The state's approval process for teacher preparation programs should hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.
North Carolina's approval process for its traditional and alternate route teacher preparation programs is on the right track but could do more to hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.
North Carolina collects some program-specific, objective data that reflect program performance. Regulations require the state to publish data on each teacher preparation program housed in an IHE, including the mean value-added score of the program's graduates, employment rates and evaluation ratings.
For program approval, the state requires evidence that during the two preceding consecutive years, 95 percent of graduates employed by public schools have earned a continuing license. North Carolina also collects programs' annual summary licensure test pass rates (70 percent of program completers must pass their licensure exams). However, the 70 percent pass-rate standard sets the bar quite low and is not a meaningful measure of program performance.
The state, however, does not collect these data for its alternate route. 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 North Carolina have been identified in required federal reporting as low performing.
The state's website includes report cards that allow the public to review and compare program performance.
North Carolina requires national accreditation for program approval.
Collect other meaningful, program-level data that reflect program performance.
Although measures of student growth (value-added data) are an important indicator of program effectiveness, they cannot be the sole measure of program quality for several reasons, including the fact that many programs may have graduates whose students do not take standardized tests. The accountability system must therefore include other objective measures that show how well programs are preparing teachers for the classroom. North Carolina should expand its requirements to its alternate routes and also include such measures as:
1. Satisfaction ratings by school principals and teacher supervisors of programs' student teachers, using a standardized form to permit program comparison;
2. Average raw scores of teacher candidates on licensing tests, including academic proficiency, subject matter and professional knowledge tests;
3. Number of times, on average, it takes teacher candidates to pass licensing tests; and
4. Five-year retention rates of graduates in the teaching profession.
Establish minimum standards of performance.
Merely collecting the types of data described above is insufficient for accountability purposes. The next and perhaps more critical step is for the state to establish precise minimum standards for teacher preparation program performance for each category of data. North Carolina should be mindful of setting rigorous standards for program performance, as its current requirement that 70 percent of program completers must pass their licensing exams is too low a bar. Programs should be held accountable for meeting rigorous standards, and there should be consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval.
Distinguish between alternate route programs and traditional preparation programs in public reporting.
It is more useful to the public—especially hiring school districts—if reports on teacher preparation program performance include specific data at the program level. North Carolina should take care to make this distinction when publishing its new IHE data on teacher preparation.
Maintain full authority over teacher preparation program approval.
North Carolina should not cede its authority and must ensure that it is the state that considers the evidence of program performance and makes the decision about whether programs should continue to be authorized to prepare teachers.
North Carolina asserted that national accreditation is not required for program approval.
State code indicates that, during the approval process, the state must weigh a specific list of criteria, which includes "either: (A) full accreditation or accreditation with stipulations of the professional education unit by the NCATE at the basic and advanced levels, as appropriate; or (B) full accreditation or provisional accreditation of the program(s) by TEAC."
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.
Teacher Preparation Program Accountability: Supporting Research
For discussion of teacher preparation program approval see Andrew Rotherham and S. Mead'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,The 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's, Teacher Prep Review, 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, eds. Marci Kanstoroom and Chester E. Finn., Jr., (Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1999), pp. 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.