Teacher Licensing Research

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Question: How do alternative routes to teaching, like Teach For America, compare to elementary teacher licensing requirements in terms of preparation?

Relevance: Teacher preparation and requirements have changed over time to address students with different needs, such as special education and language barriers. As the pool of applicants to teach has decreased, alternative routes to teaching increased in popularity. Looking through the alternative routes on the Trinity Educational Studies website, private school teaching and Teach for America stand out to me. I decided to look into Teach for America and their process of training or certifying teachers. Over the summer, I did research on teacher preparation programs and the specific college courses offered and required. With this project, I hope to look at licensing requirements in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York in comparison with the Teach for America programs in those areas. I chose those states by region in the country and as places where Teach for America has placements.

Research Strategy: I started at the Teach for America website, looking for their training and requirements pages. In terms of state licensing requirements, I used google to find state Departments of Education websites. I think it would be useful to try to contact Teach for America graduates and participants if possible. This may require a change in which states I look at. I used the library databases on Education (Education Text) to find some articles on Teach for America training.

Primary Sources:

“Training and Support” (2013). Teach For America. Americorps. Retrieved from http://www.teachforamerica.org/.

“Pre-corps training begins with a regional induction that takes place the week before the summer training institute. Institute is an intensive five-week training program that prepares corps members for their teaching experience. Summer training concludes with a regional orientation.”

“Licensure Academic (PreK – 12).” (2011). Massachusetts Government. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Retrieved from http://www.doe.mass.edu/Educators/e_license.html?section=k12.

“Obtaining Connecticut Educator Certification.” (2013). Connecticut Government. State Department of Education Connecticut. Retrieved from http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/cert/obtaining1109aw.pdf

This pdf is helpful and clear in the requirements for licensing.

“Certification from Start to Finish” (2013). New York State Education Department. Office of Teaching Initiatives. http://www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/certificate/certprocess.html

Secondary Sources:

Harding, H. (2012). Teach for America: Leading for Change. Educational Leadership,69(8), 58-61.

This article has history of TFA and “How Training Works.”

Veltri, B. (2012). Teach for America: It’s More About Leading Than Teaching. Educational Leadership, 69(8), 62-65.

This article discusses the effective of TFA training. This article reports TFA teachers desire to have more training about child development and more experienced trainers.

Hopkins, M. (2008). Training The Next Teachers For America: A Proposal for Reconceptualizing Teach for America. Phi Delta Kappan, 89(10), 721-725.

A TFA alum discusses how she felt unprepared for teaching. The five-week program did not feel sufficient to her, so she proposes a change.

Opening Education Policy to High Schoolers

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A Day on the Hill is an incredible event of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE). The event allows for superintendents, school administrators, and students to hear from and talk with state legislators about issues surrounding education policy.

The event included remarks by Govenor Dannel P. Malloy, Senator Andrea Stillman, Representative Andy Fleishmann, and Senator Toni Boucher. These legislators play a large role in the realm of education. Senator Stillman acts as the Senate Chair of the legislature’s Education Committee as of January 2013. Fleishmann serves as Chairman of the Education Committee and Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Elementary and Secondary Education. Senator Boucher is the Senate Ranking Member of the Education Committee and of its Higher Education Committee as well as acting as a member of the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

After the morning briefings and remarks, participants walk to the capitol. In the online brochure, this time is marked as “Education Funding Rally.” Interestingly, that title is not on the agenda of the group. Instead this timeframe is marked as “March to the Capitol.” The students “marched” to the capitol from across the street at the Bushnell with intentions of touring while lobbyists talked to legislators. This action consisted of lobbying rather than a true “rally.” From 1:00-1:30, the agenda is marked “Student Conversations.” It is  between the march and a scheduled capitol tour that I come upon five senior girls from John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, CT.

In the lobby of the capitol building, groups of two to five people are engaged in conversations. NBC Connecticut news staff walk past in a hurry. Further in the lobby, a large group of high-school aged students are seated at tables. I approach a table of business-dressed teenage girls and ask about the event. After some introductions, they each agree to be interviewed and photographed.

