TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Hash it out: Contradictory findings on teacher prep and persistence

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Districts often ask NCTQ to identify the preparation programs that produce teachers who will stay in the classroom through thick and thin. So we eagerly dove into two recent articles, one by Richard Ingersoll and colleagues, the other by Matthew Ronfeldt and colleagues,thatexamine which aspects of teacher preparation predict persistence – and we emerged a little perplexed.

Despite sharing the same data sources (the US Department of Education's School and Staffing Survey and its companion Teacher Follow-Up Survey), the researchers reach opposite conclusions. Ingersoll et al. find "a large and cumulative relationship between pedagogy [i.e., methods courses, student teaching, etc.] and attrition." First-year teachers with the least training were three times more likely to leave teaching than those with the most.

By contrast, Ronfeldt et al. find that the whole can be less than the sum of its parts. True enough, teacher candidates who take more methods courses or who have more weeks of student teaching are more likely to stay. But teachers who get full doses of both student teaching and methods courses are actually slightly more likely to leave teaching than those who just get one or the other. Puzzling?  For sure.

The good news is that both articles conclude that teachers who had a substantial stint of student teaching are less likely to leave. The bad news is that this finding doesn't help us all that much in identifying programs that prevent attrition, as most traditional programs now require such a stint (i.e., a full semester).