I had the pleasure of meeting Arne Duncan this week. He is the real deal. What an incredibly high-grade, highly capable person, who's so passionate about doing right by kids! One of the topics he touched on at the event was the need to radically reform our schools of education – hear, hear! This article addresses innovative things Wisconsin is doing (it really is a measure of how completely broken our teacher pipeline is when I call a basic, obvious system to evaluate new teachers and make sure incompetent nitwits don't get in front of kids "innovative" – but, sadly, it is…
MILWAUKEE -- Before he could start student teaching in January at Sennette Middle School in nearby Madison, Andrew Johnson had to pass a multiple-choice test.
The 23-year-old wants to teach high-school science, so the exam he took tested his knowledge of biology, chemistry and physics. He had to know the basic properties of an atom and the difference between oxidation and combustion reaction.
But this spring, Johnson will take a practice version of a new performance assessment that goes beyond asking what he knows about his subject.
Formally known as the Teacher Performance Assessment, the portfolio-based assessment will be required for anyone completing a teacher-education program and seeking a teaching license in Wisconsin after August 31, 2015, the Department of Public Instruction has decided.
Johnson and teacher hopefuls in other states taking the Teacher Performance Assessment, even if for practice, will have to submit lesson plans, reflections of their work and a video of their classroom interactions with students as part of the web-based program.
All of it is aimed at answering a single, critical question: How well can you teach?
In Wisconsin, the impending assessment requirement dovetails with an education-reform bill pending in the state legislature. Combined, they constitute a major step toward improving the expectations and rigor of the state's teacher-training programs.
Like other states, Wisconsin is ramping up its focus on new teachers to ensure qualified people are entering the profession.
The end-goal is to boost overall student achievement, which has been stubbornly flat or declining for years in Wisconsin.
Most education-school leaders involved in the development of the new assessment support the changes, and say the current standards for future teachers and the institutions that train them could be strengthened.
For example, one state oversight practice includes making sure education schools have enough library books, a measure that does little to gauge whether they're turning out qualified teachers.