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Request for Developing Teacher Assessment Prepared

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In a significant step toward the creation of a "new generation" of teacher assessments, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has released a draft proposal that would guide the award of a $1.3-million contract for developing the panel's first assessment.

The board is seeking comment by March 26 on the draft "request for proposals." It calls for the creation of an "assessment-development laboratory" that would prepare measurements of accomplished practice in teaching English-language arts to children in early adolescence.

After receiving reaction to the draft, the board plans to issue a final request for proposals in April. The 30-month contract will be awarded on Aug. 1.

Under its ambitious plan for creating a voluntary national system of teacher certification, the board expects to spend $50 million developing 34 different assessments. The first will be used to certify teachers beginning in 1993. For each contract, the board will seek comments on draft proposals before proceeding with the formal competition.

New Testing Practices

The first draft proposal offers the most complete picture to date of the process by which the assessments will be developed.

The new assessments, it says, will reverse the relationship between ''accepted measurement wisdom and teaching practice."

"Instead of testing practice dictating the measurement of teaching, teaching practice requires new practices for testing," the proposal states.

And in another departure from past practices, classroom teachers will participate in all phases of the development of the board's assessments, the document stresses.

The national board was expected late last week to appoint a standards committee of approximately 12 members--a majority of whom would be teachers--to guide the research and development process for the first assessment.

According to the proposal, the assessment contractor will be expected to work with the standards committee in defining the knowledge and skills to be assessed, identifying promising methods, reviewing assessment items and exercises, and reviewing the results of field tests.

The board hopes that the planned assessment-development laboratories will be made up of partnerships of state education departments,8school districts, universities, teacher organizations, and research institutes. The labs' work should draw heavily on the expertise of professional associations in disciplines and specialty areas, the draft proposal says.

"Such collaboration is vital to securing the consensus necessary for standard-setting and assessment development in the teaching field," it states.

Building on Knowledge Base

The board chose to begin its work with the early-adolescence/English-language-arts certificate for several reasons, according to the document. It says that the developmental activities are expected to help in the creation of the board's "generalist" certificate for teachers of early-adolescent students and its other language-arts certificates.

The proposal also notes that recent research has expanded the knowledge base for teaching English-language arts.

The contractors who create all of the board's assessments are expected to be familiar with, and build on, such research as well as innovative assessment techniques that have been piloted in several states.

The first assessment is expected to be made up of documentation from the candidate's school, an assessment of his knowledge of early-adolescent development and English-language arts, and an evaluation of his ability to analyze and respond to representative teaching problems and situations.

No 'Slick Portfolios'

Although documentation of a teacher's actual work in a school offers a promising way to judge teaching practice, the contract proposal says, it also presents several potential pitfalls.

"Certification must not become identified merely with the time and effort required to assemble a 'slick' portfolio of materials," it warns. In addition, requiring teachers tospend too much time assembling the portfolios could discredit the use of documentation, it says.

To gauge candidates' knowledge of the subject matter and child development, the board envisions adapting or drawing from existing tests. In addition, the proposal states, candidates might be required to respond in essay form to questions on a single teaching problem.

Finally, the proposal suggests that exercises that could be carried out by "assessment centers" be developed. In such centers, the proposal notes, videotapes, computers, and semi-structured interviews could be used.

The national board also plans to explore ways to link student learning with effective teaching, the draft says, although evidence of increased student achievement will not be required for the first assessment.

More information is available from Joan Baratz-Snowden, Vice President for Assessment and Research, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1320 18th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

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