As states build systems to evaluate the effectiveness of educator preparation programs, they must first know what “effectiveness” looks like. Are the characteristics of the candidates in the program, such as high school GPA, ACT or SAT score, or other admissions criteria, the most important indicators? What about the curriculum in the program itself? Do the courses matter or the faculty who teach those courses? What about exit criteria? Do licensure exams or performance assessments make a difference once those candidates become teachers?
According to Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners, “there’s simply no magic cocktail of teacher preparation program requirements or personal characteristics that will guarantee someone becomes a great teacher.” Aldeman points to the lack of research around the entrance requirements and candidate selection criteria. Further, there are scarce insights into the program components and exit requirements that lead to classroom success. However, one state has is trying to change that.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), in partnership with SAS and over 40 educator preparation programs, embarked on a research study entitled Advanced Analytics. This research linked a variety of program indicators with the initial teacher-specific growth measures of recent completers, as measured by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS). The purpose of the study was to see if any of the chosen indicators were predictive of students’ growth in the classroom.
The indicators used in the study fall into three broad categories: Completer Characteristics, Program Characteristics and Field Experiences, each of which comprised several elements.
- Completer Characteristics included high school GPA, college GPA, ACT score, SAT score, GRE score, PRAXIS scores, and number of hours transferred.
- Program Characteristics included degree type completed (bachelors, masters, non-degree), number of hours in the content area, and total number of hours in the program.
- Field Experience indicators included mentor teacher effectiveness level, number of clinical experience hours prior to student teaching, length of student teaching, and the effectiveness of the first school of employment.
The study generated some new insights, such as teachers tend to be more effective if their mentor teacher is also effective. Also, the length of time spent student teaching led to higher effectiveness in the classroom.
The work in Tennessee is a great starting point for understanding the components of educator preparation that lead to effective teachers. Educator preparation programs were able to use the information from this study to make programmatic changes to better prepare future teachers for the classroom. The state used the information to inform policy decisions in program approval and the metrics used to hold programs accountable. Hopefully with more research, we will be able to point to specific characteristics of future teachers and educator preparation programs to ensure that every teacher is learner-ready on day one.