Vermonters for Better Education
Return to Index | Vermonters for Better Education Homepage
More good news, but just some, just came out of Montpelier. Governor Dean announced his support of competency testing for aspiring new teachers. Given the shocking failure rate of aspiring teachers required to take such tests in other states, Governor Dean is certainly on the right track in insisting on some quality control in Vermont's educational future.
More important, such testing pins the tail on the right donkey, the teacher preparation programs that push "PC" stuff at the cost of teaching serious subject matter. It isn't the people who aspire to be teachers who are dull, or stupid, or inherently incompetent. The problem is that their preparation in professional education programs is so vacuous, so tepid, such thin gruel that they are pre-positioned to fail tests that want to know what they know about the three "R"s, not what they feel about self esteem, or the politics of diversity in the fourth grade, or the value of leaning together and humming to establish community. Young people who want to be teachers deserve better than to be embarrassed by competency tests that they can't pass because they haven't been taught what they need to know. Aspiring teachers need meat-and-potatoes courses in what to teach. They need to be what they used to be - experts in a field or two of knowledge and generalists in other fields, and pre-eminently able to communicate what they know to students. If Dean's support translates into truly rigorous tests that spur education colleges to create rigorous, subject-content rich programs, then Vermont schools parents and kids are the winners. Applause for the governor!
However, Governor Dean's announcement was just some good news because he dodged the issue of a larger, even more important initiative. He didn't advocate competency testing of teachers already in the schools and who will be in the schools for upwards of thirty more years. If the same percentage of them are as unprepared/incompetent as the current crop is proving themselves to be, it is going to be a long, long time before things improve. He didn't advocate competency testing for veteran teachers because the VEA is one of his prime allies, and the VEA is adamantly opposed to such testing and understandably so. Part of the VEA's mission is to protect weak teachers at all costs.
What a shame that Dean allowed his narrow political interests to overrule his vision. Boos for him. Competent teachers aren't afraid of competency tests. Incompetent teachers, especially incompetent teachers who aren't willing to retrain to become competent, are afraid of competency tests. What a missed opportunity to weed out the truly unprepared and incompetent teachers and thereby accelerate the reintroduction of competency to so many more of Vermont's classrooms!
Opponents of competency testing cite the fairness issue. They say that it isn't fair to spring a difficult test on unprepared veteran teachers. They have a point, but it should not block competency testing. Fairness can be achieved.
Try this. All employed teachers be required to take the test, but their scores be published only to each, personally. Then give those who privately and without public embarrassment know that they failed the test four years to retrain/reeducate themselves and become competent to pass the test or lose their licenses to teach. Those for whom the effort to become competent is not worth it would have four years to graciously bow out. Let's support the Governor's laudable advocacy of competency testing of aspiring teachers. Let's pick up where he left off and demand a competency test for all employed teachers, as well.
September 18, 1998