Back to the Future: Past legal controversies in the United States offer some predictions for the future of teacher testing in Australia
Diana C. Pullin, J.D., Ph.D.
Diana C. Pullin, J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Education Law and Public Policy in the Lynch School of Education and the School of Law at Boston College.
Professor Pulllin is a leading US and international expert in law and assessment, testing and accountability systems for teacher education, performance and certification. The focus of her work is the impact of law on education practice and the impact of social science on the law. She is former Dean of Education at Boston College. She has served as legal counsel for students, educators, and school systems in many different types of education disputes, particularly over high stakes uses of testing. She has published numerous books, chapters, and articles on education law and public policy, educational and employment testing, educator quality, and individuals with disabilities. Professional standards of practice have also been a focus of her work; she is one of the co-authors of the 1999 Standards on Educational and Psychological Testing and she served as well for a number of years as a member of the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation.
Professor Pullin is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, is a Lifetime National Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, serves on the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, and is associate editor of the interdisciplinary journal Educational Policy.
This symposium will provide a description of different approaches to teacher testing and the consequences of those initiatives. It will then consider the possible ramifications of teacher testing in the Australian context for future teachers, current teachers, and higher education institutions and their faculty. It will assess not only the legal consequences of teacher quality initiatives, but also the implications of teacher testing for policy and practice for educators and educational institutions.
Since the mid-twentieth century, the United States has experienced a series of legal controversies over the use of teacher testing. At the same time, the nature and consequences of teacher testing have shifted. How might these controversies inform consideration of teacher testing in Australia?
Teacher testing in the U.S. began as an initiative within the higher education community to assess the quality of teacher preparation. Few legal controversies resulted until the stakes associated with the tests increased and external authorities began utilizing teacher tests for their own purposes. As the consequences associated with teacher testing increased, the implications for educators and educational institutions became more significant and legal controversies ensued, as did controversy over the governance of educator preparation programs.
Teacher testing in the U.S., which began with multiple-choice standardized tests, has now evolved to include the use of online performance assessment of teacher portfolios and the use of test score data from teachers’ students. Teacher test results now impact individuals in the U.S. for admissions to teacher preparation programs, licensure, hiring for employment, salary and bonuses, and termination of employment. And teacher tests and assessments are now increasingly being used for accountability and public reporting on the quality of teacher preparation programs.
Most prior legal controversies over the U.S. approaches to teacher testing have focused on civil rights issues and issues of fairness of the preparation and treatment of individuals who take teacher tests. But a new generation of innovative legal challenges to U.S. teacher testing view teacher test results as a consumer product; lawsuits on behalf of the consumers of teacher education and teacher tests have now been filed.