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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
tions. Descriptions of the abilities and corresponding performance levels have evolved over the years as a result of many factors. There is ongoing interdisciplinary consultation and review. Each faculty member is expected to serve on a program evaluation and development committee.
Alverno’s performance-based assessments are designed to reflect the actual work of beginning professional teachers. They cover the content and skills considered relevant to the tasks that teachers are expected to perform. In addition, the context for assessments is intended to reflect real-life teaching situations, representing a broad sample of performance situations (broader than would be expected for assessments that focus on basic skills and subject matter knowledge). Committees of faculty members routinely audit the contents of the assessments (during regularly scheduled departmental meetings) to verify that they are appropriate and that they reflect current thinking about what teachers should know and be able to do.
Multiple judgments are obtained of each student’s skills and knowledge. Each student is observed and assessed hundreds of times as they participate in classroom and field activities. Evaluations utilize multiple contexts, multiple modes, and multiple evaluators. There are formal, “milestone” assessments staged at relevant points in the curriculum, such as the Behavioral Event Interview and Self-Assessment and the Professional Group Discussion Assessment described above, as well as less formal, ongoing, in-class assessments. The institution has processes in place for refining and updating criteria for judging students’ performance.
There have been both internal and external reviews of the program. The institution has maintained an Office of Research and Evaluation since 1976 (Mentokowksi, 1991). Through this office, a comprehensive longitudinal study of 750 students was conducted that tracked students from entry into the program through two years after graduation. For this study, researchers collected information on (1) student performance in the curriculum on college-designed ability measures; (2) student perceptions of reasons for learning, the process of learning, and its value for their own career and life goals; and (3) students’ personal growth after graduation (Mentkowski and Doherty, 1984).
Another piece of the longitudinal study involved collecting data from a group of alumnae five years after graduation. This research focused on how abilities learned in college transferred to the work setting, the extent to which alumnae continued to grow and develop after college, and how graduates were doing in their careers and further learning in the long term. This study used multiple research instruments (17) to collect data, including questionnaires, tests, essays, and interviews (Alverno College, 1992–1993).
In addition, surveys have collected data from Alverno graduates on their perceptions about the college’s program and the extent to which they felt prepared to teach upon graduation (Zeichner, 2000). Surveys and focus groups with principals have examined employers’ perceptions of the preparedness of Alver-