2017 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. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
GPA/Testing Requirement: Pennsylvania requires prospective teachers to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 in prior college coursework to gain admission to a teacher preparation program. Programs may admit applicants with a 2.8 GPA and qualifying scores on the basic skills test, SAT, or ACT. Pennsylvania allows a waiver whereby institutions can admit up to 10 percent of a candidate cohort that does not meet the GPA admissions requirements.
Pennsylvania requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs accept only teacher candidates who have passed a basic skills test, the Pre-Service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) or the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators tests in reading, writing and mathematics. Although the state sets the minimum score for these tests, both are normed only to the prospective teacher population. Pennsylvania also allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate equivalent performance on the SAT or ACT.
Diversity Programs: Pennsylvania is not implementing any programs designed to increase the diversity of its teacher candidates. The state's ESSA plan addresses the issue of teacher diversity.
Pennsylvania Code 354.31 Public School Code of 1949 Section 1207.3 Certification Testing: http://www.education.pa.gov/Teachers%20-%20Administrators/Certifications/Pages/Certification-Testing.aspx#tab-1
Require that programs use a common admissions test normed to the general college-bound population.
Pennsylvania should require programs to use an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class while also facilitating program comparison. While Pennsylvania sets a rigorous academic bar for program admission by requiring a 3.0 GPA average for individual candidates, it should not allow a basic skills test that is not normed to the general college-going population and a 2.8 GPA to substitute for meeting the 3.0 GPA requirement.
Support programs that encourage greater numbers of qualified individuals of color to enter and successfully complete teacher preparation programs.
Pennsylvania should support strategies — such as scholarships, mentorships, "grow your own" and academic support programs — that aim to increase teacher diversity in a manner that does not diminish teacher licensure, certification, and entry requirements. Intentionally recruiting a diverse pool of candidates into teacher preparation programs can benefit both programs and the students that these candidates will eventually teach.
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, Pennsylvania 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.
Pennsylvania reiterated that it has a 3.0 benchmark for admission into an approved teacher preparation program.
The state acknowledged that the diversity of its teacher workforce does not correspond with the diversity of its K-12 students. However, Pennsylvania also added that it has included several strategies in its ESSA state plan that will increase the diversity in its future teacher workforce. The state says that these strategies include, but are not limited to, models like Educator Rising, which provide exposure to the profession and micro credentials for prospective educators; support the development of five teaching magnet high schools modeled after Pittsburgh's Brashear High School, which has a Teaching Academy that models what effective partnership, development and recruitment can look like; alternative pathways designed to prepare retired military for teaching positions in Pennsylvania's subject-shortage areas (with assistance from Troops to Teachers funding, paraprofessional pathways, and diversity-focused initiatives like the Black Male Educator Convening Fellowship, which seeks to inspire men of color to enter teaching and provides participants with peer support and guidance). We have partnered with CCSSO as a state committed to increasing educator diversity. Pennsylvania added that as a result of these initiatives, the state's rating in this goal will improve in future years.
NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the state's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.
1A: Program Entry
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.