TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

If knowing is half the battle, Tennessee is winning this engagement

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We've long been excited about the wealth of information – and its potential uses – coming from Tennessee's teacher prep report cards (see here and here). The state's Department of Education is bringing that potential to life, as they describe in this new report.

The highlights: the state is collecting a ton of data on both their prep programs and what's happening in their K-12 school districts. Even better, they're thinking strategically about how to use all those data – including incorporating their report cards (which you can find here) into the teacher prep program approval process and integrating teacher prep data and school district data so that the two systems can work in concert.

Why does all this matter? Whereas other states are concerned about teacher shortages without much information on where or why those shortages are happening, Tennessee is able to say with confidence that while there's a decline in the number of grads from their teacher prep programs, "the bulk of this decline has been in the number of veteran teachers obtaining additional degrees rather than in the number of new teachers entering the profession." Moreover, the state can identify the specific subjects in which they have a surplus (English language arts) and where they have a shortage (ESL, world languages, and science) and in which types of schools these shortages are most pressing (those in high-poverty districts) – so that they can target solutions to these very clearly defined problems.

And it gets better. The report outlines specific ways they want school districts and prep programs to learn from these data and to work together. For example, the state provides detailed information (beyond what's publicly available) on prep programs' graduates' placement, retention, and performance – including information from their classroom observations – that those programs can use to guide improvement. The state also urges school districts to project their teacher staffing needs further in advance and to share that information with prep programs so that programs can recruit the types of teachers that districts want to hire and direct those aspiring teachers to the districts that need them.

We can't help but point out one area for improvement – Tennessee's public-facing report cards don't distinguish data by program. They would be even better if they showed, for example, if hiring and retention rates are different for elementary versus secondary prep programs at an institution, or if the undergrad or graduate programs tend to produce more effective teachers.

But, we're not ones to let the perfect be the enemy of the good – and we certainly see a lot of good in what Tennessee is up to.