The Rhode Island Board of Eduction adopted new standards for teacher preparation programs for both admissions and to hold new graduates accountable for improving student performance. While these are not regulations, colleges or universities that do not meet these standards in their education departments can lose state approval. This was reported in the Journal Bulletin on November 13, 2013.
The new standards require that each cohort of teacher candidates score in the top 50 percent of college entrance exams such as the SAT starting in 2016-17. The cohort must score in the top third on these assessments by 2020. Each class of candidates must have a GPA of 3.0 to be admitted to a teacher preparation program.
The new standards also require schools of education to ensure that an aspiring teacher to be assigned to a highly qualified full-time teacher, and placing more emphasis on building partnerships between schools of education and the districts where teacher candidates are trained.
The standards also place an emphasis on following new teachers once they graduate by creating “teacher prep programs” to measure how effective they are in the classroom.
In 2012, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) adopted a new Teacher Evaluation System. Part of any teacher’s evaluation are linked to student performance on the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program), which assesses student performance on Reading, Writing and Mathematics. This new teacher evaluation will be used to gauge how novice teachers are performing, but RIDE has assured that new teachers will not be judged only on their students’ performance on the NECAP, but will also undergo classroom observations, provide examples of their work, and show how they contribute to the school culture.
The implication of these standards for English Language Arts and literacy are positive as they will provide classrooms at the elementary and secondary level with academically prepared teachers. This will actually be a benefit to all levels of education, and all disciplines. However, the standards’ connection to the NECAP assessments could be troublesome.
While RIDE has assured novice teachers that the NECAP will not be the only assessment to evaluate teacher effectiveness in the classroom, the brunt of the test falls upon the shoulders of ELA and reading/literacy teachers (as well as math). There are other assessment tools being created to further assess student learning, such as SLOs (Student Learning Objectives), which do span the disciplines, the NECAP test continue to be part of the evaluation equation for teachers in ELA/Literacy and Math. The question is will the NECAP continue to be a Sword of Damocles over the heads of these beginning teachers, who will have three years to “prove” themselves as effective educators? If these young educators do not make the cut in three years, their teaching certificate/license will not be renewed.