FDU Develops Teacher Assessment Tool
Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Education in Teaneck, N.J., has been involved in a project that has focused on the assessment of effective teaching to ensure that more rigorous professional standards for teaching candidates are being implemented. Nationally accredited through TEAC (Teacher Education Accrediting Council), the School of Education has been collecting quantifiable evidence that their teaching candidates are meeting state and national standards, and that their candidates know the subjects they teach and that they teach effectively.
As part of a collaborative effort, the School of Education developed a performance-based assessment instrument, the Clinical Competency Inventory (CCI), designed to measure key competencies aligned to the New Jersey Professional Standards for Teachers. After extensive piloting and validation of this instrument, many teacher-training programs in the State of New Jersey are now using the CCI and collecting data on teaching effectiveness of their candidates. This is developing articulation and conceptual cohesion within individual teacher training programs, and it is developing consistency in best practices across programs in New Jersey. The teaching programs involved in implementing the CCI formed the New Jersey Teacher Assessment Collaborative (NJTAC), which now includes Fairleigh Dickinson University, Caldwell College, Centenary College, St. Peter’s College, Bloomfield College, Rutgers University Camden, Jersey City State University, Princeton, and Drew University.
The School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson is currently working with four school districts in Morris County in northern New Jersey — Florham Park Public Schools, East Hanover Township Public Schools, Hanover Township Public Schools, and Hanover Park Regional High School — to pilot the use of the CCI with their teachers. Two different models were set up: 1) Two districts elected to use it with their new teachers as a tool to facilitate peer coaching and self-assessment. In the summer, FDU held a training session for principals on using the CCI. Faculty members for the School of Education attended new teacher orientations held in August in these districts, and introduced the CCI to the new teachers. 2) All the districts are using it as a tool for self-assessment. The districts posted the CCI on the Internet using Survey Monkey, and asked all teachers to self-assess using the 75 indicators to determine their strengths and weaknesses. The data was statistically analyzed and it is being used to identify the direction of professional development opportunities within these districts.
What the districts have found is that the CCI is very beneficial in many different ways: 1) it is reinforcing and oftentimes introducing the teachers to the 11 New Jersey Professional Standards for Teachers; 2) it is giving teachers and administrators a “common language” in which to discuss effective teaching practices; 3) it is helping teachers to become more reflective by self-assessing on areas of strengths and weaknesses; 4) it is allowing districts to gather quantifiable data to guide their professional development initiatives; 5) it is allowing administrators to address areas of growth in a supportive context without pointing an “I’ve got you!” finger at individual teachers; and 6) it is allowing teachers to recognize areas in which they need to grow to become more effective. According to one administrator, the CCI has “truly empowered a school-based community” as they all have something that they can work on to improve instruction.
By establishing a learning community that is in agreement about what “good teaching looks like,” based on standards and articulated competencies, this collaborative effort has created a mechanism for accountability that assists in informing practice. The instrument is centerpiece for a research-based examination of best practices at multiple teacher training institutions and school districts in New Jersey. The primary goal of this project is to enhance teaching and learning throughout a continuum of professional practice, using the same tool from pre-service training through induction, tenure and professional growth in school districts. #
Vicki Cohen is the director of the School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University