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Teacher-Prep Programs Need a Data-Driven Approach

Elizabeth Arons               Danielle Pickens

Teacher-preparation programs must revolve around a singular purpose: building teachers who are ready and able to improve student learning in the classroom, particularly for students with the highest needs. Yet, when more than 3 out of 5 teacher education graduates report they are not prepared to cope with the realities in the classroom, and when between 30 and 50 percent of teachers leave the classroom within five years, we must, as a nation, rethink our approach. 

Therefore, to better understand a program's strengths and weaknesses, we must seek answers to the following key questions, beginning by tracking and publishing the data we currently have available:

1. How effective are graduates of a teacher-preparation program at improving student learning in the classroom?

  • What percentage of teachers receive effective or higher ratings on teacher evaluations in their first three years of employment?
  • What percentage of teachers are nonrenewed (have had their contracts not re-offered) for performance reasons any time in their first three years of employment?
  • What are the value-added results for teachers when data are available? (While standardized test scores should never be the sole determinant of a teacher's effectiveness, they should be considered as one of multiple measures of performance.)

2. How prepared are graduates of a teacher-preparation program for the day-to-day realities in the classroom? 

  • What percentage of graduates are hired in public school systems within three years of graduation (taking subject and school-need into account)?
  • What's the retention rate of teachers hired in years one through three (again separated by performance and school need)?

To supplement these data and help determine where improvements are needed, programs might also conduct surveys of their graduates and of principals or employers. 

Finally, districts and school leaders must fulfill their responsibilities, too. New teachers will be most successful in an environment with strong school-based leadership and support. 

Elizabeth Arons is the CEO of the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, which is based in Reston, Va. The organization supports human capital and talent management for urban school districts.

Danielle Pickens is the senior human capital adviser at the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy.

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