The girls recall the discussion topics from that morning. They explain that it was a long morning with a range of topics covered. Each girl seems to remember a different aspect as they all interrupt each other. “The governor talked about the budget” “-and school security, after you know, Newt-“ “They talked about special ed.” The scattered recollections of these high school seniors demonstrate the vast coverage of the event, but also what aspects stood out to them.

Gonzalez handed me her packet to leaf through. An itinerary is followed by biographies of each of the legislators present at the event. The last two pages identify bills that the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education is currently following. I point out a few and these seniors do not seem to remember which ones in particular were discussed at the Bushnell. The budget seems to be the most prevalent discussion, according to these participants in particular. The “Education Funding Rally” title of the time slot seems to make sense despite its absence from personal itineraries.

Looking through the various CABE bills, two directly reference the issues of budget; one addresses implementation while the other discusses the Department of Education reporting an annual budget. Other concerns include innovations in schools, alternative programs, English-language learners, and the achievement gap. The two that impact the structure and implementation of budget concerns were listed. Looking into the Connecticut General Assembly site, the bills and their status are as follows.

Connecticut House Bill 6357, an act implementing the budget recommendations of the Governor concerning education, consists of 52 pages, available on the Connecticut General Assembly website (http://www.cga.ct.gov/). This bill was introduced and referred to the Joint Committee on Education February 7, 2013 and discussed at the public hearing February 15, 2013.1

Connecticut State Bill 998 AAC was introduced and referred to the Joint Committee on Education February 27, 2013 and discussed at the public hearing March 4, 2013.2This bill requires the Department of Education to report annual budgets of regional education service centers to the Connecticut General Assembly.

These bills require looking into for an understanding. The bills may have been directly referenced at the briefings at the Bushnell, but the particular high school seniors I talked to could not refer to them. While they could not point out the specifics of the bills, their understanding of educational policy and its impact, they agreed, was bettered by their attendance at A Day on the Hill. I asked them of their interest in educational policy in their futures.

“I want to be a teacher,” Laccone answered. “I am definitely interested in it,” Biggins stated, “in policy.” The five girls seem bright-eyed and new to the field. As seniors, a new chapter is just beginning for them. They each tell me which college they are attending in the fall. Their plans for future involvement are open-ended. A teacher had selected them from their high school to attend the event. Overall, the event opened the eyes of these high school seniors to the complexities of educational policy and its impact.


1 Connecticut General Assembly. (2013, March). Bill Status  (Governor’s H.B. No. 6357). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB06357&which_year=2013

2 Connecticut General Assembly. (2013, March). Bill Status  (Raised S.B. No. 998). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB00998&which_year=2013

When did quality education become a gamble?

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The Lottery takes an interesting approach to looking at education. The opening scene starts at a public lottery, the system through which students are selected for charter schools. Eva Moskowitz, founder of Harlem Success Academy, states the thesis of the film in the first 3 minutes of the film, “The notion that one has to get lucky to get a first-rate free public education; it shouldn’t be that way” (The Lottery, 2:22). The film takes a wide span approach to looking at the charter school process. The director touches the unionization of teachers, parental opposition in communities with failing schools, and the public costs of prisons and schools. Charters can provide an exemplary education at or below per pupil expenditure, but the public school system cannot (The Lottery, 18:19). Using this contrast, the film blames the bureaucracy of the educational system for holding back those schools.

The first major point of criticism is the teacher union for holding back educational change and improvement. One principal in the Bronx, Gotlin, discusses the difficulty of firing underperforming teachers in comparison to employees of a business (The Lottery, 18:46). In an interview by Charlie Rose, Weingarten, president of the largest teachers’ union, she avoids the question, “Should teachers be fired if they are not doing a good job?” and argues with a statistic given by the Department of Education (The Lottery, 19:40).

The statistic is then displayed across the screen as if to invalidate Weingarten, “According to the Department of Education, of 55, 000 tenured teachers, 10 were fired in 2008” (The Lottery, 20:40). Moskowitz, founder of Harlem Success Academy, discusses the teachers’ union contract as “the government structure for schools.” The prescribed length of teacher prep periods and the barring of supervision in the classrooms by administrators without notification are holding back schooling (The Lottery, 21:24). These examples of restrictions on teachers at public zoned schools are compared to structures at successful charter schools. This moment serves to provide evidence against teacher unions and advocate for a change in that aspect.

