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|Volume 26, No. 1||Fall 2002|
By Bronwyn Coltrane, Center for Applied Linguistics
In recent years, the field of foreign language education has been actively involved in developing new standards for teachers and students. This movement began with the creation of Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century (National Standards for Foreign Language Education Project, 1996), which outlined the “five C’s”—communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities—that form a framework for what all students in foreign language classes should be learning. The student standards were expanded in 1999 to include language-specific goals and were followed by several initiatives to design standards for foreign language teachers and teacher preparation programs. These initiatives involved the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), which designed standards for teachers of world languages other than English; the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), which is developing standards for new foreign language teachers; and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which is finalizing standards for foreign language teacher preparation programs. These new standards represent a break from the traditional system of standardized tests to assess teachers’ abilities and a movement toward a performance-based system that considers a wide range of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that foreign language teachers should be able to demonstrate.
NCATE/ACTFL Program Standards for the Preparation of Foreign Language Teachers
The standards for foreign language teacher education programs were developed by the Foreign Language Standards Collaborative in conjunction with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). These standards will be submitted to NCATE for approval and use in granting national recognition of foreign language teacher preparation programs and in making institutional accreditation decisions. NCATE provides evaluation and accreditation for schools of education and other institutions that prepare teachers, administrators, and other professional school personnel. It is the only accrediting organization for teacher education programs that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (Oakes, 1999). In 1998, ACTFL became a member organization of NCATE in order to function as the organization responsible for developing and implementing standards for foreign language teacher education programs. ACTFL selected a 10-member writing team to develop a set of standards, within the general framework established by NCATE, to assess foreign language teacher education programs at institutions seeking NCATE accreditation.
In order to provide consistency across teacher education programs in terms of what should be expected of foreign language teacher candidates, the NCATE/ACTFL program standards for foreign language teacher education programs consider three major aspects of teaching: content-area and pedagogical knowledge, skills in teaching, and dispositions for teaching. The document identifies six content standards that categorize the broad areas in which teachers are expected to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and dispositions: (1) language, linguistics, and comparisons; (2) cultures, literatures, and cross-disciplinary concepts; (3) language acquisition theories and instructional practices; (4) integration of standards into curriculum and instruction; (5) assessment of languages and cultures; and (6) professionalism. Each of the content standards is organized into two or three supporting standards that describe in detail the specific types of knowledge, skills, and dispositions (i.e., attitudes and personal qualities that facilitate effective teaching) that candidates must demonstrate. In addition, a set of rubrics appears for each supporting standard, illustrating the type of performance that approaches, meets, or exceeds the standard.
The new NCATE framework calls for a performance-based system of candidate assessment. This is a radical departure from NCATE’s traditional system, which attempted to evaluate a teacher education program via pencil-and-paper tests of teacher candidates’ subject knowledge, reviews of courses offered by the universities, and examination of professors’ qualifications. In contrast, the new NCATE program standards and assessments encourage teacher preparation programs to collect performance-based evidence for their teacher candidates—portfolios, case study reports, analyses of teaching performance, candidates’ self-assessments of their teaching, lesson plans, and samples of student work—that demonstrate what those candidates can do in the classroom. These assessments are collected and synthesized in order to provide a broad picture of how effective the teacher candidates in a program will be once they begin teaching.
INTASC: Licensing Standards for Beginning Foreign Language Teachers
Around the same time that the NCATE/ACTFL program standards were being developed, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) commissioned an 18-member team of teachers and teacher educators to write the INTASC licensing standards for beginning foreign language teachers. The purpose of the INTASC standards is to offer states a set of standards that they may use to assess teachers with 2 or 3 years of experience in order to make decisions about granting them a continuing or permanent license. Before the development of the INTASC standards, such assessments for new teachers were typically done on a state-by-state basis, did not involve much consistency or collaboration, and may or may not have reflected expectations of the foreign language profession for its teachers. Like the NCATE/ACTFL program standards, the INTASC standards are performance-based and involve the use of portfolios that demonstrate actual performance in the classroom.
While states are not required to adopt the INTASC foreign language standards, many have voluntarily decided to use them. Whether or not a state uses the INTASC standards, these standards will provide a model for states to use in assessing new foreign language teachers. Marty Abbott, Director of Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools’ foreign language program, who co-directed the project that developed the INTASC standards for foreign language teachers, emphasizes that standards for new teachers are important because “there needs to be a vision to get where we want to be in the future of foreign language education–with well-trained, effective teachers. These similar expectations across states will highlight the importance of working toward this goal” (personal communication, May 2002).
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: Standards for Accomplished Teachers
Created in 1987 in response to the report, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986), National Board certification is a voluntary performance-based assessment process that quantifies and measures what experienced teachers know and are able to do in the classroom. The National Board offers 26 different age-level and subject-specific certificates, including an elementary and a secondary certificate in teaching world languages other than English.
