Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Beyond the Scores: Using Candidate Responses on High Stakes Performance Assessment to Inform Teacher Preparation for English Learners

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Beyond the Scores: Using Candidate Responses on High Stakes Performance Assessment to Inform Teacher Preparation for English Learners

Article excerpt

Introduction

As the number of English Learners (ELs) nationwide increases, teacher preparation programs must prepare preservice candidates for educating students from a wide variety of linguistic backgrounds (Alexander, Heaviside, & Farris, 1998; Christian, 2006; Fillmore & Snow, 2002; Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005; Téllez and Waxman, 2006b; Valdés, Bunch, Snow, & Lee, 2005). Despite productive efforts at preparing teachers for ELs (e.g., de Oliveira & Athanases, 2007; Tedick & Walker, 1995; Stoddart, Pinal, Latzke, & Canaday, 2002), studies show that teachers still lack sufficient training, both nationwide and in states such as California, where ELs represent one-quarter of all the state's students (Christian, 2006; Gándara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005). The need for such preparation exists not only in states that have historically had large numbers of ELs, such as California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois, but also in areas with rapidly increasing immigration, such as those in the Midwest and Southern United States (Swanson, 2009).

In an age of high-stakes teacher assessment, one way to ensure that both individual teacher candidates and their teacher education programs focus on the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the needs of ELs is to require teacher candidates to address these areas on assessments themselves. However, traditional paper and pencil tests of teacher knowledge, which are typical in statewide pre-licensure examinations, rarely capture either the context or the teacher thinking that informs instruction for students (Murnane, Singer, Willet, Kemple, & Olson, 1991). These traditional assessments also often fail to assess candidates' capacities for teaching students from varied linguistic backgrounds (Darling-Hammond & Snyder, 2000). Meanwhile, more authentic assessments, such as teaching portfolios, may fail to meet the high psychometric standards required for high stakes assessment (see Téllez, 1996, for a review). Finally, the most commonly-used means of directly evaluating teachers in the classroom, lesson length observations combined with a checklist of desired behaviors, often result in "abrupt" visits that "are initiated with little sense of the classroom's history" (Gitlin & Goldstein, 1987, p. 7). Indeed, most modern methods for assessing and evaluating teaching leave many teachers and teacher educators nonplussed and unsatisfied.

Assessing the preparation of preservice candidates for quality teaching, both for mainstream students and for ELs, requires reliable and valid assessments that pay close attention to context, process, and reflection, factors that traditional evaluations of teaching either ignore or undervalue. In this article, we focus on one high-stakes preservice teacher performance assessment designed to meet these guidelines. The Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT), currently used in 32 teacher preparation programs throughout California, is a comprehensive assessment of knowledge and skills in which candidates analyze and reflect on their own instruction and their students' learning during a "Teaching Event" in their student teaching placements. The PACT was recently approved as an alternative to a test developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) as a means for candidates to demonstrate mastery of the state's 13 Teaching Performance Expectations (TPEs), a requirement for a state teaching credential (Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 2007. One of the TPEs (TPE 7) requires that candidates "know and can apply theories, principles, and instructional practices for English Language Development leading to comprehensive literacy in English."1 The PACT, to our knowledge, is the first U.S. preservice performance evaluation required for licensure that sets out to measure teacher candidates' knowledge and skills in the three areas of academic language, language demands, and teaching ELs. …

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