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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
cific standards so as to demonstrate content-specific teaching practices (Connecticut State Department of Education, 1999:4).
Scorers are trained to evaluate the portfolios using criteria based on content-focused professional teaching standards. Each portfolio is evaluated by at least two experienced educators with extensive teaching experience in the same disciplinary areas as the beginning teacher. Scorers receive up to 70 hours of training and must meet a proficiency standard in order to be eligible to score a portfolio. In scoring the portfolio, scorers first review the included materials to make notes about the evidence provided. Scorers then organize the evidence around a series of guiding questions derived from the discipline-based standards. The two scorers independently evaluate the quality of the teaching documented in the portfolio according to scoring rubrics and benchmarks and then convene and decide on a final portfolio score. Any portfolio that does not meet the standard of “Competent” is rescored by another pair of assessors. If the second evaluation results in a different score, a “Lead” assessor adjudicates the final score. Teachers whose portfolios do not meet the competency standards are eligible for a personal conference with a portfolio assessor during which they receive individualized feedback about the evaluation (Connecticut State Board of Education, 2000). Such teachers may submit another portfolio during the third year of teaching. If a teacher fails to meet the standard by the third year, the teacher is ineligible to apply for a provisional certificate and cannot teach in Connecticut public schools. To regain certification, an individual needs to successfully complete a formal program of study as approved by the state.
Support for Mentors
School districts are responsible for appointing mentors to beginning teachers. Mentors must have at least three years of teaching experience and must be willing to make the time commitment involved in mentorship activities. Mentors are required to attend a series of training workshops designed to help them prepare for their role in offering guidance to the beginning teacher and in preparing for the portfolio assessment. Mentors and support team leaders receive 20 hours of training focused on the CCT and 10 hours of annual update training.
Throughout the continuous professional growth phase, the components of the CCT are used to establish standards for the evaluation of teachers (according to the Guidelines for Comprehensive Professional Development and Teacher Evaluation) and to guide teachers in selecting appropriate professional development to meet individual as well as local district goals (Connecticut Department of Education, 1999). Teachers who hold either a provisional or professional license must also complete 90 hours of professional development every five