Provided an institution's outcomes are strong, do we need to care about the path it took to get there? Absolutely.
For starters, a teacher prep program could have above-average outcomes relative to other institutions in the state and still not be providing its teacher candidates with all of the basic skills and knowledge needed for the job. Relative strength to other programs is not necessarily an indicator that an institution is delivering the best quality teachers possible. Only by demanding that teacher prep programs meet certain standards will we keep the number of ineffective novices to a minimum.
Outcomes data may alert us to action, but such data won't always tell us what action to take. For the few programs at the bottom, it may suggest that it's time to pull the plug. But what about the rest? What do mediocre programs need to do to get better? What aspects of high performing programs should be replicated by others? Only by examining programs against rigorous standards, i.e. "inputs," can we actually indicate the course of action teacher prep needs to take to improve.
Both inputs (e.g. standards) AND outcomes are crucial.
We'll reflect a bit more on this in future postings. In the meantime, tell us what you think.