With the rapid changes in our education systems regarding new standards, assessments, accountability and evaluation, teachers are rightfully feeling the pressure of being underprepared. The majority of teachers were not trained or certified with these rigorous systems in place. Recognizing that higher education institutions need to play an active role in the continuous improvement process, President Obama released a reauthorization plan for the Higher Education Act with a specific focus on reforming teacher preparation programs. This plan highlighted Tennessee and Louisiana as national leaders on this front, with North Carolina, New York and a handful of other states following suit.
I recently spent some time talking to the TN Higher Education Commission (THEC) to learn exactly what they are doing to lead the pack. THEC collects K-12 value-added data to evaluate teacher preparation program effectiveness. While TN’s Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs is a model for other states to follow, they don’t stop there. Tennessee’s higher ed institutions also educate pre-service teachers and administrators on value-added data literacy to improve student and school outcomes. Pre-service teachers are teachers in undergraduate, training, or alternative certification programs who will soon join the ranks of teachers in the classroom. So TN takes a two-pronged approach with accountability and support.
Accountability: Emily Carter, THEC’s Higher Education Program Coordinator, uses teacher effect scores to evaluate how well different programs are preparing teachers, and identify areas for improvement. After collecting all of the information (academic background, placement and retention, etc.) on completers for a certain cohort year, SAS then provides a value-added score for each teacher preparation program. Who were TN’s top performers in 2011? Three teacher prep programs were actually able to produce teachers with higher student achievement gains than veteran teachers – Teach for America Memphis, Teach for America Nashville, and Lipscomb University. Read more in the 2011 Report Card.
Carter also discussed planned future improvements to provide more detailed information that is disaggregated for each program (math vs. English/language arts vs. science, etc.). Additionally, TN will develop new growth measures for teachers in traditionally non-tested grades and subjects to soon be incorporated into the report card. Given more data, there are additional research opportunities using these results. For example, is a pre-service teacher’s SAT/ACT score a reliable predictor of their future effectiveness? Does their college GPA or choice of major impact their teaching effectiveness?
Support: If a goal of the Report Card is to improve the services offered to future educators, then additional support is critical. Katrina Miller directs THEC’s First to the Top office managing several programs to improve the teacher pipeline in higher education institutions. Katrina worked with SAS to develop modular data literacy curriculum that is integrated into the pre-service curriculum. This eight-hour package of modules teaches future educators and leaders how to use value-added data to differentiate instruction in order to meet the needs of all students.
Dr. Deborah Boyd, a Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Lipscomb University’s College of Education, currently uses this curriculum and expands upon it. The college's coursework in research discusses the different types of data that teachers will receive about their students, instruction, and their own practice. The college also incorporates value-added reports into case study assessments for graduate students. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to Lipscomb’s superior preparation of teachers, as reflected in the Report Card.
What is your state doing to measure the effectiveness of teacher prep programs and to support them in producing 21st Century educators?