National Review Myth Buster #10. We didn't invent our teacher prep standards overnight

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Developing a set of standards for measuring the quality of professional training is a painstaking process that takes years.  We found that out the hard way.   Every one of our standards — developed over the past eight years — has had to go through endless revisions, piloted over and over again until we get it right. That's why we tend to bristle a bit when our critics imply otherwise.

Take our classroom management standard. Frankly, our first cut at this standard left a lot to be desired. We gave programs credit just for having a course description that mentioned classroom management. We then tried raising the bar, primarily by distinguishing those programs which offered separate courses for elementary and secondary candidates on the topic, figuring that no single classroom management course can meet the needs of teachers headed for classrooms ranging from kindergarten to high school.

We were still dissatisfied.  We knew we weren't really capturing whether programs were training teachers to manage their classrooms.  Maybe instructors were just breezing through the topic and never holding their teachers accountable for much more than the frequently assigned "personal philosophy of classroom management" paper. So we went back to the drawing board, studying piles of classroom management course syllabi and consulting experts. Only after we started looking at student teaching materials did we find a solution: It turns out that the forms that are used by programs to evaluate their student teachers are incredibly revealing. They show which programs pay attention to classroom management and which do not.  Some programs take great care to measure the ability of a student teacher to apply essential classroom management skills; others completely ignore the topic, most likely because they don't believe classroom "management" is required if instruction is done right. We laid out the forms and our thinking about them before the national review's technical advisory panel, fine-tuned our indicators, and then received the panel's blessing on our current Standard 10

All told, from start to finish, that classroom management standard alone took three years and two different pilots.  We could tell the same story about each of the other 17 standards.  

On the other hand, there have been many times we just never could get a standard right, meaning we were unable to arrive at indicators that actually measured what we needed them to measure.  Accordingly, some standards have been abandoned. For example, we spent several years trying to develop a standard which would enable us to  measure the rigor of a teacher preparation program, essentially weighing whether teacher candidates' grades are assigned on the basis of rigorous research or practice rather than on designing book covers or watching movies.  Yet as much as we tried to evaluate programs' rigor, our evaluation rubric simply didn't capture the elements of teacher preparation coursework that can make it so intellectually vacuous.  

While we are quite proud about the quality of the 18 standards we are using in the current national review, we also recognize that professional standards are by definition fluid in nature, changing as our knowledge grows and as the profession itself changes.  We have already begun to deliberate with expert teacher educators on how to make our standards better for review 2.0.         

Julie Greenberg