Qualitative Aspects of Student Performance
“The College of Education at Kansas State University is dedicated to preparing educators to be knowledgeable, ethical, caring decision makers for a diverse, changing world.”
This phrase is the beginning of this college’s vision statement. Obviously, these words aspire to more than simple technical knowledge. These words include such qualitative matters as good judgment, human relation skills, and the ability to inspire confidence in others.
We, the Faculty of the College of Education, support a standardized system for monitoring qualitative aspects of individual student performance. While these qualitative aspects are not separate from such quantitative indicators as grade averages, the latter are monitored by a centralized system that is designed to ensure that exceptionally strong or weak performance will be noticed and will receive timely recognition and attention. We wish to be at least equally confident that qualitative aspects of student performance are receiving timely recognition and attention.
This must not be a system to discourage the refreshingly odd or the delightfully uncommon person. We would, rather, aspire to ensure that those with special gifts are not lost to the profession because of the lack of early recognition or encouragement, while at the same time ensuring equally early identification of those about whom there is increasing doubt in regard to the appropriateness of their choices and judgment. This document describes principles and aspirations we hold for such a monitoring system, principles which should guide the thinking and actions of those of us who have responsibility for supporting and encouraging promising educators, as well as the responsibility for reducing the chances of endorsing persons for whom endorsement would be a mistake. This document also sets out policies and procedures for implementing the system.
Principles and Aspirations
I. A comprehensive network of care. This monitoring system should be comprehensive, in so far as practical and reasonable. In such a network, responsible people will routinely review the progress of those in our care as early and as frequently as standards of good practice suggest. It requires that during those reviews, persons who have been in the best positions to observe the progress of the student (including College of Education classroom instructors, personnel in cooperating schools, supervisors in teacher aiding settings, etc.) should be consulted for their insights into any special needs for support, direction, advice, professional counseling, encouragement, etc. for each student. This system also calls for a record to be made in those cases in which special concerns are expressed about the danger of losing a particularly promising student or the danger of neglecting a student who is showing signs of a potential mismatch with this profession. That record of special concerns should be kept in a central location, in an office under the auspices of the Dean, so that the record can be cumulative and thus reflective of possible patterns that might not be identified without this record coming together. When there are serious doubts about a student’s fitness for teaching, those doubts should be identified long before the student reaches the time for student teaching.
Thus, the system we describe should be comprehensive as to the sources of input about each student’s progress and comprehensive in terms of establishing a cumulative record in cases of concern.
II. A case-by-case approach. The intent of this system does not lend itself to making checklists of special qualifications, as if this were a system for choosing a “Student of the Year,” nor to checklists of offenses and punishments, as if this were a codification of law. Expressions of concern for a particular student require, instead, professional judgment in each case. The system described in this document might identify, for example, an unassuming but outstanding candidate for special recognition, or a student with unforeseen financial difficulties might be referred to the Office of Student Financial Assistance to explore the possibilities for an emergency loan. On the other hand, this system should identify a student who, for example, is persistently touching children in inappropriate ways or a student who is consistently late for his or her obligations as an aide. Each of these situations requires a different response. The system described in this document is meant to provide for the vehicles for those professional decisions.
III. Collaboration in professional judgment. In the cases of the examples in the previous section (II), the choices of the appropriate responses are likely to be best if several professionals collaborate in making those choices. In such cases, questions like the following are likely to be asked:
To whom, when, and how are concerns to be expressed? What is the best place and time to take action? What is the most “teachable moment” for this student? What is his or her level of readiness to truly understand expressions of concern? Is it too early to express our concerns to the student? Should there be more opportunities for encouragement first? Have we consulted with enough of the people who are in the best position to know the student’s work? Is there any substantial immediate danger of this student causing harm to the children in his or her care? Who is the best person to have the first talk with him or her?
