Demand for new focus on results;Briefing;International

11th June 1999 at 01:00

Teachers should be judged far more by their pupils' results than by their professional qualifications, according to a panel of American governors, educators and researchers.

This would mean a reversal of current policy, which increasingly stresses academic training and requires written tests of new teachers before they can be certified to work.

The pronouncement has reopened a debate that seemed to have been closed with the move to raise the minimum standards needed to enrol in teacher training, and to require competency tests and licences of anyone who wants to teach.

Nearly half the 50 states have imposed such regulations, and the US Congress is considering allocating money for teacher recruitment, training and professional development.

But the manifesto - whose 52 prominent signers include two former US secretaries of education and the governors of Michigan and Pennsylvania - says this strategy is flawed. Called The Teachers We Need And How to Get More of Them, it says schools should focus on results, and school administrators should be given more authority to recruit competent and imaginative teachers and to fire teachers whose students perform poorly on assessment tests. It says every new hurdle placed before prospective teachers limits the supply at a time when there is a projected teacher shortage.

The manifesto says: "This approach shrinks the pool of candidates while having scant effect on their quality."

The declaration, which grew out of meetings sponsored by the Thomas B Fordham Foundation in Washington, singles out the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future among the influential groups it says have wrongly called for too much teacher training and too little emphasis on results.

"If our work makes it more difficult for unqualified people to teach, we plead guilty," responded Linda Darling-Hammond, the commission's director. "The assumption that teachers are effective without knowing how to teach is simply wrong."

She said the proposal in the manifesto would discriminate against poor schools. "Affluent schools and districts routinely seek out and hire the most highly qualified teachers and the lack of standards for entry into teaching routinely allocates the least-qualified teachers to low-income and minority students."

Dr Darling-Hammond added that judging teachers based on their students' assessment test scores "will create an even greater disincentive to encourage people to teach less-advantaged students".

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