New Teacher Board Parts Ways With ACT

By Julie Blair — April 23, 2003 2 min read
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The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence is shopping for a new test-maker to write its teacher assessments after suddenly parting ways with ACT Inc., the producer of the well-known college-entrance exams.

The Washington-based certification group, which hopes to gauge teachers’ subject-matter and pedagogical knowledge through college-level standardized tests, and the vendor agreed to end a yearlong relationship late last month, “based on a difference in opinion on how the project has evolved,” said Kimberly Tulp, a spokeswoman for the ABCTE.

“Different organizations have different philosophies,” she added. Officials of the Iowa City, Iowa-based testing company said the decision was mutual, but declined to provide details.

Despite the setback, Ms. Tulp insisted that the board’s first wave of examinations will be ready this summer, as planned. The board intends to launch assessments for elementary teachers and for mathematics and English teachers in grades 6-12. A second round of tests is expected to be introduced in the fall.

The ABCTE has hired consultant Mary Lyn Bourque, a former chief psychometrician for the body that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, to work on the project and is searching for a new test- maker, Ms. Tulp said.

“We’re continuing to focus ... on maintaining the quality that’s been a hallmark of the test throughout the process,” she said.

Timing Feasible?

Established in 2001 by the Education Leaders Council and the National Council on Teacher Quality, the board is financed with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. It aims to raise the bar for teachers while breaking down barriers to the field. The ABCTE plans to offer a national, portable credential for new and veteran teachers. While only Pennsylvania accepts that credential now, eight more states are considering it, Ms. Tulp said.

To earn the ABCTE’s stamp of approval, prospective teachers will have to pass two exams—one in pedagogy that includes a written portion, and a multiple-choice test in the subject they wish to teach, Ms. Tulp said. Veteran teachers will take only the pedagogical exam, she said.

Both groups of test-takers will be required to show proof of pre-service instructional experience, which may include work in a preschool, college, or the military. Those who have taken online courses in pedagogy will also be deemed eligible.

News of the split with ACT comes as the ABCTE continues to take fire from critics who say its assessment system is not complex enough to gauge the knowledge and skills of teachers because it relies largely on standardized tests. They also question whether the ABCTE’s vendors will have enough time to prepare a high-quality assessment by the summer deadline.

“That’s an extremely aggressive timeline,” said Ann E. Harmon, the director of research and information for the Arlington, Va.-based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which has created an evaluation and credentialing system for midcareer and veteran teachers. “I don’t think it is feasible.”

Such a task would take 18 months at the very least, she said.

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