The questions in the previous paragraph are not questions that are best answered by generic policies and procedures applied by formula to all individuals. We are likely to feel most confident about the answers to questions such as these when we have compared and combined the judgments of several competent, dedicated, skilled, caring, and courageous professionals who have observed the individual student’s work, ideally in more than one setting and on more than one occasion.
Thus, the system proposed below provides not only for a method of identifying students of special concern, both positive and negative, but also for the coordination of inquiries and interventions. It is a system that recognizes that in rare circumstance it may be necessary to remove the student from a potentially damaging situation. It is a system that, at its best, should ensure against misjudgment, premature closure, and simple misunderstanding.
IV. Guidelines when denial of privilege is considered. Students who wish to be admitted to the college’s teacher education program must be informed that the privilege of taking progressive steps toward endorsement or licensure is not guaranteed. Access to what would be a next step in progress toward endorsement may be denied in certain circumstances. Those circumstances exist, in part, because of the professional and ethical standards of our work. (See Appendix A below for examples of behavior that is likely to be considered problematic.) Those special circumstances exist also because of this college’s special relationships with professional colleagues in schools that are entrusted with the care, safety, and education of young students.
Thus, for example, the privilege of having or repeating a field experience must not be viewed as being the same as taking or repeating a conventional course. While campus resources must be considered before allowing the privilege of repeating a conventional course, the resources of other organizations and individuals must be considered as well in the case of a field experience. School districts and their individual professionals generously contribute large amounts of time and effort supervising, training, supporting, and evaluating students from this college. Most commonly they do so with only token tangible rewards. Their rewards come mainly from the satisfaction of guiding promising teachers-to-be. To exploit their generosity by asking them to do more, especially for a student who may have contributed to one unsuccessful experience already, is to risk abusing our privilege and, in the long run, to risk jeopardizing future opportunities for students from our college. The most crucial difference between repeating a conventional course and repeating a field experience is seen in those situations in which there may be potential for harm to be done to children. There is no student right that should compel us to ignore that risk.
It must be clear, then, that this college will, from time to time and for good reason, deny a student access to what would ordinarily be considered a next step in the process toward endorsement. We, the faculty of this college, accept our share of the responsibility for the stewardship of the resources of this college and university. Likewise, we share responsibility to respect and support the individuals and resources of those institutions which contribute so generously to teacher training, especially the school systems which accept our students as aides, observers, interns, student teachers, and the like. To abuse the privileges we are granted is to risk interfering with the effectiveness of the professionals in those organizations, and, at its worst, to risk the danger of harm to those children (or adult learners) in their care. Thus, we affirm our responsibility to make the judgments necessary for these responsibilities.
Judgments in matters of human affairs are inevitably imperfect, but to wait until we are certain about a matter of judgment may mean that we never act at all. We recognize that to deny a student a privilege such as starting or finishing student teaching is a serious matter. However, it does not require certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Because we recognize that these denial decisions are very important, we have specified a context for such judgment making (in principles I, II, and III above), and we provide a system for monitoring, due process, and appeal, below.
Policies and Procedures
A. The Dean of the college, and/or the Dean’s designate, will make every reasonable effort to inform all appropriate constituencies about the principles, aspirations, policies, and procedures outlined in this document and to solicit their cooperation in making this system effective. It is understood that a standardized system of monitoring of our students’ performance will require excellent liaison efforts between this College and cooperating schools.
B. At a designated time each semester, the Dean or Dean’s designate will provide a mechanism which will solicit, from those teaching undergraduate students or working with them in field experiences, the names of any students for whom special attention might be required, special accommodations made, or special concerns expressed, consistent with the principles and aspirations described in this document.
Note: It should be understood that the alert described above might be made at any time. However, the requirement above ensures that such an opportunity is standardized.
C. When a concern is reported, a representative of the Dean’s office will make a judgment about what kind of response is appropriate, within the guidelines of this document. The most common response will be to contact other persons who have been associated with the student-of-concern to ascertain whether or not other professionals have similar concerns about the student. As a result of these contacts and discussions, the Dean’s representative will, with the combined judgment of those acquainted with the student’s performance, decide whether or not further action should be taken at this time, and if so, will establish what the appropriate steps are, given the conditions of concern.
