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Published in Print: February 5, 2003, as Teachers' Colleges Call For Uniform Testing

Teachers' Colleges Call For Uniform Testing

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In an attempt to curtail criticism of college-based teacher-training programs and improve the quality of their graduates, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is calling for a national evaluation system for prospective educators, as well as the development of a database that links their alma maters to pre-K-12 student performance.

The initiatives, approved as part of a broader "accountability statement," were adopted unanimously by the board of directors at AACTE's annual meeting, held here Jan. 24-27. Twenty-two of the 23 board members were present for the vote.

Although AACTE hasn't detailed a strategy to develop or pay for the efforts, the move signals the degree of pressure on colleges and universities to provide evidence of their teacher programs' value.

Critics have grown increasingly vocal in contending that college-based teacher training is inefficient, expensive, and of inadequate quality. Simultaneously, alternative- certification programs pledging to produce teachers in a matter of weeks have become a common feature of the teacher education landscape.

"The purpose [of the association's initiatives] is to be able to showcase and demonstrate ... our graduates can make a difference in the level of learning of students in demonstrable and documentable ways," said David G. Imig, the president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based group.

The organization will "retool itself" and "develop a protocol" to ensure research-based evidence is gathered and tallied, and will mandate that members contribute to the effort, he said.

AACTE represents more than 730 colleges and universities. Nationally, about 1,400 programs train educators.

"I'm tired of being beat up by the right and the left," said Richard L. Schwab, the dean of the University of Connecticut's school of education in Storrs. "If we have more data, we can give that a rest once and for all."

He noted, however, that unless other accountability requirements are shelved, he would not be a proponent of the data collection envisioned by AACTE.

Some teacher- educators worry that AACTE'S initiatives will be nearly impossible to carry out in the current economic and political climate. Federal and state leaders must cope with a sluggish economy and brace for the effects of a potential war. And states continue to cherish their autonomy.

"No, it's not practical," said Jerry Robbins, the dean of the college of education at Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, who voted in favor of the accountability statement. "But it points us in a direction and takes a stand."

Federal Help?

AACTE hopes that the federal government, in partnership with a coalition of national organizations, will help with the implementation of a common evaluation system to gauge teachers' knowledge and skills, Mr. Imig said.

Such a method would ensure that teachers from all regions and varying types of teacher-training programs could be compared, he said.

Currently, states are responsible for evaluating and licensing teachers, but each does so in its own way.

The federal government also requires teacher-training programs outline annual passing rates on teacher tests, but the data cannot be used to compare states with one another.

A common assessment should be one of several measurement tools used, AACTE says.

Determining teachers' impact on their students is even more difficult than linking it back to their college experiences, and thus, the endeavor should include the help of the federal government, Mr. Imig said.

In any case, AACTE hopes to see a database operating within five years.

Vol. 22, Issue 21, Page 3

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