Where Is Equity in the National Standards? A Critical Review of the INTASC, NCATE, and NBPTS Standards

By Beyerbach, Barbara; Nassoiy, Thurman D. | Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Where Is Equity in the National Standards? A Critical Review of the INTASC, NCATE, and NBPTS Standards


Beyerbach, Barbara, Nassoiy, Thurman D., Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly


Abstract

There is a call for ensuring that all students learn, echoed through the national standards and other reform documents. But how serious is the focus on equity in these standards? We reviewed the standards from three major national standards movements focusing on developing standards for experienced teachers (NBPTS), preservice teachers (NCATE), and beginning teachers (INTASC). We analyze the standards and articulate themes regarding language use, critically analyzing the language and suggesting important revisions to more comprehensively focus on equity. We then share equity standards developed by other groups that exemplify a stronger focus on equity.

Introduction

As a professor and a graduate student in a teacher education program aimed at teaching for social justice, we are concerned about how the standards movement impacts equity issues in the schools. As scholar practitioners, we need to attend to the theoretical assumptions underlying these standards, as well as the practical impact on teaching and learning. We need to take a critical look at the view of knowledge underlying the standards. Critical pedagogy (Giroux & McLaren, 1989; Wink, 2000) encourages teachers to look at their practice and at schooling from a perspective that examines how social structures of race, class, and gender embed power relations that impact teaching and learning, privileging some learners while marginalizing and even denying opportunities to others. Equity-based teaching practice aims at what Freire (1982) calls praxis--becoming critically conscious about these social issues and then taking social action to reduce the gap in student achievement that results from preferential treatment of some groups within the larger society (Bell, 1997).

Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) talk of three kinds of teacher knowledge: (1) knowledge for practice such as that gained from experts or books, (2) knowledge in practice such as narrative accounts of practice, and (3) knowledge of practice such as critically questioning knowledge given, and situating the classroom within the larger context of education and society. They argue that all three forms of knowledge are necessary for developing an optimal teaching practice. Their third notion of knowledge most closely aligns with the perspectives of critical pedagogy and equity-based practice embedded in our teacher education program.

Hostetler (2002) critiques the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) as supporting a technicist view that devalues practical knowledge, suggesting that they are based on what Cochran-Smith and Lytle label as knowledge for practice. He suggests that these standards are not neutral, for they "leave unchallenged a status quo largely hostile to practical wisdom" (p. 123). We wondered if Holsteler's critique could extend to the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and where and how the national standards support development of equity-based practice. In committing to teaching for social justice, one seeks to develop all three types of teacher knowledge, with emphasis on knowledge of practice that promotes a critical pedagogy.

In this article we will: (1) describe what we mean by teaching for social justice and its relationship to equity-based teaching practice, (2) examine three sets of national standards with respect to their incorporation of a focus on equity, and (3) suggest alternative sets of standards that show more promise with regards to their potential to move schools toward more equitable, socially just practice.

Theoretical Background

When we claim to teach for social justice, we acknowledge that social injustice exists, and that there are systemic barriers to educational opportunity (Darling-Hammond, 1998). In our teacher education program, we emphasize attending to the social/cultural context within which schools are located, acknowledging that too often urban contexts are omitted in our representation of teaching sites. …

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