Yesterday, The Atlantic posted an article by Joel Klein titled "The Case for a Teacher Bar Exam."
On one hand he argues that American teachers are not valued as professionals and we need to make greater efforts at doing so. But, he seems to imply that teachers are not treated as professionals because they aren't. One solution- give them a test to enter the profession. That seems to be the answer to everything in education today.
Personally, I'd say if taking a test will lead to higher pay, better benefits and more respect, bring it on. Tests don't bother me in the least. I made it through elementary school in the highest leveled classes because even though I didn't like to do work, every year I finished above the 90th percentile on those old "SRA" tests that we used to take. In middle school and high school, I didn't have to spend much time on homework and still stayed in honor's level classes because as long as I paid a little attention in class the tests were never that difficult. I only took the SATs once because I got a high enough score to get into the college of my choice.
At college, things were a little harder. Some classes were graded on multiple choice and short answer type tests. But others actually expected me to engage in discussion, right papers, and participate in activities. That nearly killed me academically. I actually had to work, learn, and apply knowledge instead of just convincing someone through a test that I was competent.
I took the National Teacher Exam early, before even enrolling in education school just to get it out of the way. I found a review book and studied for a few days and earned the passing score on my first try. GREs weren't much harder.
If you create a test for teachers I promise I'll finish in the top ten percent. But it won't have much to do with how well I teach my students.
Klein's error is the classic field of dreams. If you build it they will come. He looks to teachers of Finland who come from the top of their university classes, who enter a competitive profession. From my point of view I would argue that treating teachers more professionally- raising salary, providing autonomy, etc.,- would lead to greater professionalism. Klein believes that increasing professionalism- testing teachers, increasing accountability, etc.,- will make the teaching profession more respectable.
Both views are one dimensional and flawed. There must be a middle ground. There are areas in which teacher preparation and accountability must be raised, but adding requirements and restrictions is not the way to either encourage the "best and brightest" to join our ranks nor to encourage the competent teachers already in the classroom to stay.