With the year's most romantic holiday fresh in our memories, we turn to a different kind of matchmaking: matching student teachers with the right schools.
In a new CALDER study, Dan Goldhaber and colleagues continue to mine the student teaching experience as a largely unexplored area of research. This time, they learn that the demographics of the schools where teachers complete their student teaching have an impact on future teacher effectiveness in the classroom as well as whether they'll stick with teaching.
Using a large sample of student teachers enrolled in six Washington state teacher preparation programs, Goldhaber et al. find that new teachers were more effective if they completed their student teaching at schools with similar demographics to the school where they were ultimately hired. This certainly makes sense. That means that if we want teachers who will be successful in more disadvantaged schools, we need to stop looking for "easy" placements and instead identify placements in schools serving more challenging populations.
These differences in student teaching experiences explained more of the variation in future teachers' effectiveness than the prep program where the student teachers were enrolled.
There's a bit of a Catch 22, however. A teacher is less likely to leave teaching if s/he did student teaching in a stable school with low teacher turnover rates--hardly the reality in many disadvantaged schools.
This suggests a sweet spot for where to place student teachers: yes, in high needs schools, but only those which are relatively high performing, and presumably stable--something most districts have in short supply.