In cases where student performance is deficient, the student should be informed (by the persons stipulated above) about the nature of the deficiency, should be encouraged to state his or her views of the situation, and, except in extreme or dangerous circumstances, given an opportunity to improve.
To be Implemented When Denial of a Privilege is Contemplated
- When a concern reaches a point at which the denial of a privilege is contemplated (for example, denying a teacher aiding placement or a student teaching placement), formal procedures must be initiated. At that point the Dean or his/her representative will form a committee to discuss the perceived problems. Ordinarily this committee will include those persons most directly involved with the student as well as one or more persons who will, by virtue of their previous experience in these kinds of proceedings, be able to provide continuity. One member of this committee will be designated to act to ensure that the student understands the process. This committee will meet with the student to receive his/her views concerning the problem. This committee will then determine what, if any, action should be taken. The plan of action may range from stipulating a plan for improvement of the student’s performance to dismissal in rare and extreme cases.
- If the committee identifies weaknesses that the student is required to overcome, a committee member will monitor the student’s progress and report back to the committee about that progress. The committee will then determine what further action, if any, should be taken, after meeting with the student and discussing alternatives.
- In the event that a student is removed from student teaching or produces an unsatisfactory performance and wishes to have another opportunity, the student must make a formal request for such an opportunity. Upon receiving such a request, the Dean or the Dean’s representative will establish a review committee¹ to consider the advisability of that student being allowed to have another student teaching experience. When a student is involuntarily withdrawn from a student teaching experience, he or she will be informed that if another opportunity is to be granted, it may be only after certain conditions are met, conditions that are judged appropriate to his or her particular situation. Commonly, such conditions may include the requirement that a prescribed time period has elapsed before a student request is considered. As part of such a request, the student must provide convincing evidence for his or her readiness to undertake, and be successful in, another attempt². That evidence will be judged by the professionals on the review committee.
- A student may at any time appeal a decision of the committee to the Dean of the college. In the case of such an appeal, the Dean will appoint a committee to hear the appeal, being careful to ensure that the committee has the greatest probability of being fair and impartial in its hearing of the case. The committee will review the case and its file material, hear the student's presentation on her/his behalf, and may call others connected with the case to discuss the case. The committee will make its recommendation to the Dean of the college. If satisfaction is not achieved at this level, additional steps of appeal may be taken as described in the undergraduate catalog.
Notes to superscript items:
¹ The Dean may choose to appoint a review committee in a manner stipulated in some College of Education departmental policy statements, provided that the appointments and procedures are consistent with the principles and practices stated in this document and within principles of fairness and due process.
² In regard to the requirement that the student must provide convincing evidence for his or her readiness to undertake, and be successful in, another student teaching attempt, we believe that it is entirely reasonable to expect that a student should, by this stage of his or her training, be able to identify and present evidence to support the contention that significant and relevant learning and change have taken place in a learner. In this case the learner in question is the student himself or herself. Thus, for example, a statement such as, “I just know I can do better this time,” would not by itself be considered convincing enough to justify a new attempt at student teaching.
This appendix contains some examples of behavior that is likely to be considered problematic, in the context of this document. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of problematic categories.
- Failure to follow the policies and procedures of the school (or other organization) in which a student teacher or aide is serving.
- Failure to meet commitments to, and requirements of, the position in which a student teacher or aide is serving; for example, persistent tardiness or unexcused absences.
- Inappropriate touching of students.
- Putting students in situations of unnecessary or inappropriate risk.
- Failure to maintain and support conditions conducive to learning.
- Failure to establish and maintain reasonable rapport, communication, and effective working relationships with students, colleagues, and administrators.
- Record of a felony (may deny licensure in Kansas.)