As teachers across 35+ states are evaluated, and sometimes compensated, in part by the academic growth of their students, there may be an unintended consequence. Teachers may question whether to accept student teachers, in fear of the student teacher bringing down their value-added estimate(s) and overall evaluation rating.
How can we grow our teaching pool if we are not opening our classrooms to these future teachers? At the same time, how can we expect our teachers to risk lower ratings during this training?
When I was in the classroom, I loved working with future teachers. From providing time for field observations to semester long student teaching, I wanted my classroom to be an open door for those joining the profession. I have noticed a decline in those who open their classroom doors and experiences to teacher preparation candidates, and I understand the concerns. I asked a fellow teacher why she wasn’t opening her classroom doors. Her answer? “It is too high stakes now.”
A recent pilot study commissioned by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee Department of Education and 10 Tennessee school systems analyzed what, if any, impact student teachers had on a teacher’s effectiveness.
Looking across 10 districts, the study compared teacher value-added reports for teachers who did have a student teacher in the classroom to their reports when these same teachers did not have a student-teacher. The data were restricted to teachers who supervised a student teacher in at least one of the three academic school years ending in the spring of 2009, 2010 or 2011 but who also did not supervise a student teacher in at least one other of those years. The analysis compared adjacent years when possible.
This pilot study had two key preliminary findings:
- For most teachers, there was not a statistically significant difference between the two settings in the licensed teacher’s value-added report. Specifically, student teachers have very little impact on the value-added measure of licensed teachers when they are average or high-performing teachers.
- However, teachers with a history of low performance had lower teacher value-added measures when supervising student teachers, particularly in Mathematics and Science.
While further analysis is required to draw more definite conclusions, these preliminary results are informative and merit additional exploration. Victoria Harpool, First to the Top Coordinator at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, notes, “Serving as a mentor to future teachers ensures our students have the most effective beginning teachers possible and provides the mentor the opportunity to reflect on their own practice as they continue to refine skills.” This research can begin to serve as a policy guide for student teacher placement.
As the profession struggles with recruitment, it is my hope that this information will encourage you to continue your work with the future teachers. Remember your cooperating teacher? Make him or her proud that you continue the cycle of growing great teachers.