Steven Glazerman, Christina Tuttle, and Gail Baxter
Mathematica Policy Research
The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) devised its Passport to Teaching program to streamline the notoriously convoluted state certification process. The Passport program simply seeks, through rigorous examinations in subject content and professional teaching knowledge, to identify individuals competent to move into the classroom no matter how they were prepped for the role. This program removes barriers that currently keep skilled professionals from entering the classroom and can be especially beneficial to career changers (an engineer, say, who wants to teach high school math). This paper is the first of a series of studies examining whether Passport teachers, once in charge of instructing 20-odd students, actually do a good job. Only five states (Idaho, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Utah) currently recognize the Passport program, and the total number of Passport-certified teachers in those states is miniscule. (The 2005-2006 school year was the first in which Passport teachers were placed in the classroom.) The program's small size allowed this paper's authors to interview 75 percent of the principals who oversee Passport teachers and asked them to rate Passport teachers against conventionally certified teachers-including those who had been teaching for decades. Overall, the Passport teachers received a positive assessment. "Principals rated Passport holders to be ‘as effective' as or ‘somewhat more effective' than ‘all other teachers [they had] observed in their career,'" according to the report. Understandably, because principals had limited experience with the Passport program (usually just a single Passport teacher in the school for a single year), they were reluctant to generalize about its effectiveness. But it's the first in a series, and if nothing else, it will whet readers' appetites for more. In the meantime, you can read the report here.