Becoming certified by the National Board means that a teacher has demonstrated exemplary performance in five core areas: (1) commitment to students’ learning, (2) subject knowledge, (3) management of student learning, (4) reflective practice, and (5) professional development. The assessments used by the National Board are, like the NCATE and INTASC standards, primarily based on portfolios that teachers develop. In the case of National Board certification, these portfolios include videotapes of classroom teaching and documentation of work done outside the classroom, as well as samples of student work. Each portfolio entry is accompanied by an extensive written reflection that connects the portfolio entry to the standards set by the National Board (ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education, 2001).
NCATE, INTASC, and National Board Standards: Common Threads
Consistency and Alignment
The foreign language teacher standards created for NCATE, INTASC, and the National Board are closely aligned with each other even though each document has a slightly different structure. The ten principles outlined in the INTASC standards reflect all six content standards in the NCATE standards; for example, the NCATE standard that encompasses language, linguistics, and comparisons parallels the NCATE standard for content knowledge, which also parallels the National Board standards for preparing for student learning. The result of this consistency is that all three standards documents use similar terminology and emphasize the same goals. In the end, those who crafted the standards hope that this will result in consistency across the entire foreign language teaching profession.
Connection to the Student Standards
The development of the foreign language student standards provided an impetus for creating new standards for teachers. The goals set forth in the student standards are at the core of the teacher standards developed by the National Board, INTASC, and NCATE. Eileen Glisan, professor of Spanish and foreign language education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and co-chair of the NCATE standards writing team, emphasizes this strong connection to the student standards: “What do we really expect language teachers to be doing in classrooms? I don’t think we could have had this discussion before we had the student standards developed. Once the student standards were in place, we had some expectations that the field could buy into” (personal communication, May 2002).
Input from the Field
Another similarity across the three standards movements is the opportunity for practicing educators to provide input regarding the content and design of each document. Classroom teachers were on the writing teams that developed all three sets of standards, and the teams that developed and revised the standards documents worked to ensure that all members of the foreign language teaching community had an opportunity to provide input and feedback after the documents were drafted. The first draft of the NCATE/ACTFL program standards was presented at the ACTFL convention in November 2001; after that time, all foreign language educators were invited to send feedback regarding the document via email after the standards were posted on the ACTFL Web site. Similarly, once the INTASC standards have been edited and presented during the ACTFL convention in 2002, they will be reviewed by language professionals across the United States for 8 months before they are finalized by the INTASC foreign language committee. For the National Board, a 15-member committee consisting of a range of foreign language professionals, the majority of whom were classroom teachers, developed the content standards for certification in world languages other than English.
A Vision for the Future
The teachers, teacher educators, and administrators who have worked on the development of the standards agree that it is time to begin looking at teacher assessment in a new way. The new NCATE/ACTFL, INTASC, and National Board standards set forth the notion that teachers should be evaluated not only on what they know but also on what they are able to do in the classroom. Because all three standards are performance-based, they represent a shift away from traditional teacher tests and toward teacher assessment that considers the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that teachers bring to the classroom.
Current Stages of Development
While the National Board standards for world languages other than English are now complete and are being implemented, the NCATE/ACTFL standards and INTASC standards are not yet approved. The final draft of the NCATE/ACTFL program standards for the preparation of foreign language teachers will be presented to the NCATE board for final approval in October 2002. If they are approved, they will then be unveiled during the ACTFL convention in November 2002. There will then be a transition period of 18 months during which institutions involved in teacher education may participate in training and preparation programs to help them get ready to implement the new standards. After that time, institutions with foreign language teacher education programs that hope to be accredited through NCATE will be required to adhere to the new standards.
The writing team that developed the INTASC licensing standards for foreign language teachers recently completed the draft of their standards document, which has been disseminated by INTASC for public comment. The INTASC standards will be introduced during ACTFL’s 2002 convention, after which they will be reviewed by a committee of language educators from across the United States. Following the review process, INTASC will finalize the standards. Once they are finalized, the standards will serve as licensing guidelines for states that elect to use them, which 33 states have already decided they will do.
It is clear that the NCATE/ACTFL, INTASC, and National Board standards for foreign language teachers and teacher education programs represent a movement within the profession toward performance-based assessments that measure not only what a teacher knows, but how well he or she uses that knowledge to teach effectively. Eileen Glisan notes that “if a teacher believes that all students can learn a language, then there are observable behaviors in the classroom that show that the teacher is working with all students, that the teacher varies teaching strategies in order to address student needs. It really does come out in what the teacher does in the classroom” (personal communication, May 2002). By integrating knowledge, skills, and dispositions in a way that allows teachers to demonstrate success in all three areas based on what they are doing in the classroom, these assessments will take the foreign language teaching profession a long way toward its goal of high achievement for all students who study a foreign language.
Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession. (1986). A nation prepared: Teachers for the 21st century. New York: Author.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. (2001). National board for professional teaching standards’ national teacher certification. ERIC Digest. Washington, DC: Author.
National Standards for Foreign Language Education Project. (1996). Standards for foreign language learning: Preparing for the 21st century. Yonkers, NY: Author.
Oakes, T. J. (1999). A guide to organizations involved with licensing and certification of teachers and accreditation of teacher education programs. ERIC Digest. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education.
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