I agree with Weingarten (“Raising the threshold for teachers and their preparation programs”) that our standards for new K-12 teachers should be high and our teacher preparation programs stellar. However, the predictable direction in which we’re moving—task force, standardized testing, overuse of the ill-defined word “rigorous,” and worst of all, a press toward uniformity (one evaluation for all states)—is not going to get us there. A more “rigorous” (whatever that means) standardized test is primarily going to disadvantage minority and non-standard-English speaking teacher candidates, as standardized test scores have long been known to correlate with income level. The candidate fees for the edTPA—Pearson’s latest cash cow—will be another barrier to any aspiring teacher from a low-income background. The need for one national (which is being called “universal,” for some reason) evaluation is somehow being assumed, apparently because the Common Core standards have caught on; but each state has its own bar exam, and that’s never been a problem for the legal profession.
If we want to achieve a high level of professionalism in our field, we need to look at how teachers are treated after they’ve entered the profession. Teachers who graduate from Colleges of Education are trained professionals, but increasingly they are being told what to do in their own classrooms by politicians, corporate leaders, and other noneducators. In Chicago, the constantly changing mandates from above quickly strip teachers of their professional judgment and decision making powers. Teachers are expected to be unquestioning direction-followers, lest they be labeled “resistant.” Many of the brightest teachers are driven out of this stressful career.
Perhaps we could design a test for mayors, their school board CEOs, and the billionaires who’ve been bloviating about education to see how much they know about teaching and learning.
Dr. April Nauman
Associate Professor, Department of Literacy Education
Northeastern Illinois University