Teacher Preparation Program Accountability :
Rhode Island

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 in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher Preparation Program Accountability : Rhode Island results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/RI-Teacher-Preparation-Program-Accountability--6

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

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

However, Rhode Island does rely on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of teacher preparation programs. The state requires that programs "engage in regular and systematic evaluations (including, but not limited to, information obtained through student assessment, and collection of data from students, recent graduates, and other members of the professional community)." Regrettably, Rhode Island does not apply any transparent, measurable criteria for conferring program approval.

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.

Commendably, Rhode Island makes its findings available by posting the data and program grades on its website.

According to the state's winning Race to the Top application, Rhode Island plans to integrate its new evaluation system with its longitudinal data system to link teachers' impact on student growth to preparation programs, and will use these data to support improvement or close programs that do not produce effective teachers.The state has also articulated that it will use RttT funds to create publicly available educator preparation program report cards, which will include information on the impact of graduates on student growth and academic achievement. However, there is no evidence to date of specific policy to support these plans.  

Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
To ensure that programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Rhode Island should consider academic achievement gains of students taught by the programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching. Although the state has commendably outlined its intentions in its RttT application, to ensure that preparation programs are held accountable, it is urged to codify these requirements.

Gather other meaningful data that reflect program performance.
Although Rhode Island 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 average raw scores of graduates on licensing tests, including basic skills, subject matter and professional knowledge tests; 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. 

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island noted that its scope of work for Race to the Top commits the state to linking graduate performance and student achievement data to the program approval process. The evaluation system launches in 2011-12, with the policy work around preparation beginning that same year.  

Rhode Island also asserted that its list of required evidence to be provided by programs is very transparent, and includes both qualitative and quantitative evidence. The state further contended that the only measure of accountability is not a federal designation of low performing, and pointed out that it is one of the only states that does not issue a standard approval of five or seven years. Programs receive a range of approvals from zero to five years, and only three programs in five years have received a five-year approval. One program has been notified that it is at risk of being low performing. "Improvement at this point may not be statistically quantifiable, but it is evident across visits and reports."

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.