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Diana Lys urges use of performance assessments in licensure

North Carolina should prioritize teacher-assessment tools over content exams in licensing new teachers, said Diana Lys in a column published by EducationNC.

Lys, assistant dean of educator preparation and accreditation, wrote in response to news earlier this month regarding high failure rates among new teachers in the mathematics portion of state licensing exams. North Carolina adopted in 2014 a set of licensing exams from Pearson. A N.C. Department of Public Instruction report presented to the state Board of Education showed that almost 2,400 have failed the math portion of the exams.

Lys writes:

“Now, as noted in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction report presented to the State Board of Education, more study is needed to determine the predictive value of licensure exams. Are teachers who score higher on the Pearson exams better teachers? Do they have better principal evaluations of their performance? Do their students score higher on state achievement tests?

If the answer is no, the high failure rate and concern that good teachers are being “locked out” of classrooms are prime reasons to shift away from content knowledge tests to performance assessments for beginning teachers in all pathways to teaching.

Instead, we should be using teacher-performance assessments.”

Lys describes teacher-performance assessments, such as edTPA, that focus on teacher-candidates’ ability to effectively teach in classrooms. Carolina’s School of Education adopted edTPA in 2010 as a program completion requirement for its teacher candidates. All North Carolina teacher-preparation programs will soon be required to use the teacher-performance assessments.

Lys does research and has published results regarding teacher-performance assessments, their implementation, and beginning teacher outcomes.

She says in the EdNC column that teacher-performance assessments are aligned with state teaching standards, are the subject of a growing body of research on their ability to predict teacher performance and can inform efforts to improve teacher-preparation programs.

“Based on these examples, legislators and policy makers should make an evidence-based decision to remove unnecessary barriers to teaching through content licensure exams and invest in new teachers who demonstrate that they can perform in today’s classrooms. The evidence indicates that teacher performance assessments, like edTPA, are predictive of future outcomes for teachers and students, so why invest more time, money and energy to validate a content exam that is causing such strife?

Instead, invest in performance, invest in beginning teachers who demonstrate their ability to teach when and where it matters—in North Carolina’s classrooms.”