Standards for teachers

While I've been at the CoSN conference this week there has been a lot of discussion about the Common Core in the US and other standards-based approaches being adopted in various countries around the world (incudiing NZ). The focus of these initiatives is on defining a set of standards which represent the goals and assessment targets for students at various stages in their learning journey.

The promoters of such initiatives argue that standards-based instruction allows teachers, students and parents to be on the same page, providing explicit and shared understandings of expectations at different levels and how these are assessed. 

Detractors point out how standards become quickly viewed as a 'minimum competence' requirement, and can end up limiting innovation, creativity and the aspirational aspects of a good education. 

Truth is that good teachers and schools have been using standards forever in one way, shape or form, the arguments appear to be over national applicability, the quality and relevance of the standards, and the reliability and validity of the methods of measurement. 

The focus on using standards to assess student achievement raises the inevitable of standards for teachers. NZ has these in place for graduating and practicing teachers, as does the US. The idea of requiring practicing teachers to maintain a level of professional knowedge and action seems reasonable, particularly in light of some of the findings reported in my previous blog post that highlighted the reported mis-match between teachers’ own use of digital tools and their concerns about and perceptions of student use for instance. After all, we have the same expectation of other professions (you wouldn't be inclined to go to a dentist or doctor who hadn't unpgraded their knowledge and practice since graduation for instance).

The video at the top of this post provides an overview of the Australian professional standards, comprising of seven standards that outline what teachers should know and be able to do. For me the clip presents an aspirational view of what we expect of those working in the profession – of individuals who will be successful in leading, mentoring and engaging those in their care. I like the emphasis on creating a career path as an objective, and also the emphasis on cultural literacy, something I believe will become increasingly important in our system. 

For me the reflection on these matters as I wait for a plane to fly back to NZ, thinking about the professional conversations I've had while out of the country, lead me to thinking about how important the alignment is between what we expect of our students and those teaching them. Whether we accept the notion of standards or not, one cannot avoid acknowledging the fact that if there is a mis-match between what teachers say and do, or between espoused theory and theory in action, our students are not being well served and expectations of them achieving the aspirations we have for them are unlikely to be achieved. 

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