The state should ensure that teacher preparation programs provide teacher candidates with a high quality clinical experience.
Commendably, Pennsylvania requires candidates to complete at least 12 weeks of full-time student teaching "under the supervision of program faculty with knowledge and experience in the area of certification."
Although the state does outline a number of criteria in selecting cooperating teachers—such as the appropriate professional educator certification, at least three years of satisfactory certificated teaching experience and at least one year of certificated teaching experience in the school entity where the student teacher is placed—it does not specifically address cooperating teachers' effectiveness as measured by student learning.
Pennsylvania Code Title 22, Chapters 354.25
Ensure that cooperating teachers have demonstrated evidence of effectiveness as measured by student learning.
In addition to the ability to mentor an adult, cooperating teachers in Pennsylvania should also be carefully screened for their capacity to further student achievement. Research indicates that the only aspect of a student teaching arrangement that has been shown to have an impact on student achievement is the positive effect of selection of the cooperating teacher by the preparation program, rather than by the student teacher or school district staff.
Use evidence from the state's teacher evaluation system to select cooperating teachers.
Pennsylvania requires objective measures of student growth to be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations. The state should therefore utilize its evaluation results, which provide evidence of effectiveness in the classroom, in the selection of effective cooperating teachers.
Explicitly require that student teaching be completed locally, thus prohibiting candidates from completing this requirement abroad.
Unless preparation programs can establish true satellite campuses to closely supervise student teaching arrangements, placement in foreign or otherwise novel locales should be supplementary to a standard student teaching arrangement. Outsourcing the arrangements for student teaching makes it impossible to ensure the selection of the best cooperating teacher and adequate supervision of the student teacher and may prevent training of the teacher on relevant state instructional frameworks.
Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state noted that all P-12 teachers will undergo a teacher effectiveness evaluation that provides feedback on the educator's effectiveness on student learning based on multiple measures. These evaluations will form the basis for selecting a cooperating teacher.
The stakes are too high for student teaching requirements to be left to chance.
Student teaching is the final clinical experience of teacher preparation, and teacher candidates have only one chance to experience the best possible placement. Student teaching will shape their own performance as teachers and help determine the type of school in which they will choose to teach. A mediocre student teaching experience, let alone a disastrous one, can never be undone.
Central to the quality of the student teaching experience is the classroom teacher who serves as the teacher candidate's mentor, or cooperating teacher. Only strong teachers with evidence of their effectiveness, as assessed by objective measures of student learning and their principals, should be able to serve as cooperating teachers. Yet placement is much more likely to be the luck of the draw. NCTQ's reports including Student Teaching in the United States and the Teacher Prep Review found most teacher preparation programs fail to require that cooperating teachers must be effective instructors.
Student Teaching: Supporting Research
For evidence on the importance of the selection of the cooperating teacher, particularly the benefits of selection by the preparation program, see D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, & J. Wyckoff. (2008). "Teacher Preparation and Student Achievement," Calder Institute, Working Paper 20.
Further evidence and discussion surrounding the impact of student-teaching on student achievement can be found in NCTQ's report: Student Teaching in the United States (2011) which includes citations of all of 34 studies published since 1997 in peer-reviewed journals on student teaching. They include: N. Anderson and M. Radencich, "The Value of Feedback in an Early Field Experience: Peer, Teacher, and Supervisor Coaching. Action in Teacher Education, Volume 23, No. 3, 2001, pp. 66-74; B. Brink, D. Grisham, A. Laguardia, C. Granby, and C. Peck, "Who needs student teachers?" Action in Teacher Education, Volume 23, No. 3, 2001, pp. 33-45; D. Boyd, P. Grossman, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "Teacher Preparation and Student Achievement". Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 31, No. 4, December 2009, pp. 416-440; R. Bullough, Jr., J. Young, L. Erickson, J. Birrell, D. Clark, M. Egan, C. Berrie, V. Hales, and G. Smith, "Rethinking Field Experience: Partnership Teaching Versus Single-Placement Teaching". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 53, No. 1, January 2002, pp. 68-80; M. Cochran-Smith, "Reinventing Student Teaching". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 42, No. 2, March 1991, pp. 104-118; K. Connor and N. Killmer, "Cohorts, Collaboration, and Community: Does Contextual Teacher Education Really Work?", Action in Teacher Education, Volume 23, No. 3, 2001, pp. 46-53; C. Daane, "Clinical Master Teacher Program: Teachers' and Interns' Perceptions of Supervision with Limited University Intervention". Action in Teacher Education, Volume 22, No. 1, 2000, pp. 93-100; A. Fresse, "The role of reflection on preservice teachers' development in the context of a professional development school". Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 15, No. 8, November 1999, pp. 895-909; P. Grossman, K. Hammereness, M. McDonald, and M. Ronfeldt. (2008). "Constructing Coherence: Structural Predictors of Perceptions of Coherence in NYC Teacher Education Programs". Journal on Teacher Education, Volume 59, No. 4, September/October 2008, pp. 273-287; W. Hopkins, S. Hoffman, and V. Moss, "Professional Development Schools and Preservice Teacher Stress", Action in Teacher Education, Volume 18, No. 4, 1997, pp. 36-46; M. Lesley, D. Hamman, A. Olivarez, K. Button, and R. Griffith, "I'm Prepared for Anything Now": Student Teacher and Cooperating Teacher Interaction as a Critical Factor in Determining the Preparation of "Quality" Elementary Reading Teachers". The Teacher Educator, Volume 44, No. 1, 2009, pp. 40-55; J. Justen, III, M. McJunkin, and H. Strickland, "Supervisory Beliefs of Cooperating Teachers". The Teacher Educator, Volume 34, No. 3, 1999. pp. 173-180; S. Kent, "Supervision of Student Teachers: Practices of Cooperating Teachers Prepared in a Clinical Supervision Course", Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Volume 16, No. 3, Spring 2001, pp. 228-244; S. Knight, D. Wiseman, and D. Cooner, "Using Collaborative Teacher Research to Determine the Impact of Professional Development School Activities on Elementary Students' Math and Writing Outcomes", Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 51, No. 1, January 2000, pp. 26-38; D. Knoblauch and A. Woolfolk Hoy, "Maybe I Can Teach Those Kids": The Influence of Contextual Factors on Student Teachers' Efficacy Beliefs". Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 24, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 166-179.
