Building Capacity and Common Understanding

Professional advocacy organizations support their members by helping them advance a collective voice. By articulating a field’s consensus positions, associations empower their members to speak clearly about what they know, identify priorities, invest their energy strategically, and communicate confidently with internal and external audiences.

These unified understandings, which we adjust as research and best practices evolve, help us fulfill our obligation to correct misinformation and to respond to critics—a frequent need in the field of educator preparation. More importantly, though, they provide a foundation for action by the profession and help us recognize areas of need. In educator preparation, we’ve instituted a variety of reforms in recent years that have prompted us to develop new resources to increase our capacity, assess our progress, and inform our knowledge base.

First and foremost, we needed a common measure to allow us to document candidates’ abilities after they completed their preparation program. Without a valid and reliable performance assessment, the field was unable to commonly identify what teacher candidates could actually do. We set about fixing that problem a few years ago, and already we have the first nationally available performance assessment for novice teachers: edTPA, developed by the profession for the profession, under the leadership of the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity in conjunction with AACTE. Other performance assessments are also on the drawing board, with strong models in development through Stanford and the University of Michigan. In addition to bolstering the skills of new teachers and school leaders, these measures provide a framework for conversations around evidence and educator quality.

Now, in support of our members’ determination to continually improve program quality and to meet the ambitious goals of a new accreditation system, we are again taking action to build the field’s capacity to do so effectively. AACTE’s new Quality Support Initiative, announced last month, is offering a series of online seminars for higher education faculty, students, PK-12 teachers—or anyone interested in assessment and accreditation in educator preparation. Soon, the initiative will also include a network of consultants to assist programs requesting help with improvement efforts, state approval, professional accreditation, and the like. In addressing these key areas of need, the Quality Support Initiative aims to reach several goals:

  • Support our members in their continuous improvement efforts
  • Support our members as they achieve accreditation
  • Promote professional development for individuals
  • Promote organizational development for institutions
  • Provide educational offerings on a flexible schedule
  • Establish and manage a corps of credentialed consultants to provide assistance to AACTE members
  • Manage a credential system for certification of consultants

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the online seminars allow us to provide much-needed professional development in a convenient, flexible format. I’m delighted to report that hundreds of educators already have registered for the first two seminars, which are being offered free of charge as a service to the profession—because truly, everyone involved in education needs to know about Building Quality Assessments and Data Use for Improvement. (If you’re interested in participating, I encourage you to sign up now, as enrollment is limited and filling quickly!) Subsequent seminars will address other areas that repeatedly raise concerns from both within and outside the field—such as what constitutes quality evidence, how to prepare effectively for accreditation and for a site visit, and more.

By building everyone’s capacity for continuous improvement and strengthening the foundation of common professional understanding, we are helping the field counter critics and taking charge of our own narrative. Most importantly, we are fulfilling our professional responsibility to keep learning and improving.

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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE