A survey of college-entrance examination scores of first-year teacher education students in Massachusetts was not intended for public scrutiny.
But when John R. Silber, the chairman of the state school board and the former president of Boston University, told The Boston Globe that the prospective teachers' SAT scores revealed in a state education department survey were "bad news," teacher-educators quickly jumped to the defense of their programs.
The survey was released to the board last month as an "initial report," said a department spokesman. It contained test scores for students entering the state's 58 public and private undergraduate teacher training programs this fall.
But the survey was not specific about several aspects of the students' SAT I: Reasoning Test scores; namely, whether or not the individual scores were on the new recentered scale, whether the scores referred to students entering a teaching program or to first-year students, or whether the scores reflected all students in a particular program.
Teacher-educators nevertheless deflected the criticism by bashing the use of SAT scores as a measure of quality of students. "What we should be looking at is not what are the scores when they come in, but what are their abilities when they are leaving the program," said Susan Harris-Sharples, a professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston and the president of the Massachusetts Association for Colleges of Teacher Education, in an interview. "Our concern is that what the SAT score reflects is the high school experience."
David Haselkorn, the president of the Belmont, Mass.-based Recruiting New Teachers Inc., said that the SAT debate had created a "sideshow" that distracted from the more important issue of setting standards for new teachers.
"What you are about to read is not a typical policy paper from a think tank, research organization, or government body," warns the label pasted on a new report written by 46 New York City teachers.
The teachers wrote the document as part of the first Teacher Policy Institute, sponsored by IMPACT II, a New York-based teacher-development organization, and funded by the Metropolitan Life and Booth Ferris foundations. The institute's goal is to help teachers learn how they can help influence education policy.
The teachers call for such changes as an equitable distribution of school funding and a commitment by the city to prepare and support teachers in the classroom and as policymakers.
--JEANNE PONESSA firstname.lastname@example.org