Another statistic that may serve to surprise audiences touches briefly on the costs and expansion of prisons. Looking at failing rates of fourth and fifth grade black males, prison cells begin to be built for the future; the cost of prisons per year more that doubles that of a school: $13,000 per year go to a school versus $37,000 per year that go into a prison (The Lottery, 40:47). This discrepancy pushed the point of tax dollars and spending on pupils. Though only briefly discussed in this way, the use of one of the fathers of a prospective lottery student and his testimony from prison pushes not only this point, but also the need for change. His emotional testimony broken into multiple scenes illustrates a devastating potential outcome for these and all charter waitlisted students.; “365,000 children are on waitlist for charters” (The Lottery, 35:30).

This is a particularly useful tactic for advocating change. Through the use of testimony and statistics, the film serves to question the standing governmental structure of public education.

One particularly moving scene of the film is the city council hearing on charter school expansion, beginning at 48:54 in the film (The Lottery). One council member accuses Moskowitz of not living in Harlem (The Lottery, 53:40). This accusation is bold and unrelated to the course of the action. Moskowitz shares her personal experience of zoning of her children into failing schools (The Lottery, 55:16). This excerpt shows the accusation of Moskowitz for demonizing teacher unions, but proceeds to demonize the council member. While I found this excerpt moving in terms of supporting the charter school movement, I felt the emotional pull here after a range of statistics throughout the film leaves the opposing views unheard.


Earlier in the film, a scene from a public space hearing shows aggressive parents defending their public zoned school. When trying to host Harlem Success Academy 2 in a building of a failing public school, a protest of community leaders breaks out before a public space hearing (29:45). Democratic leaders, parents, and children claim to “fight for justice.”At the hearing, PTA President and parents accuses the Harlem Success Academy 2 of separating neighbors (30:37). The parents of students at the public school become aggressively defensive of the school being taken over by charters. They do not feel the charter school will help the community. Parents of the charter discuss the improvement of education through charters. While showing the opposing views of the parents, the film shows calm parents of Harlem Success students in contrast to yelling parents of the students at the public school. Charter advocates and leaders in the educational movement explain how and why parents do not understand the charter system.

This film tells the story of a flawed system of public zoned schools while praising the charter school movement, pushing for change towards better opportunities. The closing scene of the public lottery in Harlem pulls at the heartstrings of audiences by illustrating both the excitement of one family and child but also the disappointment and loss of hope for those families not being placed in these schools. While the message of the film may be hard to tease out, it is not only for change for more charters. In looking into the website of the film, thelotteryfilm.com, audiences are asked to sign a petition for more choices, more funding, and better standards for education. 

Criticism of the film typically highlights the lack of tangible evidence of improvements made by charter schools and lack to recognize downfalls of the system, other than the lack of space and funding. Tate accuses The Lottery of lacking “social science researchers with expertise on charter schools” (Tate, 2).  This scholarly review goes on to point out the lack of empirical research and the lack of “any balanced presentation of evidence” (Tate, 3). Chaney writes in the Washington Post, “”The Lottery” could have done a more thorough job of telling the other side of the story” (Chaney, 1). Both critics bring up valid points. I found the movie to demonize the opposing view without allowing viewers to get the full facts and make their own decision about advocacy. It did not take into account reasons for support of teacher unions or the harsh reality of those students left behind by the lottery system. Their claim that more charter schools for more student opportunities to “win” the lottery is bold, but are they proposing a charter school only system? While their petition is not, it is hard to extract this sentiment from the film itself.

Works Cited

Chaney, Jen.  “Competing for a chance to succeed”,  Washington Post, June, 25, 2010, accessed February 19, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/movies/the-lottery,1164454/critic-review.html

Tate, William. Rev. of The Lottery, directed by Madeleine Sackler. Web. 2 Feb. 2013 

The Lottery. Dir. Madeleine Sackler. Great Curve Films, 2010. Online.


Plagiarism Exercise

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Objective: In order to avoid plagiarism, one must first learn how to plagiarize.

