In a recent cartoon, the artist depicts the difference between the 1950s and today. The first shows parents and a teacher telling the student that “these grades are terrible.” In the modern panel, the student and parents are telling the teacher “these grades are terrible.”
Brace yourself, because in the future, the student, parents, and teacher will tell a college “these grades are terrible.”
The Obama Administration is taking standardized testing to the next level. Not only will teachers be evaluated by standardized test scores turned in by their students, but the college that teachers attended will be evaluated based upon those scores as well.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pointed out that several states, mostly in the South, have already piloted a similar type of program to get the data the Education Department is looking for on teacher preparation and performance.
Supporters of the measure point to a study put forth by the National Council on Teacher Quality, which claimed that not all teachers were well-prepared and were paired with experts in their field on shadow visits. The group is funded by a slew of pro-business foundations, ranging from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bradley Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, as well as several listed as “anonymous.”
Though unions cautiously back the plant, the idea is not without its critics, as the Washington Post cited an award-winning principal who noted that such a plan would incentivize colleges sending their teachers to the best schools, not the ones with at-risk kids or struggling schools.
To counter such criticism, the administration rolled out the TEACH Grant Program, giving students funding up to $4,000 who will teach in a high-need field or a school with low-income schools for four academic years within eight years of completing the studies. Otherwise, the grant is converted into a loan to be paid back with interest.
Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, and analysts like those at the American Statistical Association, criticized the plan for relying too much on standardized tests, showing evidence that such scores are not influenced much by who is the teacher. If anything, class size reductions were shown to be better than the impact of the last grant-for-high-need service: Teach for America.
But not all colleges are waiting for what’s coming out of Washington to enact reforms. “We are moving towards a clinically-based program where seniors are in the schools with master teachers all year long,” writes Don Livingston, Chair of the Education Department at LaGrange College. “We are moving away from College Faculty as evaluators towards a model where cooperating classroom teachers serve as clinical faculty.” Sounds like the type of high-quality preparation and experience that teaching candidates are seeking.