Do ed schools prepare teachers to use data on student learning?

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Note:  Today NCTQ releases What teacher preparation programs teach about K-12 assessment: A review. This report paints a picture of inadequate preparation in an area where districts have asked teachers to up their game considerably. We thought that the perspective of one of the analysts who worked on the report and also happens to be a recent graduate of a teacher prep program might be the best way to introduce this report and make the case for better preparation.  As she describes, Samantha did not get a good grounding in assessment from coursework and first grappled with it only when she was on her own in student teaching.

Here's something that's ironic: When I began my training to evaluate teacher preparation coursework in assessment for NCTQ's National Review, I didn't even know the difference between "formative" and "summative" assessment--foundational concepts that should have been addressed in coursework in the teacher prep program from which I had only recently graduated.

In general, assessment wasn't discussed much in my undergraduate Social Studies Secondary Education program. There was no coursework that required that teacher candidates practice writing assessments or analyzing assessment data to guide future instruction. Rather, the program emphasized strategies to engage diverse students in learning. While this is an important aspect of teaching, I entered student teaching in my last semester of preparation without even knowing how under-prepared I was when it came to knowing how to assess my students' learning.

During student teaching (in which I taught 9th grade U.S. History and 12th grade Medieval History), I was immediately required to develop and analyze informal and formal assessments. Fortunately, the team of teachers with whom I worked while student teaching really bolstered my understanding of assessment. I emerged from student teaching with at least the beginning of a set of assessment tools in my professional toolkit. I only wish that my teacher prep program had done a better job of putting some tools in there as well so that I could have felt more confident about assessment from the first day of student teaching.

Samantha G.