Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Costs and Benefits of Accountability: A Case Study of Credential Candidates' Performance Assessment

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Costs and Benefits of Accountability: A Case Study of Credential Candidates' Performance Assessment

Article excerpt

Introduction

In this article we present a case study that is an exploration of credential candidates' attitudes toward a teaching performance assessment as a measure of their teaching ability, and the impact on faculty instructional decisions, practice, and attitudes toward the assessment. This study generated both qualitative and quantitative data. Results revealed that assessment, discussion, sharing results among faculty, credential candidates and partner schools can begin to open the dialogue about the presence and status of the characteristics of effective teacher preparation programs.

Theoretical Framework

In California, Senate Bill 2042 redesigned the teacher credentialing system to reflect alignment of professional standards and assessment of teachers. A teaching performance assessment was included in the new credential to judge the impact of professional preparation (Alpert & Mazzoni, 1998). Theorists who support standards-based, accountability systems are optimistic, offering models that predict their success (Betts & Costrell, 2001; Haycock, 2001; Odden, 1995); however, opponents present evidence that these systems threaten to hinder authentic, student-centered learning, codify one version of knowledge, and reduce and narrow the curriculum (Amrenin & Berliner, 2002; Darling-Hammond, 1994; Ogaway, Sandholtz, Martinez-Flores, & Scribner, 2003).

The standards-based, high-stakes accountability reform movement is driven by concerns about student learning. The call is for public schools and colleges of education to improve. Odden (1995) and others (Goldberg & Traiman, 2001) frame the movement by stating that the question lies not in whether or not schools are improving, but whether or not they have improved enough to prepare students and teachers for success in a rapidly changing world. In an analysis and explanation of the function of standards-based, high-stakes accountability reform, Betts and Costrell (2001) and Odden, (1995) use microeconomics to distinguish the possible costs and benefits of standards-based, high-stakes testing policies. In their analyses, they describe a system by which students, parents, teachers, and administrators performing under a standards-based system will alter their behavior in order to be classified as winners and avoid being classified as losers, behavior they insist will advance learning.

However, other researchers maintain that there is no convincing evidence that high-stakes, standardized testing policies improve student performance (Amrenin & Berliner, 2002) or that paper and pencil tests can be used reliably to evaluate teacher performance (Popham, 1990) or student learning (Popham, 2001). Research on effective teacher preparation has emphasized the positive effect of well-defined standards supported by a shared and common vision of good teaching that are enacted consistently in both coursework and field work (Darling-Hammond, 1999).

In a study of teacher preparation programs, Delandshere and Arens (2001) examined two states, Indiana and Vermont, which had taken different approaches to teaching standards and licensure reform. Interviews with education faculty members about the meaning of teaching, the teachers' role, and their vision of schooling and education revealed that teacher educators' degree of participation in standards-based reform was influenced by their conception of teaching, learning, and schooling, and its purpose. Findings suggested that teacher educators whose vision and ideas about education and its purpose were vague or unspecified were more likely to uncritically accept the authority of and participate in standards-based reform.

Strong programs of teacher education require teacher educators' participation in the important work of developing a shared vision of effective instruction, well-defined standards, and a coherent system of assessment of course and field work (Darling-Hammond, et al. …

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