One barrier to entering teaching in Kansas may soon be rolled back. Earlier this year, the State Board of Education discussed a moratorium on the “performance assessment” of new teachers.
During their first two years of teaching under a provisional license, new Kansas teachers not only work day and night preparing new courses and adjusting to their new job, but have the added burden of the Kansas Performance Assessment (KPA).
The KPA is a very tedious lesson plan involving student data, pre- and post-testing, assessment and lots of “reflective writing.” This “teacher work sample” is then graded by a group external to the school; that comes with a price tag. The KPA requirement was added during the Kansas “redesign” of teacher training in 2003. Good intentions. Bad policy. It was stacked on top of nearly endless testing: extensive requirements that universities document the abilities of teacher candidates, the Principles of Learning and Teaching test, the ETS content tests, fingerprinting, background checks, and more.
When KPA was proposed, conservative Board members questioned if it would place too much work on rookie teachers during their first years. It does.
Last year, a small number (about three percent) of new teachers did not pass the KPA and would have to repeat this burdensome assessment or leave teaching. Yet there is not one bit of evidence that the KPA is related to a teachers’ competency in the classroom. Teacher-trainers know that writing a good lesson plan does not guarantee a teacher can perform in the classroom. And some excellent classroom teachers write fairly poor lesson plans.
Medicine and law require “medical boards” and “bar exams” before these professionals enter the field, not during their busy first years of full practice. Teaching should do the same. The massive amounts of teacher testing, along with student teaching, should be more than adequate to sort out bad teachers before they enter the classroom.
After significant discussion on the value of the KPA earlier this year, the Board seconded Commissioner Posny moving to “no-fault” grading for the KPA beginning next August. The few teachers “failing” the KPA will still be able to apply for full five-year licenses. That poses the question: Why should Kansas taxpayers fund an assessment that will not accomplish anything aside from overworking rookie teachers?
Discussion continues on perhaps pushing the KPA back into college training. But if the assessment is not useful for provisional teachers, why should it be added to their college training?
KPA is one “barrier” to teaching that can be easily eliminated. In contrast to other proposed “solutions” to the teacher shortage, this will not require one dollar of extra money or reduce the content preparation of teachers.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia.