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Toward a National Teacher-Licensing Assessment

This morning, the Center for American Progress held a panel discussion about a pilot teacher performance assessment that proponents hope will one day be used as a requirement for teacher licensure nationwide.

The event was based on a newly released report, entitled Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: How Teacher Performance Assessments Can Measure and Improve Teaching, by Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond. The room in downtown Washington was brimming with education advocates from a variety of sectors—including charter schools, colleges of education, unions, and ed nonprofits.

Darling-Hammond, who headed President Obama's transition team on education policy, explained that 20 states have joined a consortium to "bring [the pilot] to scale nationally."

The teacher-licensing assessment is based on the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT), which, in essence, mimics the certification model of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Candidates plan units of instruction, videotape and analyze their teaching, and evaluate student outcomes.

Panel speaker Thomas Prieto, a coach at the Success For All Foundation, went through PACT as a teacher candidate and said the daily videotaping was eye-opening. "I would take the tape home at night and say, 'Aww, I'm not going to do that tomorrow.'" The tapes also revealed whether students were engaged during a lesson.

"We're trying to figure out what things we can look at that really are related to student learning," said Darling-Hammond. She is angling for the creation of a national teaching license, so teachers can move from state to state without needing to become recertified.

Peter McWalters, a director for the Council of Chief State School Officers, also on the panel, admitted it's going to be tough to get buy-in from all 50 states. Putting new policy in place regarding performance assessments will be "a huge burden of time and training," he said. But he believes that in a new era of accountability, "states are learning that to go it alone...is counterproductive."

Much more to say on this—watch for a longer news story to come...

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