New teachers getting ready to be graded on classroom work: Wisconsin moving toward portfolio-based assessment

Erin Richards:

For example, in addition to having to publicly post their graduates’ first-time pass rates on the exams required for licensure starting in the 2013-’14 school year, the programs would also have to annually provide the DPI with a list of their graduates and graduation dates.
DPI, in turn, is required in the legislation to include that data in a statewide student-information system, which could allow the state to track which schools new teachers end up in after graduation.
It could also eventually be connected to the performance of those teachers’ students on state tests.
Teacher certification tests have been scrutinized because it’s hard to adequately assess, in one exam, the multitude of skills necessary to be a good teacher. And there’s little research evidence to suggest that the current crop of exams is a useful tool for doing that.
The current tests are developed by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service or the for-profit education company Pearson, and they typically rely heavily on multiple-choice questions.
Cut scores, or the score required to pass the tests, are often set well below averages.
A 2010 analysis by the National Council for Teacher Quality (reports) found that on average, states had set the bar so low, that even teacher candidates who scored in the 16th percentile would receive their certification.
In Wisconsin, the pass rates of new teachers on the multiple-choice subject tests required for licensure the same every year – 100%. That’s because the state requires a passing grade on the test before an institution can recommend that teacher candidate for a license.
Nobody is currently required to report how many times a teacher candidate might have taken the certification test and failed.
“The testing technology that is widely used today just can’t get at what is really the fundamental question of ‘Can the person actually teach?’ ” said Sharon Robinson of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which is collaborating with Pearson on the performance assessment.
“We can give a number of different tests about what they know,” she said. “I think the ambition now is to get an assessment that can actually document the candidate’s ability to teach.”

Related: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges and 9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes