Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bar Exam for Teachers

Francesca Duffy of Education Week posted about the American Federation of Teachers ( but their links are all down as i write this) recently released a report that calls for the implementation of a bar-like exam, which new teachers would have to pass to enter the profession. AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement that "it's time to do away with a common rite of passage into the teaching profession—whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they and their students sink or swim."

When I decided to become a teacher I had to take the CBEST, CSET, RICA and frankly can't remember what all alphabet soup of tests I had to take just to get into the classroom. I think it is good that I had to take these to be sure I had the textbook knowledge of how to teach and what to teach. But none of these tests measured how I would end up teaching in the classroom with real children. Could I handle a kid throwing up on my shoes? What would I do when I had a range of learners in my 4th grade classroom, one who can't read and one who was reading at a 12th grade level? The test couldn't tell whether I would love teaching or just do it for the glamour, high pay and three month summer vacations. Would I be able to adapt my practice to the changing needs of my students?

Do I agree that a "bar exam," on top of state certification and academic degrees, would ensure that more teachers are better prepared for classroom instruction? No I do not, any more than I think a bar exam ensures we only have good lawyers. We don't need another hoop to jump over to get into the profession. There are enough barriers to entry as it is. What we need is to ensure support for our new teachers as they are entering the field to help them as they navigate the real issues that some up in the classroom. BTSA programs are a good start, in theory. I had a great coach, others I know we're buried in seemingly meaningless paperwork. New teachers need good coaches for more than 2 years. In my 7 years in the classroom I have taught at three different schools in 5 different grade levels. Perhaps instead of laying off new teachers every year we could provide them with the solid opportunity to establish their practice. The principal could fill the coaching role, but there is a wide ability level there, as well as the fact that most of them are swamped with other administrative duties. As a student teacher, my principal only observed me the requisite two times in the entire 7 months I was in the classroom without a full credential!

The new teachers I know enthusiastically embrace best practices and are flexible and passionate. Sometimes more so than the veterans who have 'always done it this way'. I support meaningful evaluation of all teachers. We are charged with a solemn responsibility to prepare the next generation to be lifelong learners and contributing citizens. We should all be up for the task or find something else to do.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the profession needs to stay current. There are many attempts to keep us current as well. In the 15 years I have been teaching I have participated in numerous professional development days. I have been a student in classes and provided the development as an instructor. The topics have ranged from teaching nutrition to behavior modification in the classroom. What do I know about these trainings? Well...

    There is no follow up on whether or not the pedagogy of my colleagues actually reflects the training. In other words, are we applying the strategies in the classroom? Or, do we go back and close the door and fall right back on the same lesson that has been filed in the cabinet for the past 15 years?

    My experience reflects that most teachers sit in trainings and complain how what ever is being discussed is either nothing new or "cant' be done". They feel imprisoned in the room and resist the information. We provide the latest, research based information and strategies and then teachers leave.

    The process breaks down at 3:30 pm the last day of PD. We need to provide follow up and require teachers to show they are using the strategies taught. We need accountability. We need professional coaching in the classroom after the original professional development. There needs to consequences, both positive or not, depending on a teachers ability to practice research based strategy.

    Bottom line, teachers prefer to tell people what to do. There is too much resistance to doing what they are told!