Teacher Preparation Program Accountability :
District of Columbia

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state's approval process for teacher preparation programs should hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher Preparation Program Accountability : District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Teacher-Preparation-Program-Accountability--6

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

The District of Columbia's approval process for its traditional and alternate route teacher preparation programs does not hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Most importantly, the District does not collect value-added data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.

The District also fails to collect other objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of teacher preparation programs, and it does not apply any transparent, measurable criteria for conferring program approval. The District collects programs' annual summary licensure test pass rates (80 percent of program completers must pass their licensure exams). However, the 80 percent pass-rate standard, while common among many states, sets the bar quite low and is not a meaningful measure of program performance.

Further, in the past three years, no programs in the District have been identified as low performing—an additional indicator that programs lack accountability.

Finally, the District's website does not include a report card that allows the public to review and compare program performance.

According to the District's winning Race to the Top application, it plans to create Prep Program Scorecards, which will link teacher effectiveness data with student growth, and then match teachers to their certification programs, beginning in the summer of 2012. The District also plans to establish a threshold for performance so that any program with more than 25 percent of second-year teacher graduates deemed ineffective will be subject to approval revocation. It also articulates that by fall 2014, the Scorecards will be posted on the OSSE website. However, how or if the District plans to include alternate route programs is not specified, and there is no evidence to date of specific policy to support these plans.  


Recommendations for District of Columbia

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
To ensure that programs are producing effective classroom teachers, the District of Columbia should consider academic achievement gains of students taught by the programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching. Although the District has commendably outlined its intentions in its RttT application, to ensure that preparation programs are held accountable, it is urged to codify these requirements and specify that they apply to alternate route programs as well as to traditional teacher preparation programs.

Gather other meaningful data that reflect program performance.
In addition to knowing whether programs are producing effective teachers, other objective, meaningful data can also indicate whether programs are appropriately screening applicants and whether they are delivering essential academic and professional knowledge. The District of Columbia should gather data such as the following: average raw scores of graduates on licensing tests, including basic skills, subject matter and professional knowledge tests; satisfaction ratings by school principals and teacher supervisors of programs' student teachers, using a standardized form to permit program comparison; evaluation results from the first and/or second year of teaching; and five-year retention rates of graduates in the teaching profession.

Establish the minimum standard of performance for each category of data.
Programs should be held accountable for meeting these standards, with articulated consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval after appropriate due process. 

Publish an annual report card on the District's website.
To inform the public with meaningful, readily understandable indicators of how well programs are doing, the District of Columbia should present all the data it collects on individual teacher preparation programs. NCTQ acknowledges that the District has articulated a plan to post an annual report card for the public as part of its RttT application.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia asserted that while the analysis is partially accurate in that the District does not have a system in place for collecting and using value-added data to measure program effectiveness, the District believes that NCTQ falsely asserts that the District's process for program approval "does not hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce."  

The District further contended that NCTQ's analysis fails to take into account that as a primary component of the District's process for accreditation and program approval, each accredited unit or unit seeking accreditation and program approval is required to establish and maintain a comprehensive and integrated candidate performance assessment system comprised of assessment measures that not only track candidates' progress throughout their respective programs but also measure program and unit effectiveness.    

Last word

In order for the District of Columbia to hold its programs accountable for the quality of their graduates, it must adopt measures that can provide the District and the public with meaningful, readily understandable indicators of how well programs are doing in what is most important: preparing teachers to be successful in the classroom. Without classroom performance data, the District is not able to ensure that its programs are producing effective classroom teachers. 

Research rationale

For discussion of teacher preparation program approval see Andrew Rotherham's chapter "Back to the Future: The History and Politics of State Teacher Licensure and Certification." in A Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom. (Harvard Education Press, 2004).

For evidence of how weak state efforts to hold teacher preparation programs accountable are, see data on programs identified as low-performing in the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality 2010 at:

For additional discussion and research of how teacher education programs can add value to their teachers, see NCTQ, Tomorrow's Teachers: Evaluation Education Schools, available at http://www.nctq.org/p/edschools.

For a discussion of the lack of evidence that national accreditation status enhances teacher preparation programs' effectiveness, see D. Ballou and M. Podgursky, "Teacher Training and Licensure: A Layman's Guide," in Better Teachers, Better Schools, ed. Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn. Jr. (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999), 45-47. See also No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America's Education Schools (NCTQ, 2008) and What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning (NCTQ, 2006).

See NCTQ, Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (2007) regarding the dearth of accountability data states require of alternate route programs.