Student teachers make greater improvements when supervised by more experienced teachers. That top-line finding from a CALDER working paper reinforces the importance of who is selected to mentor student teachers, which adds to previous research underscoring how important it is to pick great mentors in order to deliver more effective novice teachers to classrooms.
What's more striking about the findings from this study is the across-the-board low expectations for student teachers—and perhaps teachers in general. Just as we learned that education majors are 50% more likely to qualify for honors than students in other majors on the same campus, this study finds similar signs of inflation taking place in student teaching when looking at the feedback student teachers receive.
Teacher candidates from programs in Tennessee and Florida were evaluated at multiple points over the course of a year-long placement using evaluation rubrics that mirror those used to evaluate fully licensed teachers, something both states decided was a good idea so that student teachers learned early on what would be expected of them.
Here are the results:
Without question, it's encouraging to see the improvement that teacher candidates made between their first and last evaluations. What's alarming, though, is that six weeks into their student teaching placements, nearly half of all student teachers are being told they are already performing above the expectations of a practicing teacher.
However you want to look at it, the feedback that 97% of student teachers are at or above expectations at the end of their placements is either giving these candidates an inflated sense of their readiness for the classroom or is simply more evidence that teacher evaluations can too easily become little more than a rubber stamp.