The Performance Assessment for California Teachers (AKA PACT) is exactly what is sounds like: the giant teacher test they make you take before you're allowed to get a teaching credential in the state of California.
Back in the day, it used to only be possible to become a teacher in California via one academic route. There was less teacher preparation and it was simultaneously limiting, but also in some senses "easier" due to the lack of uniform standards. In 1998, the state of California enacted the SB 2042 Multiple Subject and Single Subject Credential, which allows teachers to become teachers via different pathways, provided they meet the uniform standards and qualities expected in a teaching candidate. This allowed universities to create their own assessments to measure teaching candidates abilities that are as rigorous as the state-developed assessment, but are also more "relevant" as they are created by university professionals with histories of education behind them, rather than government officials. Before, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing used to contract with the Educational Testing Service to create teacher assessments, but now the universities with approved teaching credential programs have developed their own assessment: The PACT.
The PACT consists of five Tasks: The Context for Learning, Planning Instruction & Assessment, Instructing Students & Supporting Learning (the video section), Assessing Student Learning, and Reflection, each of which range from a mere 3-5 single spaced pages (Context for Learning), or 5-8 pages (Planning Instruction). These sections will focus around a teaching segment or "PACT event" that lasts roughly 4-5 days (at least four hours of instruction). The lessons must be sequential, and though there may be a little fudging involved (my University Supervisor knew of a student whose school had some kind of mandatory program on Wednesdays, and so she had to quietly pretend that her lessons were consecutive.), the goal is that each lesson will build clearly on the other, thus demonstrating excellent scaffolding, planning, and purpose. You are also graded on your use of academic language, both re-enforcing it in the kids, and using it yourself throughout the entirety of the essay.
Context for Learning
The Context for Learning includes two parts: a Context for Learning form which has the technical information about the classroom you're in (number of students, CELDT scores, 504s, IEPs, gender, socioeconomic status and ethnic makeup (if considered relevant), and so forth), and the Context Commentary, where you describe anything you think your reviewer will need to know about your school, program, and classroom. What will your Mentor Teacher let you do? Are you allowed to grade? What rules does your school and/or program enforce that will affect your teaching methods, etc.
The Context Commentary is, ironically enough, the most important section of your PACT as it sets the stage for everything you do, but it is also the only section that is not graded. Obviously how you write it will impact the scorer's impression of you, but there is no set section in the rubric regarding the Context Commentary specifically.
Planning Instruction & Assessment
The Planning Instruction & Assessment section, AKA the Planning section, is where the PACT gets meaty. Here is where you put your 4-5 lesson plans and expalin, in detail, your reasoning behind them. What educational theorists do you consider when creating a lesson? How are you differentiating instruction for students who need extra aid? What foreknowledge of your students' behaviors and temperaments are you taking into account when creating these lessons? What are the standards? What grater purpose do the lessons serve, how do these sequential lessons build upon each other, and most importantly, how will you assess them in ways that adequately measure what growth you are looking for?
This section is pretty much the biggest one by its very nature.
Instructing Students & Supporting Learning
The Instructing Students & Supporting Learning (AKA Instruction) section is where the video recording comes in. Teacher candidates must record themselves teaching and submit two video clips from 6-10 minutes long. Do not be any shorter than 6, do not be any longer than 10. Too short and you look like you didn't have enough material to go on and aren't giving an adequate display of your skills, too long and you piss off the scorer.
The first clip is the Direct Instruction clip. This is the traditional teacher setup: the candidate up front, asking students questions, building on their schema, and then preparing them for the next task. The second one is individual instruction, which is the teacher going around table to table, group to group, and student to student and providing them aid while also helping them consider the deeper concepts in, and aspects of, the text. Both clips should have the candidate building student knowledge, helping students develop a deeper comprehension of the material, and displaying excellent classroom management.
Then you get to write about it. You have to self-analyze every bleeding thing you did in that video and cite the video as your source.
"As you can see in Clip 2, timestamp 3:05, I helped my students further understand blah blah blah by asking them about blah blah blah. . . " And so on for another five pages.
(This is the part currently giving me trouble, as my beloved camera man is incapable of holding a freaking camera still.)
Assessing Student Learning
Assessing Student Learning is exactly what it sounds like. How do you know your students learned what you wanted them to learn? This is ridiculously important, because so, so, sooo many teachers either develop assessments that don't adequately or accurately measure student learning, or they don't create thoughtful assessments at all and just go, "Eh, fuck it. Have a quiz."
No no no no No No NO NOOO.
Assessments should be crafted. Ideally, there should be a formative element to them thus allowing students to receive in-depth detail on their misconceptions and instructions on how they may improve their understanding and their grade, but obviously some assessments have to be summative due to district or mentor mandate.
In the case of this assessment section, the teacher candidate must turn in three examples of student work. Many candidates go the "low, medium, high" route and include work from students that represent the gamut of student abilities in the class, but it is not 100% necessary. There should be multiple examples of assessments-- both formative and a summative (which may take place after the PACT week itself. Often times the PACT week takes place in the middle of a unit, and the summative assessment isn't until the end. That is perfectly fine, and the candidate just has to mention, "during the summative assessment two weeks later..." or somesuch) and the formative (and even the summative!) must must MUST have in-depth feedback for the student and instruction on how they can improve. You can't just give a kid a zero and say, "fuck off, Junior." By not providing adequate feedback, you are basically admitting that it's just too damn hard to write three sentences to help a kid get better. It's the height of bad pedagogy, and you will fail the assessment section unless you get your rear in gear.
The assessments must also demonstrate that the candidate knows what the fuck they are doing. I know that sounds ridiculously obvious, but there are horror stories among the PACT educators this year about knuckleheads who legit fucked up teaching their own content areas and passed off bad information to the students. It's almost comical when you consider how many hoops they had to jump through in order to make it as far as the PACT, and it's only now being revealed that they were lucky dunderheads. In this, I must admit that PACT has served its purpose.
What did you do that did not go well? What did you do that did go well? What have you learned about yourself, your students, and your teaching methods? As much as the PACT scorer wants to see what Next Steps you have given to your students in their formative assessments, so too do they want to see what next steps you have planned for yourself. be honest. "I had to change this lesson because I realized halfway through my student needed more scaffolding" is not an instance of failure, it is acknowledging that you are adaptable and seek to aid your students, rather than paddle on on a sinking boat.
In the old PACT packet, it said that candidates should be keeping daily logs to look back on, but nobody actually wants you to turn those in, so nobody really does it (though some people do and turn them in anyways. These people are strange and dangerous, and should be watched).
There's more to it than this. There are rubrics you are being scored on that you have to meet. You have to turn in detailed lesson plans and rubrics of your own devising. Some people turn in unit plans. It's a long, complicated, and stressful process, but if you love teaching, it is a necessary evil. People cry. Not just the women. People drink, but not a lot because you're a Phase Two student teacher, and you have grading to catch up on, and you still need to dig through those old Psych articles for sources on Piaget to cite, goddammit.