Friday, February 20, 2015

Preparing for Success with NYSTCE Tests: Ending accomnocastigation

      The explicit purpose of the NYSTCE tests is to help identify for certification those candidates who have demonstrated the appropriate level of knowledge and skills that are important for performing the responsibilities of an educator in New York State public schools.  As noted in the two previous blogposts, the NYSTCE tests, include the ALST, EAS, CST, and edTPA.  Categorically, the ALST, EAS, CST, and edTPA are examples of trailing indicators of success.  As such, they are the tools for demonstrating the appropriate level of knowledge and skills that are important for performing the responsibilities of an educator.  While assessing  how well teacher candidates can demonstrate and perform skills required for successful completion of the ALST, EAS, CST, and edTPA exams, by extension these exams evaluate teacher preparation programs as well.  Therefore, teacher preparation programs must monitor and adjust their leading indicators of success. 
               While planning this series, this writer intended to present one NYSTCE exam each month, identifying the primary purpose and framework of that exam.  However, it is becoming clear that revision to a program’s cultural mindset may be more essential than curriculum mapping and alignment of learning outcomes to diverse standards.  Therefore, this month the emphasis will focus on the need for teacher preparation programs to monitor and adjust their programs but also to raise expectations for promoting critical thinking, professionalism, and self-efficacy. 
            Initial NYSTCE results indicate the need to strengthen teacher candidates’ academic and quantitative literacy skills (Thompson, Case, Alvarado-Santos, 2014).  To address this need, Buffalo (2014) advocated for the development and utilization of text sets.  Examples of how to develop text sets were provides in the two previous blogposts. 
            Crucially, to prepare successful teacher candidates, teacher preparation programs must provide structured writing opportunities.  McDonald and Romano (2014) encourage providing teacher candidates with extensive practice in the application of descriptive writing.  This style of writing is anecdotal by nature.  Descriptive writing provides a snapshot view of the classroom.  Through descriptive writing, teacher candidates do not make judgments or provide justification.  The provided information is specific and relevant to instruction.  Clear, correct, and coherent descriptive writing optimizes the teacher candidates’ opportunity for subsequent analytical writing related to instructional planning, practice, and the learning environment.  Optimal utilization of descriptive and analytical writing skills leads to reflective writing pertaining to the assessment of student learning and professional growth. 
            The leading indicators for effective teacher preparation cannot be content alone.  Teacher preparation programs certainly need to exhibit balanced support between development of the teacher candidate’s pedagogy, promotion of active inquiry, and engagement of faculty across the disciplines.  They must also raise expectations for promoting critical thinking, professionalism, and self-efficacy.  Monitoring and adjusting these leading indicators of success requires a clear mission, action-based vision, and defined autonomy.
            Too often those given the authority to lead experience failure because of the misguided belief that all followers need to feel included.  Consensus is not everyone thinking the same but everyone recognizing the need to pursue a common goal.  Too often leaders wait for the former rather than guiding the group to the latter.
            As described by Marzano and Waters (2009), "defined autonomy" optimizes innovation while maximizing the achievement toward specific goals.  By contrast, “accomnocastigation” (Anderson, 2015) is a policy of lower expectations or ignoring learning outcomes in deference to the student's belief that his or her unrealized lack of self-management and social awareness skills justifies the student's exhibition of inappropriate class interactions and a lack of professionalism and/or preparedness for class assignments.  Leaders that promote a culture embracing a policy of accomnocastigation allow lower expectations and diminished skills to become the norm.  Therefore, accomnocastigation is the enemy of reform efforts and any desire to promote sustained success.
            Teacher preparation programs need to encourage defined autonomy for courses willing to provide formative assessment processes and emotional skill development for its teacher candidates.  By their nature, such approaches mitigate accomnocastigation.  Through advocacy of a clear mission, action-based vision, and defined autonomy, teacher preparation programs will embrace innovations promoting higher expectations for its teacher candidates and their subsequent exhibition of essential teaching competencies. 
            A clear mission, action-based vision, and defined autonomy are an effective leader's ultimate responsibility.  A little structure is very liberating, thereby providing a solution to the paradox of choice explicated by Schwartz (2004).  Defined autonomy, promoted by an effective leader's clear vision, is the solution to the paralysis by analysis that too often results in failure.

To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (February 20, 2015) Preparing for success with NYSTCE tests: Ending accomnocastigation
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