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Teaching Board To Postpone Release of Some Test Results

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After discovering problems with some of its scoring procedures, the national body developing a voluntary system for certifying expert teachers announced last week that it will delay releasing test results for about half of its initial candidates for certification.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which was scheduled to name its certified teachers in the early-adolescence/English-language-arts field this October, now plans to release the results in June 1995.

Teachers of early adolescents who piloted a battery of assessments for "generalists'' will still learn in the fall whether they passed, board officials said last week.

James R. Smith, the senior vice president of the board, said the group decided to delay the announcement for language-arts candidates because it had concerns about the scoring system devised by faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh.

The board conducted a study of the university's scoring procedures, soliciting additional ideas on a system from the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J. The E.T.S. will now be handling the task of scoring candidates.

"We concluded that the [scoring] system was inadequate in its current form,'' Mr. Smith said.

Board members feared that the University of Pittsburgh's process for scoring the assessments was too lengthy and complicated and potentially too expensive.

The university and the Connecticut state education department collaborated on the English-language-arts assessments, with help from groups such as the National Council of Teachers of English.

'Not the Way To Go'

The privately incorporated board, based in Detroit, has been working for seven years to devise a system for recognizing outstanding teachers.

Under this year's pilot program, teachers vying for a board certificate underwent a rigorous set of assessments that included compiling a portfolio of their best classroom work and visiting an assessment center for a round of additional activities. (See Education Week, April 20, 1994.)

The portfolios--which included videotaped lessons, samples of students' work, and journal-like materials detailing teachers' successes and failures--took many candidates months to complete.

In part because of the volume of candidates' work, University of Pittsburgh officials urged the board to set aside six weeks to train judges. But the board pushed for a training period of less than a week.

The judges are typically teachers recommended by principals or other school staff members. The board eventually expects to hire teachers it has already certified to do the scoring.

Anthony R. Petrosky, a professor of education and of English at the University of Pittburgh who worked on the scoring process, said the board's search for a streamlined scoring system may fail to reflect the complexity of the candidates' work.

"We felt that rating systems, given the board's constraints, weren't the way to go,'' he said. "Teachers need more individualized, customized feedback.''

Board officials, on the other hand, said the university's procedures did not appear to be a good fit with the standards the board had set as the basis of the assessments. The result, Mr. Smith said, would have been a scoring procedure that "makes it difficult for assessors to make reliable judgments.''

The board was also concerned that the longer, more complex scoring process proposed by the university would require such high fees that teachers would be discouraged from participating.

Although the field-tests were free, next year's candidates will have to pay $975 to take part in the assessments.

Board officials and others involved in the field-testing said they viewed the holdup as a natural part of an experiment.

'Reassuring' Delay

"This is brand new. Nobody knows for sure how to do this,'' said Mr. Smith, adding that the test run is designed to identify problems and smooth out kinks in the board's system.

"I would hope that people [applying for board certification] would be reassured'' by the delay, he added. "We let the time line slip as opposed to letting the quality slip.''

One of the teachers who participated in the English-language-arts pilot was sanguine about the wait.

"In some ways, I'm not surprised,'' remarked Diane Hughart, an English teacher at Herndon Middle School in Fairfax County, Va.

"I'm not sure we were going to gain anything immediate anyway'' by receiving certification this fall, she added. "I just viewed the whole portfolio process as a very good thing for me.''

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