Teacher Preparation Program Accountability :
Massachusetts

2011 Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher Preparation Program Accountability : Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Teacher-Preparation-Program-Accountability--6

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Massachusetts'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, Massachusetts does not collect value-added data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.

However, the state does rely on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of teacher preparation programs. Programs are required to annually submit the following: standards and requirements for program admission, admission to the practicum or practicum equivalent, and exit from each program; the number and total list of program completers for each program, number and total list of program completers taking Massachusetts educator licensure tests, and the explanation for any difference between these numbers; and the number and total list of program completers who sought and, of those, who obtained a teaching position within the first year after program completion.

Regrettably, Massachusetts does not appear to apply any transparent, measurable criteria for conferring program approval. It gathers programs' annual summary licensure test pass rates (80 percent of program completers must pass their licensure exams), but 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.

The state also requires all programs to publish the following pass-rate data for each cohort of program completers: reading subtest, writing subtest, communication and literacy skills test, each subject matter knowledge test, all subject matter tests, and all tests of subject matter knowledge and communication and literacy skills.

Further, there is no evidence that the state's standards for program approval are resulting in greater accountability. In the past three years, no programs in the state have been identified in required federal reporting as low performing.

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

According to Massachusetts's winning Race to the Top application, it plans to link preparation programs to outcome measures and effectiveness of graduates in promoting student achievement, and will use these data to improve and/or close ineffective programs. The state will also develop a Web-based reporting system that will make key indicators and outcome data such as retention rates and impact on student achievement publicly available. However, how or if the state plans to include alternate route programs is not specified, and there is no evidence to date of specific policy to support these plans.  

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
To ensure that programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Massachusetts should consider academic achievement gains of students taught by the programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching. Although Massachusetts 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.
Although Massachusetts relies on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of teacher preparation programs, the state should expand its requirements to include other metrics such as satisfaction ratings by school principals and teacher supervisors of programs' student teachers, using a standardized form to permit program comparison, 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 state's website.
To inform the public with meaningful, readily understandable indicators of how well programs are doing, Massachusetts should present all the data it collects on individual teacher preparation programs. NCTQ acknowledges that the state has articulated a plan to post an annual report card for the public as part of its RttT application. However, to date, this plan has not been enacted or codified in state policy.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is currently revising its regulations for educator licensure and preparation program approval. Massachusetts expects a comprehensive overhaul of the program approval section. Specifically, these new requirements will allow for the creation of a web-based accountability system with annual reports cards on each organization that prepares educators. Changes to the regulations will be required of all preparation programs, both traditional and alternate routes.  

How we graded

States need to hold programs accountable for the quality of their graduates.

The state should examine a number of factors when measuring the performance of and approving teacher preparation programs. Although the quality of both the subject-matter preparation and professional sequence is crucial, there are also additional measures that can provide the state and the public with meaningful, readily understandable indicators of how well programs are doing when it comes to preparing teachers to be successful in the classroom.  

States have made great strides in building data systems with the capacity to provide evidence of teacher performance. These same data can be used to provide objective evidence of the performance of teacher preparation programs. States should make such data, as well as other objective measures that go beyond licensure pass rates, a central component of their teacher preparation program approval processes, and they should establish precise standards for performance that are more useful for accountability purposes. 

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:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/teachprep/t2r7.pdf 

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.