Teaching to the Video Test

videotaping-for-teacher-certificationHigh failure rate prompts review by Regents to “recalibrate” and lower the passing score on the teacher licensing exam.  Isn’t this what teachers do when they mark on a “curve” and essentially lower the bar to have more passing students?  What exactly is required on the new test that is so difficult? 

Let’s begin with how foolish it is to try to capture a lesson on a 20 minute video. Is it possible for a student teacher, a guest in someone else’s classroom, to “realistically” plan, manage, interact, and exhibit teaching abilities in a video?  Does anyone believe that this will not be a contrived measure, a staged act not worth the time or money invested in satisfying another requirement by people far removed from the reality of teaching?  Is this really the equivalent of the bar examination given to law students?  Is this a “mock trial” with real children, with real learning and behavioral differences, to see how skillful the inexperienced teacher handles a classroom?  This is another asinine attempt to try to raise the bar and only allow the most qualified candidates to receive a license to teach, a worthy goal, but certainly not the right way to do it. 

 Instead, look at the quality of the education programs at the universities.  Rather than focusing on impractical theories, antiquated philosophies, and methods not based in reality, universities should be preparing students for the realistic challenges of teaching today. Require students to understand and recognize language-based difficulties resulting in reading and writing challenges. Since 1 in 5 students has a language-based disability, this is extremely important.  Children would have a better chance of receiving necessary early intervention. How about updating the curriculum to include the last twenty years of scientific research in the area of reading?  70-80% of people with poor reading skills are dyslexic.  Shouldn’t education programs include a basic understanding of dyslexia?  Universities should increase student teaching credits for all prospective teachers, weeding out those not capable of handling the realities of the classroom.  Professors should be required to teach real children and test out their theories to see if they still work.  Most professors have not been in public school classrooms for years, if at all. 

 Instead, administrators should be carefully observing and evaluating new teachers before approving tenure. Teachers should be given a lot of support and professional development in the first five years of teaching, but if they are not able to do the job, they should be let go.  There is no substitute for seeing what children are actually doing in classrooms.  My first principal in New York City, an old-fashioned leader who walked around the building daily with a pad in his suit pocket ready to take notes, would ask all teachers, untenured and tenured, to submit whole class samples of essays, tests, and authentic portfolios at a moment’s notice to see what the children were doing.  You couldn’t fake it; there was nothing staged about a work product.  After reviewing, he would write a handwritten note thanking you for your hard work. He would also leave notes if he observed something positive, catching you in the act of saying something kind to a child or recognizing how nicely the children behaved in the hallway.  It is rare to find a principal who has such a presence in the building.  Today, we have state tests tied to teacher evaluations, an ineffective way of seeing if a teacher is worthy of leading children. 

Unless teachers are getting a degree in videography, a 20 minute staged video is a poor example of what teachers will do in the classroom. Videos should be used for self-assessment and reflection, not for evaluation.  Test content-specific knowledge, not an Academy Award performance.  When will this madness end?

Faith Borkowsky, Owner and Lead Educational Consultant of High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching, is a Certified Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner, is Orton-Gillingham trained, and has extensive training and experience in a number of other research-based, peer-reviewed programs that have produced positive gains for students with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, and a host of learning difficulties.

High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching is located in Plainview, Long Island. Read about what we can offer you and your child: http://highfiveliteracy.com.

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