Whether you're running a marathon, learning something new, or trying to improve student achievement, there's no advantage quite like a head start. Unfortunately, teacher prep programs tend to squander this precious advantage.
Recently, experts with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released findings from a federally-funded study examining the impact of TNTP's Teaching Fellows program—a non-traditional certification route that trains teacher candidates in the summer and provides coaching and instruction during the following school year, while participants also serve as teachers in their own classrooms. Despite working under the condensed time frame, the study found that TNTP's program has produced teachers of about the same quality as those who enter the classroom through other routes, including traditional teacher prep programs.
The seven-district study compared TNTP Fellows to other teachers with similar levels of experience (all were in their first few years of teaching) and similar classrooms (in terms of student characteristics). TNTP Fellows produced similar gains in student achievement and earned similar scores on observations of their teaching practice as their colleagues who entered through other routes. To top it off, TNTP Fellows were more likely to return for a second year by a margin of 6 percentage points (78 percent vs. 72 percent).
Our takeaway from these findings is straightforward. Given that traditional preparation programs generally have a couple of years to prepare teacher candidates, there are few plausible explanations for why their candidates shouldn't then outpace by a substantial margin candidates prepared in a much shorter time-period.
While TNTP remains a relative bargain compared to other non-traditional programs, especially residencies (whose costs exclusive of stipends average $65,000 per candidate), it still carries a higher cost than what districts pay to recruit and hire a traditionally trained teacher.
If colleges approached their student teaching requirements with the same rigor and deliberateness as high-quality non-traditional certification programs, they could provide districts and prospective teachers with all the benefits of non-traditional programs and more.
To this end, NCTQ is developing a new approach to infuse more training into student teaching in order to increase the value of the experience for both teacher candidates and school districts. Future teachers will learn and practice additional key skills they need for success, and districts will be able to use student teaching as a more reliable, low-cost pipeline for recruitment and hiring of high-quality candidates. A field test of the program is taking place this fall. Look for further updates!