New York, along with 25 other states, is looking at new ways to determine a teachers’ fitness to head the classroom. The states are considering a new approach to evaluate instructors before granting teaching licenses that will focus less on writing assignments and tests and more on having them prove themselves via lesson plan design and student teaching. It is believed that this will allow evaluators not only to make sure that new teachers have a good grasp of educational theory, but also have the necessary skills to lead the classroom and deal with challenges inherent in teaching multiple students at varying levels of ability.
Teachier education programs have taken criticism that they fail to prepare teachers for the actual classroom environment, focusing instead on academic theory instead of real-world practice. The improved standards, thought to address these criticisms, will first go into effect in Washington State where the teachers will have to meet the updated requirements starting next year. They will be adopted in Minnesota and New York, starting in 2014.
Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee are also moving toward mandating the new assessment in the coming years, and about 20 other states are testing it through pilot programs to determine if they will ultimately use it.
“We don’t want to know if you can pass multiple-choice tests,” said Stephanie Wood-Garnett, an assistant commissioner in the New York State Education Department’s office of higher education. “We want to know if you can drive.”
In New York, those who aspire to become teachers have multiple ways of gaining the necessary accreditation, but most follow a path that has them majoring in the subject they intend to teach for their undergraduate studies, and then take three state-mandated tests. Subsequently, they must also meet some student-teaching requirements before obtaining their license. Those who don’t wish to student-teach can instead obtain a master’s degree in education.
The new system will do away with two of the three tests and will replace those with a classroom-based practicum. New York’s Education Commissioner John B. King thinks that the addition of the teaching evaluation component will make obtaining the teaching credential more challenging — and most importantly, produce teachers better prepared to enter the classroom.
But critics are dubious that the new assessment system will produce better teachers and said that imposing a standardized program on education schools undermines their autonomy in preparing teachers. They also fear that the schools may have no choice but to adapt their curriculums to the new standards.