Football coaches and moviemakers use videotape and screen tests to assess talent in advance, and D.C. public schools administrator Eugene Williams would like to see the same principle adopted to evaluate teaching applicants.
Williams, a teacher supervisor in the Anacostia school region, says that in most school systems across the nation -- and D.C. is no exception -- prospective teachers are hired merely on the basis of college grades, letters of recommendation, scores on the National Teacher Examination and sometimes a personal interview.
This hiring system "allows a lot of undesirables" to obtain teaching jobs, Williams says. A recent Gallup poll found that about 85 percent of the public wants teachers held to stricter standards of competency, he added.
Williams has devised an evaluation system that would require teaching applicants to submit a videotape showing them teaching in a classroom, and audio cassettes on which they are taped giving a classroom lesson.
Applicants would also be required to submit a slide show on their student teaching experience and a portfolio containing an autobiography, lesson plans and a statement on personal philosophy of teaching.
Williams devised the "audio-visual portfolio" plan when he was coordinator of secondary education and student teaching at Howard University. cHe said that in devising the plan, he wanted not only to help school administrators hire the most competent teachers, but also to help college graduates obtain teaching jobs more easily.
"When I was coordinator of secondary education at Howard. I got a lot of comments from students about not being able to find jobs, not being able to demonstrate their job competency," he said.
Williams said there has not yet been a follow-up to see if students who submitted audio-visual portfolios to various school systems have been hired more readily than other applicants. He said, however, that about a dozen universities -- including Howard -- are now asking their student teachers to make such a portfolio before graduating.
Geraldine Meredith, a 1977 Howard graduate, said she felt the audio-visual portfolio helped her obtain two job offers at D.C. high schools.
"It's very helpful in obtaining a position . . . It gives the person who's hiring you a chance to see (the teacher) in action," said Meredith, who decided to turn down the teaching offers for a job with the post office.
She said many school systems place great emphasis on the scores teachers get on standard teacher examinations. But those tests, she added, only assess a teacher's knowledge of subject matter and not "whether or not you can actually teach."
Williams' proposal is being considered for implementation by D.C. School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed.