For the past few years the pressure of high stakes standardized testing has been a fact of life for public school teachers and the students they teach. At the college level in California there also has been a high stakes accountability system, the CTC five year reviews. These are very thorough reviews of California colleges' and universities' teacher preparation programs by teams of expert reviewers. The teams of reviewers visit each college and extensively examine their programs to certify that the Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Professional Teacher Preparation Programs are being fulfilled. It takes months of work to prepare for the visit, from the writing of a sizeable document to making sure the vast amount of support materials are easily accessible to the reviewers. It sounds like a fairly straightforward task. But, with changes and modifications that just naturally occur in courses over a five year span, the movement of full time faculty and staff to other positions, new programs being instituted, and a large fluctuating pool of adjunct instructors, the review usually turns out to be a gargantuan undertaking.
California State Universities have more recently been given another set of criteria to use in their teacher preparation program development entitled, SB 2042, Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Professional Teacher Preparation Programs. The criteria have been developed as eighteen standards, thirteen teacher preparation expectations (TPE's), and final assessments (teacher preparation assessments- TPA's). The final assessments are provided with scenarios and a series of prompts that the teacher candidates must address through their answers. The various teacher preparation courses will provide the background for students to use in answering the questions in a satisfactory manner. The state is currently providing training for TPA coordinators for each site. The coordinators will organize and direct this huge testing process. Teacher candidates must pass the TPA's to earn their credential, which qualifies it as a high stakes test.
As previously mentioned there are also standards that must be met by the program. The standard that is most pertinent to social studies is: Program Elements for Standard 8-A: Pedagogical Preparation for Subject-Specific Content Instruction by Multiple-Subject (MS) Candidates (there are parts of other standards appropriate to social studies methods courses as well). Standard 8A(c) History-Social Science specifies that:
During interrelated activities in program coursework and fieldwork, MS candidates learn to (1) teach state-adopted academic content standards for students in history while helping students to learn and use basic analysis skills in history and social science; (2) enrich the study of history by drawing on social science concepts, case studies and cross-cultural activities; (3) incorporate basic critical thinking skills and study skills into content-based instruction; and (4) utilize active forms of social studies learning, including simulations, debates, research activities and cooperative projects. MS candidates begin to interrelate ideas and information within and across history/social science and other subject areas.
The dichotomy occurs between the requirements for the standard, which are appropriate although limited and the assessment. As all good educators know assessment should be directly related to the objective(s) that are stated for a lesson, unit, or course. Interestingly, this is not the case with the TPA's and the expectations stated in standard 8 for History-Social Science. The TPA task for social studies is entitled, Principles of Content-Specific and Developmentally Appropriate Pedagogy for Multiple Subjects-Social Studies. Assuredly, the title is innocuous enough and appropriate for the stated purpose in standard 8 for social studies methods, but what they really want to assess under social studies umbrella is the adaptation of content-specific pedagogy for students with special needs. …