ERIC Identifier: ED316545
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Baron, Barbara
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teacher Education Washington DC.
Assessment for National Teacher Certification. ERIC Digest
The concept of teacher testing has gained wide acceptance, as reflected in
its extension to 48 states. All but Alaska and Iowa are in the process of, or
have already implemented some form of mandatory teacher testing, as of April
1987 (Rudner, 1987). The limitations of state procedures, i.e., different
standards, approaches and requirements (McCaleb, 1987), combined with
significant improvement in evaluation techniques have led to the call for a
system of national assessment.
The Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, convened for the purpose of
improving education and teaching, responded to the need for national criteria by
launching the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 1987.
Changes initiated by the Board are expected to transform teaching (albeit
gradually) from an undervalued, underpaid profession to one enjoying higher
standards, better salaries, and prestige. Teacher education, in the process,
would be enhanced as pedagogical institutions consider, and respond to the
requirements of a national criterion.
WHAT WILL NATIONAL CERTIFICATION MEAN?
The first national
certificates are expected to be issued in 1993. National certification will
signify the achievement of a certain level of accomplishment in content area
knowledge and teaching ability. It will be voluntary, in contrast to state
licensing or certification, which is required by every state. Candidates for
national certification will undergo a variety of assessments that will be scored
according to criteria shaped by members of the profession. A number of
procedural issues remain to be decided regarding certification, such as
duration, i.e., should certification be valid for limited periods subject to
renewal or for a professional lifetime; and eligibility, i.e., should
certification be offered to beginning or experienced teachers, or both.
(National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1988.)
WHAT WILL NATIONAL CERTIFICATION TESTING CONSIST OF?
Board has not made any firm decisions but it has generally agreed that the
assessment process will cover subject knowledge; generic teaching knowledge
(e.g., what a biology teacher should know about anticipating and overcoming
difficulties students might have in understanding photosynthesis); and
evaluations of teacher performance. The assessment techniques being considered
include simulations of classroom situations, observations of teachers in a
school setting, interviews, essays, multiple choice examinations, oral defenses
of teaching portfolios, and various combinations of these technologies. The
tests will permit multiple correct answers where appropriate, in view of the
complexity of teaching and the diversity and pluralism of education in the
United States (Ibid.). The Board will solicit research proposals for developing
assessment tests as it implements its research and development agenda.
In the meantime, the Carnegie Corporation has been funding research by the
Teacher Assessment Project (TAP) at Stanford University's School of Education to
explore alternative modes of teacher assessment. In 1986-87, TAP research
focused on assessing teacher competencies in elementary math and high school
history. TAP developed and field-tested prototypes in these areas to define
testing specifications for an assessment center (Teacher Assessment Project
Newsletter, Summer 1988). Each prototype targeted a limited area, viz., fifth
grade fractions and the American revolution at the secondary level, on the
theory that workable models in narrow areas must be developed before assessments
in each content-area could be designed (Olson, 1988).
The Project is currently extending the assessment center format and exploring
on-site documentation through portfolio development as a means of assessing
elementary literacy and high school biology. The portfolio would be a
diversified sample of a teacher's best work that would be combined with
assessments to decide the professional excellence of a candidate for
certification. Samples of a teacher's work might include planning a unit,
teaching a lesson with resources other than a textbook, and evaluating student
progress (Teacher Assessment Project Newsletter, Fall-Winter 1988). The
candidate might also be required to provide reflective commentaries and
contributions from actual classroom experiences (Nelson-Barber, 1988).
In addition, TAP is exploring productive ways for its prototypes to be used
in curriculum and program development. It is collaborating with teacher
education programs serving diverse populations that can undertake some formative
uses of assessment. These include the City College of New York, Florida A&M
University, Pan American University in Texas, the University Alaska-Fairbanks,
and an Ohio Consortium of Schools, including Wright State University, Central
State University, the University of Dayton, and the Dayton Public Schools. TAP
has also organized two working seminars to examine how new assessments and
procedures could be designed to minimize biases that unfairly disadvantage
minority students, and to reveal strengths not apparent in other types of
teacher assessments (Teacher Assessment Project Newsletter, Fall-Winter, 1988.)
