Educators Needed

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College of Education faculty Mark L’Esperance, left, and Diana Lys are working with volunteers to develop better assessments of senior student teachers. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Volunteers bring expertise to teacher assessment process

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

The College of Education is recruiting volunteers from local classrooms to evaluate portfolios produced by student teachers in their final semester at East Carolina University.

In 2011, the college adopted a new model for assessing teacher performance in an effort to ensure reviews are standardized and as objective as possible. Led by Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the national pilot program requires teacher candidates to show they have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed as a beginning teacher in North Carolina.

“It’s a national instrument that has validity and reliability,” said ECU education professor and performance assessment project manager Mark L’Esperance, “So we’re going to be able to take a look at ECU graduates and where they rank compared to other colleges and universities across the country.”

The portfolios produced by each senior include lessons plans from student teaching as well as any worksheets and handouts they used. They must also write essays responding to four prompts and can include any prior assessments, quizzes or tests completed as part of their classroom training.

“In the past, university (student teaching) supervisors would score the portfolios of the interns who were assigned to them,” explained Diana Lys, interim director of assessment at the College of Education. “What we find sometimes is that the supervisor knows the intern, they know the circumstances and sometimes they give a little credence or read into things where they perhaps shouldn’t.”

Now the college aims to divide portfolios among experts in the six subject areas covered by the pilot: elementary, English, history, middle grades, music and special Education. The scorer may have worked with the student before, Lys said, but they won’t have been their direct supervisor. That takes a critical mass of volunteers, considering that an estimated 280 education students will have portfolios up for review this spring.

“We need more scorers because we want to try to limit the number of portfolios any one person scores to, at the most, five,” Lys said. She added it takes hours to review each portfolio.

Six local teachers donated their time March 29 to receive training on how to grade the portfolios. Each will be responsible for a set of student work later this month, along with nearly 100 ECU faculty and student intern supervisors who have already been trained.

“It’s a big task, but I don’t think it’s too difficult,” said Leigh Ann Long, an eighth grade language arts teacher at South Creek Middle School in Robersonville. “Mark directed us to look at (the students) as if they have just gotten their training wheels off. They can ride their bicycles, but they’re not experienced marathon cyclists.”

Long, a graduate from ECU’s College of Education and the N.C. Teaching Fellows program, has hosted interns in her classroom before. Ninth grade science teacher Susan Leggett of Beaufort County’s Washington High School also attended ECU, and said she volunteered after monitoring the switch in assessment styles with interest.

“It’s nice to see where (the students) are in the beginning and how they’re getting instruction to help them get there,” Long said.

Administrators hope that the number of classroom teachers grading student portfolios will grow as the pilot program continues.

“No longer is the professor at the university the expert of what we do, it’s really these people in the field,” Lys said. “So we’re really excited to bring them into the process and have them tell us what’s working and what’s not.”

“What we do has an impact on public schools and what public schools do has a tremendous impact on us,” said L’Esperance. “We’re trying to strengthen that partnership.”

“We’re not paying for any outside scorers…and this decreases the load for university supervisors so there will be some cost benefit,” Lys added. “But the expertise they bring from the field…to me, that’s more valuable.”

The pilot program will expand again in 2013 to include students across all education programs.

Educators or retired educators who would like to volunteer with the College of Education should contact Kendra Alexander, director of Development and Communications, at 252-737-4162 or alexanderk@ecu.edu.

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