Sunday, December 2, 2012

Randi Bar Exam Proposal Raises a Bar to People of Color

Weingarten continues her history of joining the "it must be the teachers' fault" parade with this proposal. Randi is so desperate to come up with an idea, any idea, that she can try to sell showing she is a willing participant in deform. Actually fighting back like the Chicago Teachers Union is not in her DNA.
Very smart, and insidious, of Weingarten: she's selling it as a way to blunt TFA.  Is there any question that "the best and brightest" will be able to pass such a test? They've been passing them all their lives. -- Michael Fiorillo
I remember how the Kahlenberg bio book says one of Al Shanker's proudest achievements (other than destroying trade unionism around the world) was the career ladder for paras which brought so many people of color into the system. This is the final nail in that coffin and in essence reinforces the TFA whitening of the teacher staff as this truly extends the bar to the people from poor communities who can be great teachers (I've seen many of them) though not great test takers. Ed Notes always took the position performance as a teacher should be a major determining factor rather than a high stakes test.

Union proposes ‘bar exam’ for teachers



Lyndsey LaytonPublished: December 1
A major teachers union wants to create a rigorous professional exam for K-12 teachers that would serve the same function as the bar exam for lawyers and board certification for doctors.
“Unlike law, medicine, architecture and engineering, we hand teachers the keys and tell them to go into the classroom and do their thing,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who is expected to announce the plan Monday. “This is about raising the standards of our profession and making sure that kids get teachers who are prepared.”
A task force of teachers and education experts Weingarten assembled spent a year developing recommendations to improve teacher preparation and certification.
Under the AFT plan, prospective teachers who have undergone training at an education school would have to demonstrate knowledge of their subject areas, an understanding of the social and emotional elements of learning, and spend a year in “clinical practice” as a student teacher before passing a rigorous exam.
The plan also calls for universities to grow more selective in accepting students into teacher preparation programs, requiring a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average to enroll and to graduate, among other things. There are about 1,400 teacher preparation programs in the country, with a wide range of quality, experts say.
“Some ed schools do a great job, some do not,” Weingarten said. “If we as a profession can come to the point where we say ‘This is what we believe a new teacher needs to know or be able to do on her first day of teaching,’ then we can back map this to the ed schools, so that they can design preparation so that it’s aligned with the professional standards.”
Historically, each state sets the qualifications for teachers, administering its own certification.
“State standards are all across the map,” said Ron Thorpe, president and chief executive of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the nonprofit independent organization that certifies experienced teachers. “It really is a crazy quilt.”
The AFT wants the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to develop the actual “bar exam,” a challenge that Thorpe has embraced and said he thinks could be accomplished within five years.
The proposal for a bar exam comes during a period of increased scrutiny of teachers. Encouraged by the Obama administration, dozens of states have begun implementing new teacher evaluation systems. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has expanded that scrutiny to teacher preparation programs at universities, suggesting as recently as last week that many programs are inadequate.
“We have to look to the states that have been approving teacher ed programs for 100 years or maybe longer,” said Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College at Columbia University. “And have closed very, very few — even though they have found some wanting — either because of politics or economics.”
At the same time, alternative teacher preparation programs have sprouted up, offering a streamlined path to certification and the classroom. Teach for America, for example, gives college graduates five weeks of training before sending them into some of the most troubled schools in the country.
A bar exam would “just level the playing field,” Weingarten said. “Maybe all the alternative certified teachers will pass with flying colors. But if only 10 percent of TFA passed it and 90 percent of the students from Teachers College passed it, that would say something.”

3 comments:

  1. We have been mentoring new Fellows since its inception and I taught education courses at the college level.

    As I see it, the challenge that new teachers face is not the curriculum or lack of teaching strategies or not being "smart", or having a low GPA, or even the kids - the challenge is dealing with the DOE, the demands of unreasonable paper work, lack of support, large class sizes, not enough time for planning and miserable administrations, and knowing that test prep is not teaching - not in any particular order. I witness brand new teachers being given extra assignments, and although being flattered, they do not have the time for nor are they prepared to do. It is obvious that it takes them from teaching. One of the Fellows that I mentor was asked to give PD on Election Day - 2 months into his career!

    Schools often complain that the university is not preparing teachers for specific assignments. Offering PD is not the business of universities. Schools bear that responsibility - as programs change from school to school.

    Many of our Fellows came from good schools, know what is important to teach, and have the passion for kids. Are they teachers yet? No, no amount of preparation can make one an excellent teacher. They often complain to us that they are not successful in one area or another. I have to remind them that they are only teaching 4 weeks, or 8 weeks or whatever. But they are rated as experienced teachers - managing a class, differentiating of instruction (if I hear one more complaint from a Principal that a Fellow is not differentiating in week 2 of the term!). Year after year we see them beaten down.

    In law school, our daughter participated in "clinicals" - valuable and critical - yes, but even then Legal Aid had her "shadow" another lawyer for 6 months before taking her own cases. I know that she would tell you that passing the Bar was not an indication of her readiness for practicing law. Randi should know better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are wrong to make this proposal about ethnicity: "Randi Bar Exam Proposal Raises a Bar to People of Color". Such thinking leads to your appalling conclusion: "This is the final nail in that coffin and in essence reinforces the TFA whitening of the teacher staff as this truly extends the bar to the people from poor communities who can be great teachers (I've seen many of them) though not great test takers."

    This follows the "achievement gap" method of the corporate reformers which essentially blames people of color for not trying hard enough or being innately incapable of having high scores on standardized tests. Whatever disparities exist are because of an opportunity gap. (http://thenotebook.org/blog/125318/please-stop-using-phrase-achievement-gap) To say such exams place people of color at a disadvantage based on whether they can pass a test is the same misuse of test scores, taking them out of the social context, as the corporate reformers do with test scores.

    This proposal by Weingarten is an attack on the teaching profession as a whole. Your initial comment is spot on:

    "Weingarten continues her history of joining the "it must be the teachers' fault" parade with this proposal. Randi is so desperate to come up with an idea, any idea, that she can try to sell showing she is a willing participant in deform. Actually fighting back like the Chicago Teachers Union is not in her DNA."

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Currently, comment moderation is on, so if your comment doesn't appear it is because I haven't gotten to it yet. (Don't know how to do that from my cell phone.)