The American Federation of Teachers proposed a universal "bar exam" for teachers last week, arguing that the profession deserves to be associated with high standards and the rigorous training needed to meet them.
"There's this one universal assessment that would be available for adaptation. ...It would be so aligned with what new teachers need to know and be able to do. Just like the Common Core, many, many states would adopt it," said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
The association with the Common Core State Standards Initiative is no accident. The Common Core skirts the third rail of education politics--national standards--because its achievement standards for K-12 students were negotiated by state governors and voluntarily adopted by states. The standards may blanket the country, but there is no "education czar." Under AFT's vision for teachers, there would be no "teacher certification czar." Instead, the teacher's union proposes that the standard would be set by the profession for the profession and implemented state by state. "These are the aspirational expectations of the profession. This is what happens in medicine, for example, and in law," said National Board for Professional Teaching Standards President Ronald Thorpe.
It's not clear how such a system would work, although the NBPTS model for identifying accomplished teachers is certainly a good starting point. AFT proposes a new commission that would develop criteria, establish assessments, and create a governing body to promote and maintain the standards. And that's before they start asking states to adopt them. Weingarten also said the standard-setting and assessments should be done within the teaching profession without external testing companies.
Bottom line: That's a lot of work, but it's hard to argue that teachers don't deserve it. I would much rather put my son in a classroom with a board-certified teacher than with a well-meaning teacher who hasn't been taught how to manage an unruly teenager or pace a lesson to the time allotted.
What are the prospects for such a "bar exam" for teachers? Who should devote the resources to developing it? What are the pitfalls? Does it make sense to link teacher evaluations to the Common Core? What role should the federal government play in their development? The states? The school districts? Can such a system work at all if teachers are consistently underpaid? Is it more appropriate for K-12 or higher ed?