TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Observing Success

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As we discussed earlier this month, holding teacher prep programs accountable for the performance of their graduates is no easy task. The data is often scant and researchers usually can't distinguish any standouts in a sea of mediocre or weak programs. 

That's why we are pretty enthusiastic about a new study from Matthew Ronfeldt and Shanyce Campbell of the University of Michigan. Previous studies looked only to one data source—graduates' value-added scores—to determine the strength of program graduates. These two researchers use multiple measures involving, first, teacher observation scores and, second, value-added scores. They unearth clear evidence that others have not: not all programs are created equal.

In the sample of 118 programs, 21 surface for graduating teachers who consistently have either higher observation scores than most other programs, or, conversely, consistently lower scores. 

The waters do get muddied a bit when folding back in the value-added measures. Not surprisingly, programs that did really well or really badly on observation scores didn't always have similar results on value-added. In fact only about 40 percent of the programs produced observation and value added scores that were similarly positive or negative.

Nevertheless, if a policymaker were to assess program quality by looking only at the overlapping data, it seems safe to conclude that there are programs clearly succeeding or failing--producing teachers who consistently get both great evaluations and great test score results or the reverse. 

When all was said and done, there were #25 standout programs in the state, but as is the frustrating custom of academic research, these programs were not identified.  

These promising results reinforce our interest in multiple measures for evaluating program quality. One such additional measure could be provided by TPI-US, essentially a comprehensive on-site inspection process imported from the United Kingdom. In its assessment process, teams of four trained education professionals visit prep programs to collect evidence on program quality as well as to provide actionable feedback. They observe student teachers and course instructors, examine data on candidate performance, and conduct interviews with key stakeholders, including graduates and leaders at the schools that hire them—all of which could serve as yet another source of data on a program's quality.