The latest attack on America’s public schools is, like other attempts, hidden as a new “reform” idea. A few other well known examples of this reform movement include replacing:
*public schools with privately managed, publicly funded charter schools,
*teacher generated lesson plans with standardized teaching modules,
*localized methods for holding teachers accountable with statewide systems utilizing standardized test scores.
In general, creating the atmosphere of a crisis in public education and then selling the solution. The target this time are college education programs. The proposal: create a new licensing procedure for teachers. And, although the states would officially grant the license, who would actually determine who gets that license? Pearson, originally an educational publishing company and now “the world’s largest education company,” which owns several publishing companies, digital learning products, assessment services, etc.. The federal government is also pushing for new standards for education programs.
Pearson worked with Stanford University to create a performance assessment, along with a calibrated scoring system, of a student teacher’s work in a classroom. Stanford is officially “the exclusive owner” of the assessment. This exam is being advertised as a national assessment, to standardize teacher certification. They would score two ten minute videotaped classes taught by a student teacher. This would be combined with a 40 page take home exam which includes lesson plans and other teaching strategies. (40 pages? Really?) I generally favor performance assessments over multiple-choice and other forms of standardized testing. So, what is my objection?
I object to the expense and the very idea of using a private company to assess learning instead of the classroom teachers. The assessment of two or three short segments cannot replace a series of observations over a few months by a professor of education. This new teacher assessment implies that university professors are not competent or trustworthy enough to evaluate their own students. It also tells the student teacher that they, too, will not be trusted. Power and responsibility is to be transferred up a hierarchy, and to whom? A corporation, with profit as its agenda.
Instead of thinking about more standardized assessments, we need to ask: What produces good teachers? Good teachers produce good teachers. We learn best from those who can inspire us and model what we need to learn. Great knowledge can be inspirational but is not enough. A love of teaching is needed, combined with compassion, empathy, and emotional awareness. Students need to feel valued and heard. A good teacher learns about the home and community of their students and creates lessons informed by that empathy and understanding. And teachers need to learn how to apply that same care to their own mental and emotional well-being. Indeed, without such caring and understanding, it is difficult to give it to others. If we develop compassion in teachers, they will find a way to best meet the educational and other needs of students and will feel uplifted by it. If we just teach teachers how to meet the standards, they will struggle to just meet the standards.
My personal suggestions also include creating education schools (as well as public schools) which:
- Value teachers and their judgment.
- Give teachers creative freedom. What is most exciting about teaching, besides learning from and helping young people, is the creativity required to do the job well. A good lesson can be a piece of art. Following a script from a corporate produced teaching module does not promote creativity.
- Make decisions democratically. Give student teachers a voice in their education program so they can later know how to give students a voice– and take part themselves in making decisions in their school placements.
- Support the collegiality of teachers. They should be learning communities. Teachers are primarily learners and need to be provided time to plan with and give support to colleagues.
- Provide teachers with the opportunity to teach what they love so they love what they teach. In the same manner, teachers should be taught methods to discover and bring into the curriculum the deep questions, relevant to the subject matter of the course, which interest or occupy student’s minds. In this way, the relevance of education to “real life” is made clear.
- Teach methods of self-reflection, based on mindfulness, and applied to thinking critically, acting responsibly, and learning in general.
- Teach communication skills.
- Of course, teach a variety of methods of teaching, for a diversity of learners, content and levels of skill.
What would you recommend that schools of education teach?