How do we honestly, fairly and helpfully evaluate teacher candidates and their programs?

Teacher education should be evaluated, but how do we honestly, fairly and helpfully determine if they are performing their responsibilities to an acceptable degree. Evaluation of teacher programs is a normative and relative activity: their quality depends on the circle of comparison. The same program can be rated good or bad depending on what standards are used. Some policy influencers are creating studies, standards and methods to make teacher education look bad.

For example, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) uses biased survey questions and “studies” to suggest teacher educations deficiencies. Their efforts and methodologies do not meet scientific evidence or research-based standards (American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, 2011a). NCTQ’s “studies” are flawed on several fronts, one being they use “self-derived standards and methodologies to make simplistic assumptions about a complex, dynamic and evolving component of education preparation” (American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, 2011b, p. 1). However, this does not stop NCTQ, or the other groups attacking teacher education, from creating misleading reports about their perceived and manufactured deficiencies with teacher education. Those who would like to see teacher education dismantled use such “findings” from these bogus studies to support their reform policies.

Evaluation of teacher education and its candidates need to be based on credible evidence. Teacher education is a process of admitting promising candidates, then providing them with learning experiences to develop, assess and remediate competence. If candidates do not meet the minimal expectations, they should be counseled out of the program. Teacher education programs have the responsibility to see that only those candidates with proven potential to be good teachers are certified. Later, future school administrators, fellow educators, community members and students will decide who among these candidates will actually be teachers.

The evaluation of teacher education is the primary responsibility of accrediting bodies and governmental agencies, though many others are involved. These programs are to identify capable, caring and committed candidates and help them develop the qualities needed to be successful teachers. They must fairly assess the teacher candidates’ skills, knowledge and attitudes and hold them to high standards. Candidates must develop and demonstrate competency in knowledge, pedagogy, assessment and professional behavior to carry out the responsibilities of teaching.

We often have difficulty seeing our shortcomings and weaknesses and may not be willing or able to make the changes needed. Teacher educators need to be lifelong learners, able to assess accurately how they can improve and make the changes needed. This attitude should be part of teacher educators for themselves and their candidates. In addition, teacher educators need to assure their candidates clearly understand the subject matter they are to teach, can teach it effectively to a diverse population and to manage student behavior and learning effectively. They should be expert inusing appropriate instructional techniques, technology and materials to develop and assess each student’s attitudes, skills and understanding.

Teacher educators also serve a civic and moral function, as will the teachers they prepare. They should all be disposed to open mindedness, tolerance, courtesy, honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, intelligence, uprightness and fairness. Interestingly, these are the same qualities needed in our political and economic affairs. To the extent we do not live up to these virtues, the well-being of our society will suffer. The moral and civic decline and the pernicious influence of materialistic and selfish values in our culture are some of the destructive trends we are facing.


About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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