Teacher prep programs should check their work

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As a student, it is so frustrating when a teacher never returns your work. How will you know how you did? Teacher preparation programs instruct candidates to give frequent feedback on assignments so students can learn and grow. Yet many of these same programs are missing a major opportunity to improve upon their own practice by assessing the outcomes of their work—the teachers they graduate.

Teacher prep and groups across the political spectrum have raised a hullabaloo about the idea of requiring programs to report on the outcomes of their graduates. But, rather than seeing this kind of data collection and reporting as punitive, programs can choose to use these tools to the advantage of their faculty, the teachers they graduate, and—ultimately—the students their graduates will teach.

What relatively straight forward steps should teacher prep programs take to collect and make use of data on their graduates' outcomes?

Survey graduates and their employers. Well-designed surveys of graduates and their employers can help programs make improvements. In 2014, we found that 18 percent of institutions did not do such surveys. Programs should (1) ask graduates how well-prepared they were to teach and (2) ask principals about the graduates' classroom performance. Positive results from these surveys could be great recruitment material while other results could highlight areas for improvement. The University of Hawai'i at Manoa conducts extensive surveys about how their graduates are doing.

Administer a standardized performance assessment (e.g., a TPA) of teacher candidates. A standardized performance assessment is valuable to (1) determine if teacher candidates are classroom-ready, (2) compare candidate performance to that of others across the country, and (3) identify strengths and weaknesses in a program. The University of Maryland – College Park administers the EdTPA to all its teacher candidates, which requires that they prepare a portfolio during student teaching that illustrates their planning, instruction, and assessment skills.

Collect and analyze student growth data on graduates' students. Twenty two states collect and publically report student growth data for their programs' graduates, and programs should be making extensive use of these data to drive curriculum and instruction. Any program, regardless of state policy, can independently secure teacher evaluations that include student growth or test scores for their graduates' students. Austin Peay State University (TN), Clemson University (SC), and Winthrop University (SC) are programs that have embraced the value of student growth data.

Have a growth-mindset. Teachers encourage students to identify, evaluate, and learn from their mistakes. Teacher prep programs should do the same. There can never be a time when programs sit back and stop striving to do better, so they must integrate evaluation of outcomes into the institutional culture. The Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) at Johns Hopkins University (MD) is an excellent example of a program designed to ensure a process of continuous improvement.

Want to see how teacher prep programs do in other key areas? Check out our Teacher Prep Review for assessments, recommendations, and examples of exemplary programs.