Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Facilitating the Development of Preservice Teachers in a Climate of Reform: Lessons Learned from Mathematics and Assessment Reform

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Facilitating the Development of Preservice Teachers in a Climate of Reform: Lessons Learned from Mathematics and Assessment Reform

Article excerpt

Facilitating the Development of Preservice Teachers in a Climate of Reform: Lessons Learned from Mathematics and Assessment Reform*

A cohort of 15 preservice teachers was tracked to determine (a) the effects of their coursework and experiences on their sense of efficacy, (b) their knowledge of mathematics and assessment reforms, and (c) the extent to which their classroom practices were aligned with their knowledge of such reforms. Measurement of these variables occurred at three critical points: before and after the participants took their content methods courses and after they completed their teaching internships. The participants' sense of efficacy and classroom practices were found not to change over time; however, their knowledge of reforms increased. These results have implications for efforts to help schools and colleges of education prepare preservice teachers to survive and succeed in a climate of reform.

A TWO-EDGED SWORD

The history of American education is full of attempts at reform. In recent history, the foundations of some of the more popular educational reform efforts are dominated by the theories and philosophies of some of the great educators and learning theorists of our time including Dewey, Skinner, Piaget, Gagne, Bruner, and Vygotsky. Even within specific content areas such as mathematics and science, efforts have been made to change curricular emphases and "improve" the ways in which instruction is delivered (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; National Research Council, 1996). Practices in testing and assessment have also undergone intense scrutiny with a view toward change and reform. Large-scale assessments, which for years were dominated by multiple-choice item formats, now include multiple formats such as performance tasks and open-ended items. Classroom assessments also look quite different today from their earlier counterparts. Contemporary teachers are regularly encouraged and trained to broaden the scope of the types of assessments that they use in their classrooms. All of these various reform efforts and calls for change are intended to improve the teaching and learning processes and to maximize the efficiency and efficacy of the methods used to evaluate how well that process has taken place.

True reform, however, takes time. It does not occur overnight, and as reform models become more comprehensive and complex (e.g., encompassing whole school reform) one might ask: What is the role of the teacher in reform efforts? Are they merely receptacles for the training modules of university professionals, or do they have a more intimate role to play in determining the inputs to reform design? What attitudes and beliefs do teachers hold about whether they can make a difference in the classroom? Last, what can be done to enhance the skills of in-service teachers and prepare preservice teachers to survive in a climate of reform? Satisfactory answers to these and other questions need to be found. Otherwise, the rise of a "reform du jour" mentality will cause some teachers to ride out what many consider to be the latest fads in school reform on the assumption that these reforms, too, will pass. For other teachers, especially newer ones, the stakes are much higher. Open doors of opportunity may become revolving doors of anxiety and frustration that lead them out of the profession, forever.

Nationwide, the need for teachers is at a critical point (Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1997). Surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveal that from 1995 to 2005, teacher shortages will be attributable primarily to retirement and other attrition (NCES, 1995). The surveys indicate an annual attrition rate of about 7% for public school teachers and 12% for private school teachers. Of those teachers leaving the public school classroom, about 29% are projected to retire and nearly half will leave education altogether. …

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