World-renowned science fiction writer Arthur Clarke is credited with observing, “We need to educate our children for their future, not our past.” The challenge of educating young people to be successful in the 21st Century continues to be at the core of our work as teacher educators and as partners with P-12 schools. We readily acknowledge that an informed citizenry has been and continues to be critical to our future as a democracy. It is imperative, then, that our P-12 schools, central to ensuring the development of a well educated citizenry, are staffed by teachers who continuously have a positive impact on all P-12 students.
Given the broad societal purposes of P-12 education and the increasingly complex demands of teaching and learning in schools today, it is crucial that those who teach in our schools have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will enable them to have a positive impact on all P-12 learners. As young people progress through school from pre-kindergarten to high school graduation, they deserve to be guided by teachers, administrators, and counselors who are skilled at and committed to making student learning the centerpiece of their professional commitment. Teachers need to have sufficient knowledge of content to meet local, state, and national standards for P-12 education; they need to be able to demonstrate the skills and dispositions necessary to positively influence the learning of students in a culturally and linguistically diverse society; they must engage students in meaningful activity that promotes the development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills; they need to be able to plan for and provide creative, contemporary teaching and learning activities based on the special and unique needs of the students they are serving; they need to use comprehensive assessment strategies to evaluate every aspect of student achievement and to provide feedback to students as they develop intellectually, emotionally, and socially; and they need to continuously evaluate the impact of their work with students, reflecting on their success as teachers and addressing their needs for continuing professional improvement.
Focusing, therefore, on the outcome of education--student learning--it is vital that teachers have the means to reach that outcome by having (a) a solid base of knowledge about the subject areas they will teach and about pedagogy, (b) an array of pedagogical and professional skills, and (c) a set of professional dispositions conducive to P-12 learning. In addition, they must have the ability to apply their knowledge, skills, and dispositions in ways that will result in positive learning for all students with whom they work. To ensure the success of their students, teachers need to be able to assess student needs, design and implement curriculum and instruction that will address those needs, and accurately evaluate the impact and effectiveness of their curriculum and instruction on all P-12 learners.
In researching effective strategies and programs that facilitate the goal of positively impacting student learning, it is easy to find a common set of expectations and a central theme: effective instruction requires effective assessment. From the Baldridge National Quality Program to the National Research Council (NRC), it is clear that teacher preparation and professional development require an explicit commitment to assessing P-12 student learning. A 2001 NRC study committee concluded:
Instruction in how students learn and how learning can be assessed should be a major component of teacher pre-service and professional development programs. The training should be linked to actual experience in classrooms in assessing and interpreting the development of student competence. To ensure that this occurs, state and national standards for teacher licensure and program accreditation should include specific requirements focused on the proper integration of learning and assessment in teachers’ educational experience. (p.309)
At The College at Brockport, to ensure that candidates have a positive impact on P-12 student learning, we agree with the need to link assessment with instruction, and we stand committed to the NCATE expectation that, in the initial and continuing preparation of teachers, teacher candidates should be able to “accurately assess and analyze student learning, make appropriate adjustments to instruction, monitor student learning, and have a positive effect on learning for all students.” Further, we believe that other professional school personnel prepared at The College at Brockport--counselors and administrators--should be able to critique and reflect “on their work within the context of student learning,” and they should be able to “establish educational environments that support student learning, collect and analyze data related to student learning, and apply strategies for improving student learning within their own jobs and schools.” (NCATE Standards, Chapter 2, pp.16-17)
We believe that the framework provided by Emerson Elliot, Director of Special Projects at NCATE, captures the essential requirements facing teacher candidates as they progress through coursework and fieldwork and as they assess the impact of their teaching on P-12 student learning. The evidence comes from a cluster of activities in which a teacher candidate:
Finally, we believe that connecting student learning more closely to our teacher education program is both educationally sound and a professionally appropriate way to ensure our P-12 partners that teacher education at The College at Brockport is committed to facilitating teaching and learning that will have a positive and lasting impact on P-12 student achievement.