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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

What Kind of Teachers Do We Want?

On Diane Ravitch's blog today: The Future of National Board Certification, a guest posting by Nancy Flanagan.  She says:
Here’s what I worry about: NBPTS has now been taken over by Pearson. The teacher-led, teacher-developed goals of the original founders’ mission–using teacher expertise to shape education reform–are so far from what we’re doing now it’s frightening. And–the US Dept Of Ed decided not to put the National Board in their last budget. They gave $$ to Teach for America instead.
I, too, am a National Board Certified Teacher. Like Nancy, I also took time away from the classroom to work for the National Board in assessment development, and then returned to teaching. I was one of the first 87 teachers in the country to earn the distinction of being board certified, at a time when there was NO context for such an attainment–one had to make one’s own. I continued to teach and found myself more articulate about my teaching decisions, and more observant about how my students learned. And I agree with Nancy’s comment:
NB Certification has nothing to do with credentialing–largely because credentialing has little to do with increasing student learning…NB Certification is all about what happens in the classroom; advanced degrees focus on other issues and knowledge.
My greatest hope for education reform was that the interesting work of teachers would take center stage, and that many more teachers would be engaged in sharing their practices with future generations of teachers. Instead, teachers have been shoved to the margins, and operations like Pearson have grown into giant ed-factories, bending to political influence and financial expedience.
What is central to my concern is what gets funded, and who gets funded–Teach for America, and the Common Core. We march ever forward, reducing education to a technical exercise, measuring accountability with machine-scored tests, and staffing the neediest schools with fewer and fewer committed, career-minded educators. Once schools lose the trust of their family community, the project of dismantling public education becomes easy to sell–parent triggers, emergency manager takeovers, and farming out the business of public education to for-profit charter operators.

Pearson, formerly Harcourt, used to run the operations side of National Board Certification–booking the needed rooms for training and running the scoring operations, making sure that assessments were properly logged in and distributed to scoring sites, handling applications and so on. Other organizations ran the assessment development portion of the work of the National Board–Educational Testing Service, Educational Development Center, WestEd, etc. Each of these organizations brought their most knowledgeable resources to the table to create assessments that were authentic representations of the essential elements of teaching practices in each field. I think that it is wise to be concerned when all aspects of an operation such as National Board Certification are under one roof. One might reasonably speculate that such an arrangement might lead Pearson to revise National Board Certification processes with profit and power, rather than student development and growth, in mind.

My first grandchild enters kindergarten this fall. I hope that his early years in school will mark the beginning of a turnaround where all children, not just my grandson, will experience the joyfulness of being “known” by committed teachers in healthy environments where learning provokes awe.
I saw that in many of the National Board Certified Teachers whom I met after becoming one myself. Too bad that we aren’t about funding that kind of effect.

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