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Consortium Drafts Model Standards For New Teachers

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A consortium of state policymakers and representatives of the teaching profession has developed a model set of standards for beginning teachers that identifies for the first time the "common core'' of knowledge and skills all new teachers should possess.

The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, a project sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, is now seeking comment on the model standards for licensing teachers.

The consortium also plans to develop standards for new teachers in specific subject areas and to create prototypes of assessments that states could use to evaluate candidates for licensure.

Unlike most current state requirements for teacher licensure, the model standards describe what novice teachers should know and be able to do in order to practice, rather than focus on what courses they should have completed.

The standards-setting effort was begun in order to identify what changes in state policies would be needed to make requirements for initial licensure compatible with the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

In devising the common core of standards for new teachers, the interstate consortium drew heavily on the work of the national board, a privately incorporated group that is developing a system of voluntary national certification to recognize outstanding teachers.

The consortium also decided to undertake the project because a number of states are in the process of overhauling their licensure standards and because various subject-matter groups are setting standards for what students should know and be able to do, Linda Darling-Hammond, the chairwoman of the consortium's standards-drafting committee, said in an interview.

"Given that we now have a goal of learning on the part of all students, rather than merely 'offering instruction,' the standards [for teachers] have to rise,'' she argued. "We aren't going to be able to achieve our goals if we only prepare teachers to cover the book.''

Members of the consortium hope that the model standards, which have begun circulating over the past few weeks, will be used as a guide by states interested in revising their licensure procedures and by professional organizations concerned with teacher education and development.

Currently, said Ms. Darling-Hammond, a professor of curriculum and teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University, there is "a huge disparity across the states in terms of the nature of standards for teacher licensure and in terms of the rigorousness of those standards.''

'Emerging National Consensus'

The level of interest in the consortium's standards-setting project--40 states are involved--could mean that such gaps will close.

Mary Diez, the president-elect of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and a member of the drafting committee, said the panel had little trouble in devising the standards.

"It's like there's an emerging national consensus'' about good teaching, she said. "We were arguing about the emphasis on some things, but not about the specifics.''

The committee drafted the standards over the past year and a half. It includes representatives of 18 states and a number of professional associations, including both national teachers' unions, ááãôå, and the National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Another 22 states have formed a "networking committee'' to help the consortium gather public comment on the draft standards.

M. Jean Miller, the director of the interstate consortium, said the group expects to issue a final set of standards in June, after gathering feedback from focus groups and written comments from a mailing of 1,500 copies of the draft standards.

'The Right Direction'

Several states--including California, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, and Texas--are developing licensure systems that focus on what teachers know and can do, rather than on what coursework they have completed.

These "outcome based'' systems would place a heavy burden on assessments to identify whether candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills to teach, Carol Smith, the senior director for professional issues for AACTE, pointed out.

"But this is the direction that most of us feel is the right one to move in,'' said Ms. Smith, who is a member of the standards committee.

Focusing on the knowledge and skills that teachers must possess to enter the classroom also mirrors the national emphasis on identifying what students should know and be able to do, Ms. Smith added.

Eventually, members of the consortium's standards-setting committee said, such a focus on the outcomes of teacher preparation also would have profound effects on the way colleges prepare teachers and on the way such programs are accredited.

"We've got a lot of work to do to come up with having higher education be in sync with the standards and be training toward the standards,'' Ms. Miller said. "That in itself would be a major revolution.''

Sample Assessments Planned

The next step for the consortium will be to come up with some sample assessments that can measure the qualities described in the standards. That effort is still in the planning stages.

Like the assessments being developed for the national board, Ms. Miller said, the consortium's prototypes would provide evidence about a teacher-candidate's knowledge and skills through portfolios, videotaped samples of teaching, and structured interviews.

Such prototypes would differ markedly from the standardized tests typically used by states in licensing teachers.

The consortium also plans to examine the technical issues involved in performance assessment, including the cost and legal considerations, and to develop guidelines for states that are considering using such assessments.

The consortium, which was formed by California and Connecticut officials in 1987, was created so that states could share information about such issues. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the group also has a grant from the U.S. Education Department's office of educational research and improvement for setting standards in subject areas.

To develop the prototype assessments, the consortium probably will draw up guidelines and specifications, but not actually develop the exercises, Ms. Miller said.

The consortium is not seeking to duplicate the national board's work, Ms. Miller pointed out. "We're just trying to draw from their experience and structure [assessments] for a beginning teacher,'' she said.

Connecticut, a founding member of the consortium, has developed some of the national board's assessments.

'Common Core' Standards

In setting standards for teaching particular subjects, the consortium will work closely with the subject-area groups that are developing standards for what students should know and be able to do, Ms. Miller said.

For each subject, subcommittees will use the same core materials to set standards for initial licensure: the work of the national board's standards committees, the standards for students developed by subject-matter groups, and the consortium's own common-core standards.

The draft standards for beginning teachers are organized into 10 principles. Each includes an explanation of the knowledge, dispositions, and performances that characterize the principle.

The principles state that new teachers:

  • Understand the discipline they teach and how to teach it to students;
  • Know how children learn and develop and can provide learning opportunities that support that development;
  • Understand that students learn differently, and adapt their instruction to diverse learners;
  • Use a variety of instructional strategies to encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, and performance skills;
  • Create environments that encourage positive social interaction, active learning, and self-motivation;
  • Understand effective communication techniques and use them in the classroom;
  • Plan instruction based on knowledge of subject, students, the community, and curriculum goals;
  • Use formal and informal assessment strategies to evaluate and insure the continuous development of the learner;
  • Continually evaluate their own practice and seek opportunities to grow professionally; and
  • Foster relationships with colleagues, parents, and community agencies to support students' learning and well-being.

Copies of the draft standards are available at no charge from Jean Miller at the Council of Chief State School Officers, 1 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20001-1431; (202) 336-7048.

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