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Make Teacher-Prep Programs Accountable for Graduates' Performance, Teachers Say

MiddleSchool-Teacher-Diversity-article-Getty.jpgTeacher-preparation programs should be measured by the performance of graduates in the classroom, and states should hold these programs accountable, teachers say in a new survey. 

Teach Plus, a nonprofit group that supports teacher leadership, released a report on a survey that asked 755 teachers from 26 states and the District of Columbia about their views on teacher-prep accountability. They found that teachers want more transparency on how well teacher-prep programs are preparing educators to teach. 

Accountability for teacher-prep programs has been a polarizing issue for years. State education departments are reluctant to close even faltering programs, a 2014 Education Week analysis found. Since 2013, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based advocacy group, has released its own ratings of teacher-prep programs, finding that just a small number of programs are adequately preparing teachers (though critics have pushed back against some of NCTQ's methodology). 

The Teach Plus report uses the survey results to urge states to ensure that teacher-preparation programs are producing teachers who are "ready to teach on day one." But the measures used to determine that have historically been up for debate. 

Almost half the teachers surveyed (46 percent) said that "demonstrated teaching skill" is among the most important measures of program quality for teacher preparation. Making an "impact on K-12 student learning," gaining "subject-specific pedagogical knowledge," and learning "mastery of teaching subjects" are other measures that teachers consider to be important when determining the quality of teacher-prep programs.

"The measure of good teaching is student learning, so the best way to measure the success of a teacher-prep program is the level at which the students of program alumni perform over the long term," one teacher said. (It's worth noting that teachers' unions have objected to the idea of judging teacher-prep programs on their graduates' impact on student achievement.) 

Eleven percent of teachers said the diversity of candidates and graduates is an important measure of program quality. (A new data tool from the Urban Institute allows users to look at teacher training programs' enrollment and graduation rates by race, showing that people of color are largely underrepresented in these programs.) The Teach Plus report says that the respondents want graduates to be able to teach diverse student populations and help advance equity in schools. And 23 percent of teachers said "entry and persistence in teaching" is an important measure of program quality, to help avert teacher shortages, especially in high-needs subjects and schools.

The vast majority of teachers surveyed—85 percent—said they support the idea of teacher-prep programs being rated. Nearly as many (81 percent) said they believe that states should hold teacher-prep programs accountable for their performance based on measures like graduates' impact on student learning and demonstrated teaching skill. 

Eighty percent of teachers surveyed support the idea that data on every teacher-prep program be publicly released. They said the reports from states should be transparent, accessible, and nuanced—not over-simplified. Teachers also said that this public data should be regularly updated. 

As one respondent put it: "A first-year teacher faces evaluations that affect his/her hiring status. Teacher-prep programs must be held accountable as to how well the school prepared a new teacher."

Last year, President Donald Trump signed a bill overturning a controversial regulation put in place by the Obama administration to rate the effectiveness of teacher-prep programs. States had been required to rate teacher-prep programs every year based on criteria like the number of graduates who get jobs in high-needs schools, how long those graduates stay in the teaching profession, and their impact on student-learning outcomes. The programs were supposed to improve their training based on their ratings. But critics of the regulation said it was federal overreach. 

Still, my colleague Brenda Iasevoli reported last year that many states are continuing to work to improve teacher training, even without the federal regulations. 

The Teach Plus report concludes with a recommendation to state policymakers to consider teacher perspective when selecting and reporting program data. 

Image via Getty 

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