TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Persuading great teachers to take on student teachers

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Remember when we learned just how powerful a good cooperating teacher can be for a teacher-in-training? (Some estimates associate having one with giving a new teacher a head start equivalent to six months of teaching experience.) That's why it's so important that teacher prep programs pair their student teachers with strong instructors who have the skills to mentor adults.

However, prep programs often have a hard time recruiting these strong cooperating teachers. That's because classroom teachers may dread taking on this role, fearing that it will harm their own evaluation scores or student outcomes.

A recent study by Matthew Ronfeldt and his colleagues at the University of Michigan helps put these fears to bed. This study examines evaluation outcomes for over 4,500 cooperating teachers in Tennessee during the years they hosted student teachers and the years they did not. Across a variety of factors, the findings support the conclusion that serving as a cooperating teacher harms neither evaluation scores nor student achievement.

Better yet, these do not appear to be one-off findings. A 2018 working paper from Dan Goldhaber, John Krieg, and Roddy Theobald supports similar claims. Ronfeldt's conclusions now provide a fuller, clarified picture: the fear of lower evaluation scores should not dissuade effective teachers from training the next generation of teachers. Now let's turn our attention to paying these great teachers for their service.