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Topic: Three 'Reforms' That Are Deprofessionalizing Teaching
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Three 'Reforms' That Are Deprofessionalizing Teaching
Posted: Apr 18, 2013 3:55 PM
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From The NEAToday, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. See
Three 'Reforms' That Are Deprofessionalizing Teaching

By Tim Walker

According to the 2012 PDK/Gallup survey, the
American public believes the teaching profession
should impose entrance requirements that are just
as selective, if not more so, than those required
in fields such as business, pre-law, and
engineering. In other words, treat teachers like
true professionals - as they are in nations that
have much higher rates of student achievement.

And yet, as Richard Milner of Vanderbilt
University points out, certain so-called
education "reforms" that enjoy a good deal of
public support, not to mention sycophantic media
coverage, are doing exactly the opposite -
de-professionalizing the teaching profession.

In a policy brief published by the National
Education Policy Center with funding from the
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and
Practice, Milner identifies and analyzes the
three predominant policy culprits that have moved
teaching away from professionalization. [See
]These fashionable reforms have had the most
direct impact not only on the daily work of
educators, but also on how the public and the
media view the profession as a whole.

1. Value-Added Assessment. The first on Milner's
list probably ranks number one with most teachers
as well. Students' scores on high-stakes
standardized tests produce at best murky data and
yet are held up by too many policymakers as an
unimpeachable measurement of student progress and
teacher effectiveness. Furthermore, says Milner,
the weight placed on these tests severely
restricts teachers' ability to exercise their
best judgment in the classroom.

"The push for high test scores undermines the
very essence of teachers' creativity and their
ability to be responsive to the particular needs
of their students, varying as they do from
student to student, year to year, and classroom
to classroom," Milner writes. "Their ability to
draw from and put into practice their
professional judgment is compromised."

What's especially damaging about the focus on
standardized test results is the media's tendency
to cite them as proof of diminishing U.S. student
achievement and teacher effectiveness.

"In this way, the media seem to feed public
ambivalence and opinions that teachers are weak
and that teaching is not a profession because it
has insurmountable problems."

Milner recommends a moratorium be placed on the
use of test-based teacher evaluation system until
a satisfactory level of accuracy has been

Blowback against standardized testing in recent
months has at least forced some districts to
revisit evaluations. In some states, policymakers
have consulted affiliates of the National
Education Association and worked with them to
develop comprehensive evaluation systems based on
multiple measures of student achievement and
traditional classroom observations.

"If we really want systems that help all students
reach their full potential, we must allow
educators, parents, students and communities to
be a part of the process and have a stronger
voice in the conversations around high-quality
assessments that really do support student
learning," says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

2. Fast-Track Teacher Preparation. Alternative
teacher certification programs that push
candidates into classrooms without any real
intensive training contributes to the already
pervasive sentiment that teaching is something
anyone can do. Milner singles out Teach for
America for recruiting teachers from top schools
who, while they may have impressive knowledge of
a specific content area, often lack proper
training in learning theory, child development,
or pedagogical skills. Attracting the best and
brightest candidates to the classroom is a worthy
and valuable goal, writes Milner, but it
shouldn't come at the expense of extensive
classroom preparation. Nor should teaching be
seen as a pit stop between college graduation and
another career.

In response, Milner suggest policymakers take a
time-out from expanding these fast-track programs
until their long-range effectiveness in meeting
students needs can be determined.

NEA believes it is critical to raise teacher
standards both at the postsecondary-admissions
and preservice stages. Learning how to teach,
however, does not stop when the teaching career
begins. NEA believes the profession must focus on
supporting teachers, providing them with career
options and helping teachers improve throughout
their careers.

"In order to prepare the coming generations of
students, all teachers must be effective-period,"
says Van Roekel.

3. Narrowing of the Curriculum. A highly-scripted
curriculum, while it may provide a useful roadmap
for educators on what to teach and when to teach
it, nonetheless does not allow teachers to rely
on their professional judgment to make the best
decisions for student learning. Saddled with
pre-determined curriculum, "teachers are to act
as automatons rather than as professionals.
ŠTeaching is seen as technical and mindless, as
work that does not require the cognitive ability
to be responsive to learners because curriculum
decisions have been predetermined by others for
them," Milner writes.

Consequently, professionalism is further
undermined because a narrowly-focused, mandated
curricula sends the unmistakable signal to the
general public that these important decisions
shouldn't be left to teachers - they are merely
in the classroom to carry out cookie cutter

A broadening of the curriculum is needed, Milner
says, but as long as "high stakes consequences"
are decoupled from the test scores that are
usually the engine behind a highly-scripted
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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