In this post, I show different ways of plagiarizing, while the last two demonstrate how to paraphrase properly. 

Original text:

No measure is perfect, but the estimates of value-added and other “growth models,” which attempt to isolate the “true effect” of an individual teacher through his or her students’ test scores, are alarmingly error-prone in any given year. Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points. So, a teachers who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile. The value-added scores also fluctuate between years. A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.

Original source: Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.


Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

When evaluating teachers in New York and Houston, the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points. Also, these rankings are instable from year to year. It is difficult to trust performance ratings if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.


Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

An NYU economist, Corocoran, found that the average “margin of error” in ratings of New York teachers was plus or minus 28 points. This is startling, because if you think about it, a teacher in the 43rd percentile could actually range from the 15th to the 71st percentile.


Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Using test scores to rank teachers is invalid due to instability. Some changes may shed light on real changes, but the chance of the same rating is a 50/50 shot (Ravitch, 271).


Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

There are many difficulties and holes in the attempt to rank teachers using students’ test scores. The changes of scores from year-to-year could illustrate improvement; however, this change could be easily due to chance (Ravitvh, 270-271).


Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Measuring teacher performance is a difficult task to attempt. Using students’ test scores is prone to issues. Year-to-year changes could be accounted for by chance or improvement, but differentiating cause may be difficult (Ravitch, 271). NYU economist Sean Corcoran looked at teacher evaluation systems and “found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch, 270). This gives a 56-point range a teacher could fall in when looking at their percentile ranking. This wide, and therefore not informative, range and instability from year-to-year create difficulties in ranking teachers based on student-scores.

Mental Tests: How to self-navigate the library

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Question: How can you find Robert Yerkes’ Army alpha and beta tests? For our next class we’ll analyze intelligence tests developed during World War I, which were published by Clarence Yoakum and Robert Yerkes in their book, Army Mental Tests (1920). Does Trinity Library own this book? If not, how can you request it from a nearby library, or even better, instantly view the full-text version for free? Describe your search strategy, and if possible, skim the contents and describe some that stand out.


To start my search for Robert Yerkes’ Amry alpha and beta tests, I scheduled an appointment with a librarian. However, Blizzard Nemo postponed that option. Instead, I started with the library website. I began looking for Clarence Yoakum and Robert Yerkes’s book, Army Mental Tests (1920). From the library site, I clicked the link to “CTW Consortium Catalog.”

Using an Advanced Search, I looked for “army mental tests” under Title and “yerkes” and “yoakum” under Author.

The search was successful, and a collection is available at Wesleyan University. Trinity students can request the book through the Action menu on the right side.

This is called an InterLibrary Loan and can also be done through https://illiad.trincoll.edu/illiad/illiad.dll.

Alpha and Beta intelligence tests were used to be able to test large populations with untrained examiners in 1917. These tests were used to determine candidates fit (or unfit) to serve in the army and hold officer positions. [1] Using the library database (PsycINFO), I was able to find abstracts (summaries) for the contents of Army Mental Tests. Searching “yerkes” and “yoakum” under Author, I found the book as well as information on each chapter, though not the full text itself. 

The book includes the making of the tests, the methodology and results, a guide for examining people using the test, army tests, practical applications, and blank forms. Binet, a French psychologist, created intelligence tests for school children that were used in some schools. Revisions were made, and both group and individual tests were developed for use in the army after America joined WWI. The test pages, instructions for administering, and blank forms are all included in the book. This information was gleamed from the abstracts found on PsycINFO.

[1] “Revising the Test” (on Army Alpha and Beta intelligence tests), from “Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement, Chapter 5,” Facing History and Ourselves, January 3, 2012, http://www.facinghistory.org/revising-test.



What I Wish to Learn

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Within this course, I first hope to learn about the history and current state of Education policies and reforms. I would like to see how policies have changed schools that I work and volunteer at as well as at the schools I attended. I look forward to watching documentaries about the current state of the education system and read about the history. My learning goal is to become better equipped to become involved in the education system.

Beyond the basic knowledge, I hope to gain skills to be a better writer and researcher. Whether looking at archives and books or searching sources online, I need help improving my skills of digging deeper. With my writing, I hope to be able to create stronger theses and clearer transitions.