When Teachers Refuse Shoddy Reform Efforts

A pilot project at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is supposed to help license teachers cheaply. Under a program developed by Stanford University and the education company Pearson, aspiring teachers submit material to outsiders who then, without ever seeing the students, determine whether or not student teachers can teach. Many teaching programs across the country are using this method.

But some students and professors at UMass object. According to an article by Michael Winerip at the New York Times:

Sixty-seven of the 68 students studying to be teachers at the middle and high school levels at the Amherst campus are protesting a new national licensure procedure being developed by Stanford University with the education company Pearson.

The UMass students say that their professors and the classroom teachers who observe them for six months in real school settings can do a better job judging their skills than a corporation that has never seen them.

They have refused to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, as well as a 40-page take-home test, requirements of an assessment that will soon be necessary for licensure in several states.

Student-teachers object that this is a complicated concept and it’s hard for evaluators to understand teacher quality if they don’t ever show up in the classroom. The procedure, which also requires aspiring teachers to learn video editing software, doesn’t seem to be any more stringent or effective at evaluating teacher quality.

According to the article California, which has had a performance assessment similar to that developed by Pearson in place for 10 years, grants licenses to about 98 percent of student teachers who apply and submit the materials. Six states plan to adopt teacher performance assessments in coming years.

Four school districts training the UMass student-teachers also refused to participate.

According to the article, in states using the Pearson-Stanford licensing procedure, students have to pay “up to” $300 a piece to Pearson in order for the company to evaluate the videos and tests.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer