Magazine article Social Studies Review

A Meditation: On Perfection, Education and SB 2042

Magazine article Social Studies Review

A Meditation: On Perfection, Education and SB 2042

Article excerpt

While sitting at our recent end-of-the-year faculty meeting I had a miraculous epiphany. I phrase it this way because I rarely have epiphanies, let alone during our twice a year two-day "faculty retreats" where discussions of policies and procedures rule the days. Usually, I must confess, I just find myself dreaming about what might be served for lunch. Necessary these meetings are, entertaining they're not.

So it was quite miraculous to find myself mentally mulling over two educationally relevant but contrasting premises: #1. Perfection is the goal; #2. Perfection can never be attained.

My colleagues and I, like educators across the nation, continually seek ways to improve our instructional practice with the hope that we will discover the perfect recipe for achieving educational efficacy for all our teacher credential students and the children they teach. It is the challenge of reaching perfection, like a carrot dangling in front of us, that drives our intense discussions and debates, that stimulates new ideas, and keeps us intellectually engaged in the search for better ways of advancing student learning.

What also has become apparent in our faculty meetings is that many of our discussions are driven by outside forces, typically national or state dictates from accrediting agencies or legislatures. It seems that every year or two we find ourselves embroiled in the challenge of meeting the most recent demand for change in practice. Aggravating this dynamic is that the standards are often delivered without clearly articulated means for their implementation and evaluation. California's dismal budget situation has reduced the feverous push for educational reform, but these mandates persist.

Such is the case with one of the newest winds of change to buffet educators, SB 2042. This senate bill requires all preliminary credential candidates to pass a Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) based on a series of 13 Teacher Performance Expectations (TPEs) (see box) which the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) developed, in their words, "through rigorous research and consultation with California educators." The TPEs, a set of knowledge, skills and abilities that CCTC believes beginning teachers should be able to demonstrate, are centered around six broad evaluative domains for determining teaching competency:

1. Making subject matter comprehensible to students.

2. Assessing student learning.

3. Engaging and supporting students in learning.

4. Planning instruction and designing learning experiences for students.

5. Creating and maintaining effective environments for students learning.

6. Developing as a professional educator.

Back at the faculty retreat we discussed the need for our credential candidates to create an electronic portfolio to include narratives addressing each TPE as well as supporting artifacts from course assignments or fieldwork. Then we all agreed (how wonderful to have amicable colleagues!) that in addition to teaching our own content that addresses the subject matter themed TPEs, each methods course would take ownership of an additional TPE. The social studies team decided that, although many TPEs could be covered within our curriculum, we would take leadership for TPE 11 - The Social Environment which states:

Candidates for a Teaching Credential develop and maintain clear expectations for academic and social behavior. The candidates promote student effort and engagement and create a positive climate for learning. They know how to write and implement a student discipline plan. They know how to establish rapport with all students and their families for supporting academic and personal success through caring, respect, and fairness. Candidates respond appropriately to sensitive issues and classroom discussions. They help students learn to work responsibly with others and independently. Based on observations of students and consultation with other teachers, the candidate recognizes how well the social environment maximizes academic achievement for all students and makes necessary changes. …

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