R. Knudson and S. Turley, "University Supervisors and At-Risk Student Teachers". Journal of Research and Development in Education, Volume 33, No. 3, Spring 2000, pp. 175-186; F. Korthagen, J. Loughran, and T. Russell, "Developing Fundamental Principles for Teacher Education Programs and Practices", Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 22, No. 8, November 2006, pp. 1020-1041; M. McNay, and R. Graham, "Can Cooperating Teachers Help Student Teachers Develop a Vision of Education?" The Teacher Educator, Volume 42, No. 3, 2007, pp. 224-236. Student Teaching in the United States, 2011; D. Mewborn, "Learning to Teach Elementary Mathematics: Ecological Elements of a Field Experience", Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Volume 3, No. 1, 2000, pp. 27-46; L. Mule, "Preservice Teachers' Inquiry in a Professional Development School Context: Implications for the Practicum",Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 22, No. 2, February 2006, pp. 205-218; H. Nguyen, "An Inquiry-Based Practicum Model: What Knowledge, Practices, and Relationships Typify Empowering Teaching and Learning Experiences for Student Teachers, Cooperating Teachers and College Supervisors?" Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 25, No. 5, July 2009, pp. 655-662; H. Pence and I. Macgillivray, "The impact of an international field experience on preservice teachers". Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 24, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 14-25; B. Peterson and S. Williams, "Learning Mathematics for Teaching in the Student Teaching Experience: Two contrasting cases". Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Volume 11, No. 6, November 2008, pp. 459-478; S. Putman, "Grappling with Classroom Management: The Orientations of Preservice Teachers and Impact of Student Teaching". The Teacher Educator, Volume 44, No. 4, 2009, pp. 232-247. V. Richardson-Koehler, "Barriers to the Effective Supervision of Student Teaching: A Field Study". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 39, No. 2, March 1988, pp. 28-34; D. Ridley, S. Hurwitz, M. Hackett, and K. Miller, "Comparing PDS and Campus-Based Preservice Teacher Preparation: Is PDS-based preparation really better?" Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 56, No. 1, January/February 2005, pp. 46-56; A. Rodgers and V. Keil, "Restructuring a traditional student teacher supervision model: Fostering enhanced professional development and mentoring within a professional development school context". Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 23, No. 1, January 2007, pp. 63-80; A. Roth McDuffie, "Mathematics Teaching as a Deliberate Practice: An Investigation of Elementary Pre-service Teachers' Reflective Thinking During Student Teaching". Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, Volume 7, No. 1, March 2004, pp. 33-61; J. Sandholtz and K. Wasserman. "Student and Cooperating Teachers: Contrasting Experiences in Teacher Preparation Programs". Action in Teacher Education, Volume 23, No. 3, 2001, pp. 54-65.
S. Slick, "Assessing versus assisting: The supervisor's roles in the complex dynamics of the student teaching triad".Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 13, No. 7, October 1997, pp. 713-726; K. Tellez, "What student teachers learn about multicultural education from their cooperating teachers?" Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 24, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 43-58; H. Tillema, "Assessment for Learning to Teach: Appraisal of Practice Teaching Lessons by Mentors, Supervisors, and Student Teachers ", Journal of Teacher Education , Volume 60, No. 2, March/April 2009, pp. 155-167; S. Valencia, S. Martin, N. Place, and P. Grossman, "Complex Interactions in Student Teaching: Lost Opportunities for Learning". Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60, No. 3, May/June 2009, pp. 304-322; S. White, "Articulation and Re-articulation: Development of a Model for Providing Quality Feedback to Pre-Service Teachers on Practicum". Journal of Education for Teaching , Volume 35, No. 2, 2009, pp. 123-132. See also A. Levine, (September 2006). Educating School Teachers (p. 39). Washington, DC: The Education Schools Project; E. Guyton and D. McIntyre, 1990. "Student Teaching and School Experiences". In W. R. Houston (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teacher Education (pp. 514-534). New York: Macmillan.