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Volume 24, Number 4
July/August 2008

Taking the Measure of New Teachers

California shifts from standardized tests to performance-based assessment as a condition of licensure


Like most states, California has long required prospective teachers, whether they attended education schools or entered the profession through alternate routes, to pass standardized tests in basic skills and subject knowledge in order to earn their licenses.

However, there is little evidence that performance on these tests is associated with future performance in the classroom. Teacher educators have therefore begun to look for ways to assess the quality of a candidate’s work in the classroom, the skills he or she has mastered, and the effects on student performance.

For the past five years, the teacher-education faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), has been piloting a new tool that they believe allows them to better assess both the qualifications of their graduates and the strengths of their own academic program. The Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT), developed by a consortium of universities in that state, requires candidates to prepare a portfolio that includes lesson plans, reflective essays, videos, and examples of student work, all drawn from the candidates’ internship or student-teaching experience.

“For the first time, we had concrete evidence of what our candidates were doing [in the classroom],” says Tine Sloan, acting director of the teacher-education program at UCSB’s Gevirtz School of Education.

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