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A new approach to assessment

August 16, 2011

Drake leaders participate in key discussions on teacher effectiveness

July was a busy month for Drake’s education leaders. Both President David Maxwell and Drake School of Education Dean Jan McMahill participated in panel discussions at the Iowa Education Summit July 25–26. Drake’s School of Education also hosted higher education leaders for a Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium on campus the same week.

The Iowa Education Summit, which was organized by the Office of the Governor and held in Des Moines, was attended by more than 1,600 participants and featured a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan addressed topics such as teacher effectiveness, preparing students for college and post-secondary training and the kinds of skills needed in a globalized workforce.

“The powerful part is what happens next,” McMahill says. “It’s having the opportunity to talk with fellow deans and directors and, of course, students, and helping to contribute to those recommendations and implementations as loyally as you can.”

A new system

The July Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium continued training for education leaders.

Fresh on the heels of the Summit, the School of Education hosted a Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC) workshop meant to continue training for education leaders from the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Drake University about a national project that has emerged in response to the political and school-level pressure to connect teacher pay to the performance of their students.

Iowa is one of 21 states to become part of TPAC and was selected as part of the three-year pilot for a labor-intensive but worthy program developed by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) and Stanford University. Stanford instructors conducted the July training at the Drake School of Education.

The Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) involves more than 100 teacher preparation programs. It will create a body of evidence of teaching competence, providing a vehicle for systematically examining the assessment data to improve teacher preparation programs, provide professional development to practicing teachers and inform decisions about tenure of individual teachers.

The states of Washington and Minnesota have incorporated aspects of TPAC in their requirements for licensure. It is a national goal that all states will use TPAC to strengthen their license requirements. McMahill, who won a $45,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Education for Drake to participate in the project, believes the power and magnitude of thousands of in-depth teacher performance assessments will result in new models for education policy.

“TPAC is one way for us to look at the art and science of teaching under a microscope instead of through a throw-away camera,” McMahill says.

Piloting the program

Michelle Krogulski, Drake’s new director of student teaching, says that determining how to measure teacher effectiveness is currently one of the key questions in education. Drake’s participation in the TPAC pilot is in keeping with the School of Education’s focus on educator effectiveness and facilitating successful student learning experiences.

“This fall, seven graduate students will participate in the process of documenting a series of their teaching decisions through the TPA format, in addition to fulfilling our traditional student teaching requirements,” Krogulski says. “The TPA provides an additional format for individual and program-level discussions about what is working well and what can be further strengthened to impact student learning. Supporting lifelong learning is one of our priorities. Faculty, students, mentor teachers, school administrators and University supervisors will have an opportunity to examine the ways that information gained through the TPA process can contribute to program renewal and to individual growth as educators.”