WHAT EFFECT MIGHT NATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND CERTIFICATION HAVE ON TEACHERS?
"The true test of the new approaches to assessment...will be
whether they contribute to the needed reforms of teaching and teacher education"
(Shulman, 1987). However, change of any sort warrants caution. The introduction
of a special status into the profession may create an elite group of teachers
who receive choice classroom assignments, staff development opportunities,
preference for advancement, and access to outside resources. It could violate
teachers' traditional sense of equality and move them to boycott certification.
It could also provoke resentment that might undermine the cooperative spirit so
vital to the operation of every school (Shulman & Sykes, 1986).
Voluntary certification is also likely to create uncertain status for
teachers who fail to qualify, leading some teachers to avoid the process because
of the stigma that may accompany failure. In addition, there is the possibility
that assessment procedures will have an adverse impact on minority groups
These potential problems are not insurmountable, however. They can be dealt
with by ensuring procedural fairness, i.e., giving teachers an equal chance to
succeed. The Board can facilitate this by publishing preparatory materials for
the exam, sponsoring regional training sessions to help teachers prepare,
permitting the exam to be retaken, and establishing an assessment standard that
a majority of teachers can meet. The Board could then gradually raise its
standards as assessment-related knowledge is absorbed into the curriculum and
the competence of new teachers increases (Ibid.).
In addition, there are distinct advantages to a national assessment for
teachers. A nationwide standard paves the way for increased mobility and
professional development opportunities, assuming states eventually adopt board
standards and exempt nationally certified out-of-state teachers from routine
testing requirements. National assessment is also more efficient. It eliminates
duplication in the research and development of testing and permits states to
profit from economies of scale. Furthermore,the combination of state resources
is bound to result in a better assessment product than any one state could
develop with the necessarily limited funds at its disposal. Finally, national
assessment facilitates the development of a codified knowledge base, essential
for the professionalization of teachers. Without such a base, teaching will not
be accorded the legitimacy given other professions (Ibid.).
Many of the following references--those
identified with an EJ or ED number--have been abstracted and are in the ERIC
data base. The journal articles should be available at most research libraries.
The documents (citations with an ED number) are available on microfiche in ERIC
microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents also can be order
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service. Call (800) 227-3742 for price
and order information. For a list of ERIC collections in your area or for
information on submitting documents to ERIC, contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teacher Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036, (202)
McCaleb, Joseph. (Ed.) (1987) How do teachers communicate? A review and
critique of assessment practices. (Chapter 1) Washington, D.C.: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Teacher Education. ED 282 872.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (1988) Institutional
brochure. Washington, D.C.
Nelson-Barber, Sharon. (Ed.)(1988) Thinking Out Loud. Proceedings of the
Teacher Assessment Project Forum on Equity in Teacher Assessment. (p.39)
Stanford, CA: Stanford University School of Education.
Olson, Lynn. (1988, June 8). "Capturing teaching's essence: Stanford team
tests new methods". Education Week, 7 (37), 20.
Rudner, Lawrence M. et al. (1987) What's happening in teacher testing: An
analysis of state teacher testing practices. (p. 1) Washington, D.C.: Office of
Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. ED 284 867.
Shulman, Lee S. (1987) "Assessment for teaching: An initiative for the
profession." Phi Delta Kappan, 69 (1), 38-44.
Shulman, Lee S. and Sykes, Gary. (1986) A national board for teachers? In
search of a bold standard. (p. 24, 43) Paper prepared for the Task Force on
Teaching as a Profession. Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy. New York:
Teacher Assessment Project. (1988) Elementary literacy component of the
teacher assessment project: Research program overview. (p. 1-2) Stanford, CA:
Stanford University School of Education.
Teacher Assessment Project. (1988, Summer) Newsletter, Stanford, CA: Stanford
University School of Education, 2(1), 1, 3.
Teacher Assessment Project (1988, Fall-Winter) Newsletter. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University School of Education. 2(2), 1-3, 7-9.