ourselves in the current abyss.
In the literature regarding organizational change the first principle is “Participation Reduces Resistance,” a lesson clearly not learned in the King led Department of Education.
I am optimistic that the new commissioner and newly revitalized Board of Regents can return the teacher preparation landscape to sanity.