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Residency Program Tops Tennessee Teacher-Prep Report Card

The Memphis Teacher Residency produces teachers that outperform the average veteran teacher in Tennessee with students in grades 4-8, and in math and science specifically, according to an analysis of teacher-preparation programs released last week by Tennessee's higher education commission.

The MTR and Freed-Hardeman University, in social studies, were the only two preparers to show positive effects on student achievement, and that also had no negative effect scores in any subject. Most programs had a mix of findings. (Teach For America teachers, for instance, did well in grades 4-8, but not in Algebra II.)

Three additional programs—two cohorts of Teach For America and the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville—also produced teachers better than the average novice teacher in the state.

Given the complexity of the findings, you'll want to take a good look at the entire report card.

The findings are especially good news for the Memphis Teacher Residency, which couples an intensive, yearlong apprenticeship for teachers with slimmed-down coursework requirements. The program is now in its third year. Compare and contrast those results with research issued on the similar Boston residency program last year, which found that its residents took a few years to hit their stride.

Tennessee officials used a value-added measure, which traces growth in student achievement to the graduates of particular teacher-preparation programs, to arrive at its conclusions. As part of a regulatory overhaul of parts of provisions in the Higher Education Act, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to issue regulations that would require all states to use similar methods to examine their programs.

Scholars are divided about whether such systems, when applied to value-added, adequately screen out sources of bias that could skew the calculations, as I reported recently on this blog. Tennessee based its result on three years of data, which is generally the baseline that scholars recommend.

So far, those results are only informative in Tennessee. The state hasn't yet incorporated them into a formal program-approval system. (To my knowledge, only Louisiana has done that so far.)

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