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Leading in new teacher assessment

Published (1/28/2011)
By Kris Berggren
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House Education Reform Committee members glimpsed a new way of measuring teacher effectiveness Jan. 25.

The Teacher Performance Assessment, created at Stanford University, is being piloted in 20 states. Minnesota is one of six on an accelerated timeline for scaling the process statewide, said Board of Teaching Executive Director Karen Balmer.

“We really are leading the nation in this work,” Balmer said. “And that’s very exciting, and it’s also very scary because the stakes are high and we need to get it right.” She said that traditionally, the board’s approval of teacher preparation programs is based on “input” such as course content and syllabi rather than outcome-based data about student learning.

Balmer expects TPA to be embedded in teacher preparation programs statewide by 2012. Assessment data will not be used to isolate teachers who don’t do well, she said. Instead, aggregated data will highlight where teacher preparation programs can modify their curriculum or instruction.

Misty Sato, a University of Minnesota professor of teacher development, distributed a sample assessment for secondary English language arts teacher candidates. It requires a variety of supporting materials including student work samples, video clips of instruction, supervisor surveys and a teacher candidate’s own reflective writing. The criteria are based on subject content knowledge and pedagogy, as well as the candidate’s “disposition” for working with various learners.

Committee Chairwoman Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) said TPA could connect the dots between the state’s academic standards and how teachers are prepared to convey that content. “This is very encouraging to me,” she said.

Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) is concerned about collecting data on the effectiveness of current teachers, not only future ones. “I think that kind of assessment is so, so important right now, because we have a whole population of our young people who are not succeeding.”

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