Teaching Methods: Pennsylvania

2017 General Teacher Preparation Policy

Goal

The state should use a licensing test to verify that all new teachers meet its professional standards. This goal was not graded in 2017.

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Pedagogy Test Requirement: Pennsylvania requires middle school teachers to pass a pedagogy subtest as part of the Grades 4-8 Core Assessment. The state does not require elementary and secondary teachers to pass a pedagogy test.

Citation

Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Require that all new teachers pass a pedagogy test.
Pennsylvania should verify that all new teachers, including elementary and secondary teachers, meet professional standards through a test of professional knowledge.

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also noted that Pennsylvania assesses a candidate's pedagogy in the PreK-4 assessment module 1 or in 7-12 grade in the Fundamental Subjects Content Knowledge assessment.


Updated: December 2017

How we graded

Not applicable. This goal was not scored in 2017.

Research rationale

A good pedagogy test puts teeth in states' professional standards. In order to ensure that the state is licensing only teachers who meet its expectations, all content and pedagogy standards must be testable. State standards that cannot be assessed in a practical and cost-effective manner have no value. Examples of knowledge that can be tested include the basic elements of good instruction, effective means of communicating with children, efficient use of class time, effective questioning techniques, smooth classroom routines, the importance of feedback, means of engaging parents, the best methods for teaching reading as well as other subjects, appropriate use of technology, knowledge of testing and assessments, and the fundamentals of addressing individual learning challenges.[1]

States should not use tests meant to measure new teachers' professional knowledge that utterly fail to do so, either because the passing score is set so low that anyone—even those who have not had professional preparation—can pass or because one can discern the "right" answer on an item simply by the way it is written.[2]

Performance assessments are an important step in the right direction.[3] Increasing numbers of states are adopting performance assessments to evaluate teacher candidates' pedagogy before an initial license is granted. A performance assessment can be of much more value than a traditional multiple choice test.[4] However, states need to make sure that such tests are technically sound, especially given the significant resources that it takes to administer and score performance assessments. The past track record on similar assessments is mixed at best. The two states that required the Praxis III performance-based assessment reported pass rates of about 99 percent. A test that nearly every aspiring teacher passes is of questionable value. Additional research is needed to determine how the next generation of performance assessments, including the edTPA, compares to other teacher tests as well as whether the test's scores are predictive of student achievement.[5]


[1] For a perspectives on the issues with teaching dispositions, see Damon, W. (2005). Personality test: The dispositional dispute in teacher preparation today, and what to do about it. The Education Gadfly, 2(3), 1-6. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED489100.pdf; Gershman, J. (2005). 'Disposition' emerges as issue at Brooklyn College. New York Sun, 31. Retrieved from http://www.nysun.com/new-york/disposition-emerges-as-issue-at-brooklyn-college/14604/
[2] U.S. Department of Education. (2010). The secretary's seventh annual report on teacher quality: A highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/t2r7.pdf; A qualified teacher in every classroom?: Appraising old answers and new ideas, F. Hess, A. Rotherham, and K. Walsh (eds.), (pp.223-253). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1109818629821.pdf; For evidence on the low passing scores required by states on pedagogy tests, see: United States. Department of Education, & Spellings, M. (2005). The secretary's fourth annual report on teacher quality: A highly qualified teacher in every classroom. US Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/t2r7.pdf; Also see Walsh, K. (2004). A candidate-centered model for teacher preparation and licensure. A qualified teacher in every classroom (pp. 223-254). Retrieved from
http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1109818629821.pdf
[3] For evidence of the importance of pedagogy tests in improving student achievement, see Ladd, H. F., Clotfelter, C. T., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007). How and why do teacher credentials matter for student achievement (NBER Working Paper, 142786). Retrieved from
http://www.nber.org/papers/w12828
[4] For further information regarding the use of performance assessments and the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) in California and other states see: Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Evaluating teacher effectiveness: How teacher performance assessments can measure and improve teaching. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2010/10/pdf/teacher_effectiveness.pdf
[5] For an example of the kind of analysis of predictive validity that needs to be done more broadly for the edTPA and other assessments, see: Goldhaber, D., Cowan, J., & Theobald, R. (2017). Evaluating prospective teachers: Testing the predictive validity of the edTPA. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(4), 377-393.