Missouri Raises Bar on Teacher Readiness; Colleges' Programs Will Be Evaluated More Often; Grades Must Rise

Article excerpt

Before stepping into her own classroom, Allison Brown wanted to be prepared for everything that becoming a teacher would throw at her.

Planning and teaching a lesson. The best way to help students who are ahead, as well as those struggling. Handling a phone call from a concerned parent. Helping those with problems outside the classroom.

I wanted to make sure I was going to be good at it for (the students), said Brown, as she walked with the third-graders she co- taught at Valley Park Elementary earlier this month. And that I was going to be happy doing this for the rest of my life.

Brown sought a university program with lengthy classroom experience built into its requirements. As a student co-teacher this past semester, shes participating in a movement to revamp teacher preparation programs in Missouri and across the country.

Just recently, the American Federation of Teachers proposed that all prospective teachers in the country take a rigorous bar exam to gauge how well they master a subject and demonstrate the ability to teach it.

But already, Missouris Board of Education is moving forward with increased standards for the profession. The state recently adopted evaluations that will assess some teachers, in part, on how well students fare on state exams.

Now the state is going further.

Under a plan approved last month, the state will zero in on the effectiveness of teacher colleges.

The plan includes more frequent report cards on the colleges performance, a more uniform evaluation of student teachers, and higher grade-point average requirements for those in the program.

What were looking to build is a way to capture that performance and score whether or not that teacher is doing a good job in the classroom before they get into their own, said Hap Hairston, director of educator preparation for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Are we getting the right people to go into teaching, and are you developing them with what they need to teach?

The tests teachers currently take to get into the profession have been criticized as not being rigorous enough. Cut scores are low, and prospective teachers can take the test as many times as they need to until they pass, critics say.

Missouri certified 5,615 teachers in 2009-10, an increase of about 8.5 percent from 2007-08 in those who complete traditional programs. The state also allows alternative routes to teaching, which have doubled in popularity in the past few years. A 2008 law allows anyone with a bachelors degree and a 2.5 grade-point average to earn teacher certification through a combination of online courses and 60 hours of teaching.

A MODEL APPROACH

Statewide, there are 39 preparation programs at four-year institutions, and all have different ways of evaluating how student teachers perform in front of classrooms.

For Brown, who is graduating from Maryville University, it was the edTPA, an initiative developed by educators and researchers at Stanford University that several states are trying out.

The teacher performance assessment was one of the most challenging parts of her program, Brown said. It required her to film and critique her teaching, and judge herself based on what the students learned from her lesson. …