Last spring, student teachers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst refused to participate in a pilot teacher licensing program that would replace real-life classroom observation with a take-home test and edited videos of the prospective teacher in the classroom. The new teacher licensing would be done for profit by testing company Pearson, and 67 of the 68 student teachers training for middle school and high school teaching at UMass said no. Within weeks, the director of the secondary-teacher education program who had trained them and had spoken out against the new licensing system got a letter saying her contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired a year later.
The New York Times‘ Michael Winerip, who last spring wrote about the 67 students’ refusal to film themselves for licensing by Pearson, writes now of Barbara Madeloni that:
Ms. Madeloni is 55 and has been overseeing the university’s program to train middle and high school teachers for nine years. During that time, she has repeatedly been rated “outstanding.” (“We applaud Dr. Madeloni for her work,” read her December 2011 evaluation.) […]
“They’ve been angry at me for a long time, but I believe the article pushed them over the edge,” she said this week. “For several years this has been building inside me, this reliance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers.
“It’s so degrading,” she said. “For a long time I decided not to fight it. I wouldn’t have been able to do this at 40. I don’t think I could have stayed as grounded. You have to be able to manage people saying awful, awful things.”
The university administration insists the decision not to renew Madeloni’s contract was completely unrelated to her anti-standardization activism and the publicity that resulted. (It’s always a coincidence!) Ironically, the way the administration was able to get rid of her was to convert her position into a tenure-track one—so the next person hired to fill this role will be able to speak up from a less vulnerable position. But how much do you want to bet that they do their best to hire someone who’ll be complacent?
(Continue reading below the fold.)