Saturday, October 09, 2010
Ann Berlak responds to responses to her article in Rethinking Schools
Like many of us in the field, Cap Peck would like to protect teachers and teacher education from public disrespect. He seems to think that PACT will help us accomplish this feat. If only that were so. However, if the plague of standardized K-12 testing has taught us anything, it’s that standardized testing is far more likely to be used to control and degrade educational institutions and teachers. As the Race to the Top so clearly demonstrates, it’s likely that under a PACT regime teacher education programs would be ranked, rewarded, and punished in terms of their students’ scores on PACT.
The key question is whether PACT scores accurately and objectively measure quality teaching. That PACT assessments are neither reliable nor valid is certain to become widely apparent in the next decade.
Peck claims PACT has not displaced clinical judgment of university field supervisors. It’s hard to reconcile this with the fact that too-low PACT scores prevent candidates from receiving credentials, regardless of their supervisors’, teachers’, and mentors’ evaluations.
Contrary to Peck’s assumption, I am not happy with the state of teacher education, in part because of the profession’s lukewarm commitment to promoting critical thinking, social justice, and empowerment. These goals are peripheral to PACT. But I do not advocate making these goals the focus of a high-stakes exit exam based on rubrics constructed by experts. Instead, we need an assessment process that promotes democratic empowerment for students, teachers, and diverse communities.
Debra Luna, who is the chair of the department where I teach, read my article as a critique of the credential program at San Francisco State. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have great respect for the program. I wrote the article because I feared that PACT would be going national and I wanted to share my perspective on how it has been experienced by a number of credential candidates and faculty across the state. As a recent article about PACT in Education Week (“State Group Piloting Teacher Prelicensing Exam,” Sept. 1) attests, my fear was not unwarranted.
It is true, as Luna claims, that all assessors have backgrounds in teaching, but they do not necessarily have particular expertise in areas they will be assessing (e.g., second language acquisition or teaching mathematics). The question of whether having a teaching background is sufficient expertise was raised by colleagues at another California university.
Luna says there is no trade-off between paying for PACT and paying for supervision. The fact that there has been no reduction in resources devoted to supervision in our program as a direct result of PACT is irrelevant. Money that could be spent on supervision—and on stipends to co-operating teachers—is being spent on administering PACT and on paying scorers to use an unreliable and invalid assessment instrument.
Once again, I want to be clear that my article was not a criticism of any individual or program. Departments of education do PACT because it, or an equally questionable instrument, is required by law.