Assessment

New Teachers in Arizona Must Prove Skills Via Videotape

By Bess Keller — October 25, 2005 3 min read
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Novice teachers in Arizona will soon have to pass a test of classroom skill via videotape to get a long-term license.

The new requirement is expected to make Arizona one of just three states that require a videotaped lesson to advance from an initial credential to a more permanent one, according to data collected by Education Week. The others are Connecticut and Indiana.

State officials argue that the assessment will set a much higher standard than the existing licensing system, which includes only one test—on subject matter for beginning high school teachers.

“Now, we don’t even know if the teacher at least has the capacity to communicate with students,” said state schools Superintendent Tom Horne, who has been an advocate of the change, which the state board of education approved this summer.

Teachers first licensed after the current school year will need to pass the assessment to get a license that’s good for six years. They will have three years from the time they start teaching to produce a videotape of a classroom lesson and submit it along with a written analysis to independent evaluators.

The assessment is the same as one used by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as part of its voluntary program for certifying experienced teachers. Arizona has hired the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., to set up the new program, and the privately organized Arlington, Va.-based board has licensed use of the test to ETS.

Arizona has been heading toward a performance assessment for newer teachers since 1995, when the state board of education adopted new rules for teacher certification. The project foundered, though, during Lisa Graham Keegan’s tenure as state schools chief. Ms. Keegan, who stepped down in 2001, favored a relatively unfettered market for teachers.

State Sets Cutoff Score

Last year, state education officials tried to come up with an in-house assessment, an undertaking that can involve arduous work to ensure that the test consistently measures the desired abilities. In the end, the state went with the option offered by the NBPTS, which has been working on making that component of its evaluation available more widely.

“We’re the first” state to use the NBPTS, said Mr. Horne. “I’m hoping others will follow suit.”

The state chief would also like to see success on the Arizona assessment encourage more teachers to get national-board certification. The grade teachers receive on their videotape package can be transferred into an application for full certification, NBPTS officials said.

But unlike in the national-board process for experienced teachers, state school officials in Arizona will have the final say over the cutoff score on the assessment. Superintendent Horne said it would probably be lower than the one required for NBPTS certification.

The president of the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said his organization has long favored tightening licensing requirements and supports the change.

Still, John H. Wright, who heads the National Education Association affiliate, warned of a challenge in taking a part of an assessment geared for highly accomplished teachers and adapting it to teachers who have just begun their careers.

Teachers will be able to submit their packages of materials up to five times, depending on when they start. Each package is to include a 15- to 20-minute lesson on videotape and essays that dissect the lesson and pinpoint the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.

The same specially trained teachers who evaluate the work of candidates for the national-board credential will grade the Arizona assessment.

The fee will be $395, which both Mr. Horne and Mr. Wright said they hoped would be defrayed, perhaps by contributions from businesses or the application of federal grant money.

Mr. Wright said he looks for the assessment to push districts toward more and better professional development for their new teachers.

“The potential impact on early-career professional development,” he ventured, “is enormous.”

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A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2005 edition of Education Week as New Teachers in Arizona Must Prove Skills Via Videotape

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