Friday, October 19, 2007

New Licensure Test in California

Does anybody know any of the inside story about this? Is it a positive development? Are there implications related to accreditation? From Teacher Magazine:

Calif. Approves Teacher Test

California has given the nod to a rigorous assessment created by teacher colleges that requires aspiring educators to show students are learning before they earn their preliminary licenses.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing this month approved the Performance Assessment for California Teachers, or PACT, developed by a consortium of 30 teacher education programs in the state. Led by Stanford University, the group includes colleges in the University of California and California State University systems, and other private and independent schools.

Starting next school year, all teacher-candidates will have to pass a performance assessment before they can get their teaching credentials. A state law passed in 1998 requires such evaluations take place, but a lack of state funding delayed implementation.

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PACT . . . occurs mainly during student-teaching, when candidates are expected to put together extensive, subject-specific portfolios, similar to those that teachers seeking national-board certification create, though on a smaller scale.

“In their [lesson] plans, they have to describe how to take the needs of special education students and English-language-learners into account,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and one of the founders of the consortium.

Every day, candidates reflect and write about the day’s teaching experience, analyze what students learned, what they didn’t, and consider changes to help students who didn’t master the materials.

“It is a much more holistic assessment, a deeper assessment of teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, a deeper assessment of student learning and teacher response to student learning,” said Ms. Darling-Hammond.

Read the whole thing here.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

My name is Terry Underwood; I'm a professor at Sacramento State University who worked as part of the group that developed PACT. A few years ago I guest edited an issue of The Clearing House that includes a variety of articles written by folks deep into teacher performance assessment and PACT. See Clearing House 78(4) March/April 2005.

Senate Bill 2042, the law that mandated teacher performance assessment in California, required the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to develop a version of an assessment instrument for credential candidates; the Commission contracted with ETS to fulfill this responsibility and has something ready for use (actually up and running in some institutions).

The law also left open the possibility of alternative assessments so long as those instruments meet the criteria for reliability and validity as spelled out in CA teacher education program standards. PACT is the only approved alternative in California, as far as I know. It was developed by a consortium of institutions under the leadership of Linda Darling-Hammond, Bob Calfee, David Pearson, Ray Pecheone, and others. It, too, is up and running in several institutions.

I admit to a bias, but I think it's a great assessment tool given that it had to be developed to meet fairly rigid and traditional psychometric properties (none of the new-fangled ideas about validity and reliability show up in the state criteria -- independent ratings by two or more judges are expected to converge re: reliability -- no jury model or other qualitative warrants of reliability are accepted -- the numbers line up or they don't). Ray Pecheone has a lot to say about the properties of the instrument.

Btw, it's not quite accurate to say that PACT "requires" candidates to show evidence that students are learning. It's great when they do (I've never read a PACT teaching event where students learned nothing), but the requirement is that the candidate shows evidence that she or he can ASSESS appropriately and accurately and can INTERPRET the assessment results and can USE the findings to improve teaching and learning -- all as part of regular classroom practice. So the real question is "Does the teacher KNOW whether students are learning, and is the teacher USING this knowledge to improve teaching and learning?" Is the engine of teaching and learning working right? (Of course, the odds are that the kidlets are learning if this engine is running well...)

I'm sure others will chime in if I've misspoken. I encourage you to read the papers in The Clearing House.

marcia said...

My name is Marcia Sewall, and I teach and supervise secondary credential students in the Education Studies Program at UC San Diego. I have worked with PACT for the last six years (and was initially trained by Terry Underwood!).

I presently serve in the capacity of PACT scorer and trainer of scorers with institutions around California, in addition to working as instructor and supervisor with our UCSD secondary credential students as they complete their PACT teaching events. Like Terry, I may have some bias on this subject, but I can't imagine a better assessment to determine the pedagogical readiness, knowledge, and skills of our novice teachers. Those working with PACT over the past several years have spent many, many hours refining this assessment instrument prior to this CCTC approval, and I am so glad that so many new teachers will be able to use this assessment to demonstrate their growth and understandings as they complete their credentialing year.

From personal experience with my own students, I have seen the positive effect PACT has had not only for our own understandings of our students' levels of pedagogical performance, but also for their own. Over and over, they tell us that PACT was one of the best and most relevant experiences of their credentialing year.

Also, as administrators have learned more about what this assessment requires of our students, they have realized how advanced and experienced they have demonstrated themselves to be, which makes our students very desirable for those seeking to fill teaching positions.

I'm a real believer in this assessment, and I have to tell you, I had to be convinced in the beginning! The past few years working with this assessment instrument have proven to me how effective it is and, in my opinion, we're very lucky to have it.

Don Zancanella said...

Terry and Marcia--Thanks for the background information. Will this data be compatible with what's required for NCATE? Are any institutions planning on using it that way?

Anonymous said...

Don
Although California does do NCATE, they have a partnership that requires a joint accreditation process/visit with state accreditation. Few, if any, specialty areas go through the NCATE program review process. The state process for both the unit and program review is different and even more time consuming than NCATE's. In the total scheme of things, according to my Dean, this process is more closely related to the NCATE Unit Standards than the TPA (ETS) process. Since we haven't encountered any CA English program reviews since this went into place, I have no idea if PACT aligns with our pedagogical skills and dispositions.
Leni
Dr. Leni Cook, Director
NCTE/NCATE Program Reviews
Professor Emeritus
College of Education
CSU Dominguez Hills
Carson, CA

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