Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Standards for Teachers: Potential for Improving Practice

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Standards for Teachers: Potential for Improving Practice

Article excerpt

With authority for teacher education and licensure so decentralized, large-scale reform can be accomplished only through a unifying vision, Mr. Ambach avers. A widely recognized set of standards for the performance of teaching professionals is needed to ensure consistency and compatibility.

Twentieth-century teaching is not adequate to serve 21st-century students. The redesign of teaching and learning for the next century is taking root today in new and more challenging education standards for students. States and localities are establishing priorities for what teachers are expected to provide, along with explicit standards about what students should know and be able to do as a result of their education. As the demands on students become more rigorous, guarantees that the education system is staffed with professionals capable of teaching to achieve these standards become more essential. Standards for students must be matched by standards for teachers, and licensing requirements must ensure that all students are taught effectively.

The reform of teacher education on a nationwide scale is a complicated task in the United States, where education policy is not set by a single central authority. Instead, this authority is held by 50 separate state systems and extra-state jurisdictions and by local school districts. In many instances, the bodies that regulate teacher education are independent of the agencies responsible for teacher licensing.

With authority for teacher education so decentralized, large-scale, systemwide reform can be accomplished only by means of a unifying vision, with varied routes to realize the vision. A common vision is necessary to ensure the compatibility of approaches taken by different state authorities to improve student achievement and to provide consistency of direction at every point in the career development of a teacher. A widely recognized set of standards for the performance of teaching professionals can ensure the needed consistency and compatibility.

The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), created in 1987 as a program of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is engaged in a multistate effort to craft model licensing standards for teachers that reflect the intent of the standards for students. INTASC's primary constituency is state education agencies, including state departments of education and independent standards boards responsible for teacher preparation and licensing. Currently, 36 states are actively involved in the INTASC projects. Also participating are members of the following organizations: the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.

INTASC's approach to creating standards is based on a holistic conception of career development for teaching professionals. Thus it aims not only to describe rigorous expectations for beginning teachers but also to lay out the elements of competent entry-level practice in a way that ensures consistency with emerging visions of accomplished teaching. In that way, licensing standards would describe the goals toward which teachers could work throughout their careers to achieve excellence in their profession.

INTASC began its work with the vision of competent teaching embodied in the statement of "Initial Policy and Perspectives" from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Through its standards for recognizing expert teachers, the National Board is articulating a model of what constitutes excellence in teaching. INTASC's performance-based licensing standards provide the foundation for professional development throughout a teacher's career. …

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