Inputs vs. Outputs? Why Should We Have to Choose?

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This month, Washington, D.C.-based think tank Ed Sector published an article in Phi Delta Kappan about NCTQ's national review of teacher preparation programs. The piece, similar to some of Ed Sector's blog postings on the subject, examines some issues surrounding NCTQ's review.  In particular, it looks at our consideration of program "inputs" (how programs prepare teachers) versus "outcomes" (evidence that an institution actually graduates effective teachers).  The bottom line is that it is a false dichotomy.

Three points to keep in mind:

  1. In most places "outcomes" data doesn't exist. In fact, only a handful of states have the capacity to track the outcomes of their teachers in the classroom. We wish that all 50 states had that data.  Unfortunately, it takes years for a state to develop a reliable system and we're not prepared to wait. Our schools need quality teachers in every classroom now; we have to analyze these programs based on the information we have now.
  2. Where outcome data exists, we're using it. In the handful of states which have value added data on their teacher graduates, NCTQ is committed to examining it and it will be factored into an institution's rating. We also take into account any outcome data that the institution may have collected, such as results from performance assessments, graduates' evaluation ratings or retention data.
  3. A good rating system needs to look at both inputs and outcomes.  Even if outcome data were available in every state, we would still need a standard-based analysis. A value-added approach only teaches us which are the best or worst programs—but not why they're the best or worst.  Plus NCTQ's standards address all aspects of teacher preparation, but current test data, limited to certain grades and subjects, only tells us how well about 20 percent of the workforce has been prepared.

The Ed Sector article also focuses a lot of attention on the institutions objecting to our review, failing to mention that the review has many supporters around the country:

At the end of the day, NCTQ's review of teacher preparation programs is going to help the districts that hire teachers make better decisions; it is going to help future teachers make better choices about where to get their education; and it is going to help students by making sure every classroom is led by a quality teacher— and transparency is how we are going to get there.

Kate Walsh