My home state of Arizona is trying something different in their teacher certification requirements. Beginning next year, all beginning teachers will have to submit a 15 – 20 minute videotape of themselves presenting a lesson to students. They will have three years to complete the requirement in order to receive a "long term" license.
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.
I like the idea of including video evidence of someone’s ability to teach, for both licensing and evaluation. But what exactly does a "good" classroom lesson looks like?
I know more than a few school administrators who would walk into a classroom where students are seated in nice neat rows while the teacher lectures and think there is good teaching going on. Even if the kids are bored silly and learning nothing.
Take the same administrator into a class where the kids are all over the room, working together and discussing their projects, and they would see chaos. That teacher clearly has no control and is doing a poor job, although the kids very well could be learning more than in the “normal” class.
The fact that Arizona officials are working with the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards gives me some hope that the evaluators may be able to sort out the difference.
But the fact of the matter – that anyone observing a classroom needs to understand – is that there is no standard picture of good teaching. And sorting out the good from the bad (or the mediocre) takes so much more than a cursory glance.