General Teacher Preparation Policy
The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records and support programs to encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to become teachers. This goal was ungraded in 2020.
GPA/Testing Requirement: Massachusetts does not ensure that teacher preparation programs admit only candidates with strong academic backgrounds. The state does not require a minimum GPA for admission to teacher preparation programs. The state must ensure that "admission criteria and processes are rigorous such that those admitted demonstrate success in the program and during employment in the licensure role," but it is not explicit about what qualifies as rigorous criteria and processes.
Massachusetts does not require aspiring teachers to pass a test of academic proficiency at the time of admission. Rather, the state delays its basic skills assessment, the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) Communication and Literacy Skills test, until candidates are ready to apply for licensure.
Diversity Programs: Massachusetts is implementing a program designed to increase the diversity of its teacher candidates. The state offers the InSPIRED Fellowship, which recruits "students and young adults from target communities at the high school, community college or undergraduate level into the teaching profession." Additionally, providers must demonstrate evidence that "systems to recruit and admit candidates result in the increased racial and ethnic diversity of completers in the workforce."
Code of Massachusetts Regulations 603 CMR 7.03; 7.04 MA Educator Preparation Program Approval Criteria List http://www.doe.mass.edu/edprep/guidelines.html Diversity in Education http://www.doe.mass.edu/teach/diversity.html
Require that teacher preparation programs screen candidates for academic proficiency prior to admission using specific and rigorous criteria.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates using specific and rigorous criteria invest considerable resources in individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program, pass licensing tests, and ultimately succeed in the classroom. Candidates in need of additional support should complete remediation before entering the program to avoid the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public resources. Massachusetts should require candidates to pass a test of academic proficiency that assesses reading, mathematics, and writing prior to program admission that is normed to the general college-going population. Alternatively, the state could require a minimum grade point average of at least 3.0 for individuals or 3.2 for cohorts of accepted candidates in order to establish that prospective teachers have a strong academic history.
Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs.
In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Massachusetts may also consider requiring subject-matter testing prior to program admission, rather than at the point of program completion. Doing so would provide candidates lacking sufficient subject-matter expertise with an opportunity to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.
Massachusetts contests the statement that, "Massachusetts does not ensure that teacher preparation programs admit only candidates with strong academic backgrounds" and asserts that the state does have an accountability criterion that requires that preparation providers do just that. The state reiterated that one of the admission criteria states that "admission criteria and processes are rigorous such that those admitted demonstrate success in the program and during employment in the licensure role." Massachusetts also stated that it uses multiple measures to determine whether preparation providers are admitting candidates who are able to be successful once employed.
Massachusetts also noted that it publicly reports diversity data in its staffing reports and shares best practices associated with each criteria (including admissions and building diversity with programs) in a culminating report.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for entry to teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent. Previous analysis has shown that many states do not require that preparation programs evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar by requiring basic skills tests that generally assess middle school-level skills or by requiring a minimum GPA, but too few demand at least a 3.0.
In addition to the low skill level tested by current basic skills tests (e.g., the Praxis Core), another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population, which does not allow for comparability between prospective teachers and the entire college-bound population. Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective.
While a positive start, CAEP standards are no substitute for states' own policies. CAEP's standards require that the group average performance on nationally normed ability assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE be in the top 50th percentile. However, CAEP allows programs the unnecessary freedom to determine whether the minimum criteria will be measured prior to admissions or at some point during the program. Clear state admission policies would send an unequivocal message to programs about the state's expectations for high admissions standards.
Research is clear about the positive effects of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds on student achievement. Higher teacher selectivity, as measured by factors such as SAT/ACT scores, GPA prior to program admission, and an institute of higher education's (IHE) general competitiveness or selectivity, has a significant, positive correlation with student achievement. Some studies support higher academic admissions standards for entry into TPPs, including studies showing a relationship between student achievement and teachers' verbal ability or selectivity of the teachers' college. Although research supports applying greater selectivity when admitting teacher candidates, some recent work has found no correlation between teachers' scores on tests normed to the general college-bound population (e.g., SAT, ACT) or IHE selectivity and student achievement.
States should support increased diversity in the teacher pipeline, in addition to maintaining high admissions standards for teacher preparation programs. Recent data show that 49 percent of students in the US were students of color, while only 17 percent of teachers were teachers of color. Twenty-eight states had gaps between the percentage of students and educators of color that were greater than 25 percentage points. A growing body of research suggests that students of color—students who often face the largest achievement gaps—benefit from having same-race teachers. Exposure to same-race teachers positively benefits student achievement, teachers' expectations and perceptions of students, teachers' assessments and perceptions of student behavior, students' rates of suspension and expulsion, students' assignment to Gifted and Talented programs, and students' perceptions of teachers. Some research suggests that teachers of the same race as their students are more likely to reduce high-school dropout rates as well as increase student attendance and college attendance intent, and improve discipline. Moreover, white students report that they favor teachers of color.