Teacher Preparation Program Accountability:
Nebraska

2013 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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Teacher Preparation Program Accountability: Nebraska results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NE-Teacher-Preparation-Program-Accountability-20

Analysis of Nebraska's policies

Nebraska'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, Nebraska does not collect or report data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.

The state 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. 

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

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

In Nebraska, there is some overlap of accreditation and state approval. Members of NCATE/CAEP and the state make up the review team and decisions are made jointly; state members must complete NCATE/CAEP training. Nebraska conducts its own program reviews.

Citation

Recommendations for Nebraska

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs. 

As one way to measure whether programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Nebraska should consider the academic achievement gains of students taught by programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching. Data that are aggregated to the institution (e.g., combining elementary and secondary programs) rather than disaggregated to the specific preparation program are not useful for accountability purposes. Such aggregation can mask significant differences in performance among programs.

Gather other meaningful data that reflect program performance. 

Although measures of student growth 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, such as: 

1.    Evaluation results from the first and/or second year of teaching;

2.    Satisfaction ratings by school principals and teacher supervisors of programs' student teachers, using a standardized form to permit program comparison;

3.    Average raw scores of teacher candidates on licensing tests, including academic proficiency, subject matter and professional knowledge tests;

4.    Number of times, on average, it takes teacher candidates to pass licensing tests; and

5.    Five-year retention rates of graduates in the teaching profession.

Establish the minimum standard of performance for each category of data. 

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. Programs should then be held accountable for meeting these standards, and there should be consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval.

Publish an annual report card on the state's website. 

Nebraska should produce an annual report card that shows all the data the state collects on individual teacher preparation programs, which should be published on the state's website at the program level for the sake of public transparency. Data should be presented in a manner that clearly conveys whether programs have met performance standards. 

Maintain full authority over the process for approving teacher preparation programs. 

Nebraska should 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. 

State response to our analysis

Nebraska asserted that it retains decision-making authority regarding program approval. Although it cooperates/coordinates with national accreditation entities because it is a quality experience, the state reiterated that it does not default to a national accreditation decision. A program could pass national accreditation and not necessarily get state approval, or could "fail" national accreditation and be state approved.

Nebraska also noted that Title II HEA reports are included on the state's website. 

The state further pointed out that it is not clear that five-year retention rates are a reliable, research-based indication of the quality of educator preparation. Because Nebraska does not use content tests, it is difficult to meet NCTQ's standards through other mechanisms already in place. Institutions collect graduate follow-up information from graduates and employers and use this information at the institution level for continuing program improvement decisions. It is true that no institutions have been designated as low performing. The approval process requires immediate attention to deficiencies. 

Nebraska added that in theory, many of NCTQ's recommendations have merit. In practice, it continues to monitor the work of other states that are wrestling with the value/reasonability of some of these recommendations. 

Last word

NCTQ recommends a wide variety of data that are useful for preparation program accountability; in fact, licensure tests—the single mechanism used by some states—are generally inadequate, especially if the sole indicator is pass rate. The most important indicator is whether programs produce teachers who are effective in terms of student learning, but as with teacher evaluation, NCTQ encourages states to use multiple measures that provide a more comprehensive look at program performance. 

How we graded

Research rationale

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.