The American Federation of Teachers has unveiled an ambitious new initiative to raise entry standards for teacher-preparation programs—and to create a "universal assessment," analogous to the bar exam in law, that teachers should have to pass to show they are ready to take on their own classrooms.
The product of months of discussion by an AFT task force, the report released this weekend recommends that teacher-preparation programs raise their entry standards to attract academically capable students. The programs should require candidates at both the elementary and secondary level to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and get a minimum grade on college- or graduate-school-entry exams, such as a 24 on the ACT.
Candidates should be assessed again midway through the program on such topics as whether they can diagnose learning problems, align units to state standards, and use formative assessments to tailor instruction, the report says.
And it calls on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to oversee a process of developing a rigorous exam measuring content, pedagogy, and practice—based on a cohesive set of teaching standards crafted by practitioners—that teachers would pass in order to show they're ready for the profession.
Overall, the effort is meant to create systemic improvements in how teachers are prepared.
"It's time to do away with a common rite of passage into the teaching profession—whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they and their students sink or swim. This is unfair to both students and their teachers, who care so much but who want and need to feel competent and confident to teach from their first day on the job," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
Weingarten had hinted at the idea of a bar exam several months ago, and the union has also proposed similar ideas several times in the past: As far back as the mid-1980s, then-AFT President Al Shanker suggested the concept of a teacher bar exam, and a 2000 report also by AFT called for more-rigorous exit examinations for teachers. Read more at Education Week