Can a science teacher do a good job if she does not value the creationist beliefs of some of her students?
According to Stanford University education scholars, the answer appears to be ‘no.’
Hard to believe?
The Teacher Performance Assessment developed by the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) has become the new standard for teacher certification or licensure in twenty-four states and the District of Columbia.
In order to receive certification in these states, new teachers must submit a portfolio of lessons and reflections. These materials will be judged according to a series of rubrics.
According to one of these rubrics, teachers must acknowledge, value, and incorporate the cultural beliefs and backgrounds of their students. In “Rubric 3: Using Knowledge of Students to Inform Teaching and Learning,” the Stanford folks provide a ranking of new teachers’ ability to relate to their students. At the lowest level, new science teachers will be penalized if they don’t include enough knowledge of students’ backgrounds. Also at this lowest level (Level 1), new teachers will be dinged if the teachers’ “justification of learning tasks . . . represents a deficit view of students and their backgrounds.” At the higher levels, new teachers are supposed to justify their “learning tasks” by including “examples of personal/ cultural/ community assets.”
In the case of creationist students, it appears new science teachers must not view those beliefs as a “deficit.” Indeed, to be considered truly proficient, new science teachers are encouraged to include those cultural and community beliefs in their science classes.
For those of us who have observed the creation/evolution struggles from the outside, this new rubric for judging science teachers raises a few vital questions: Was it the intention of the Stanford folks to force new science teachers to value creationist beliefs? Will new science teachers really be judged negatively if they view creationist beliefs in their classroom as a “deficit view?” That is, will new teachers really be pushed to see creationism as a legitimate cultural belief, instead of merely a lack of understanding of evolution?
It seems doubtful. Maybe I’m not giving the SCALE group enough credit, but my hunch is that they did not intend to force science teachers to avoid impugning creationist beliefs in science classes. Nevertheless, it seems the rubric they’ve created will certainly be read that way.