The state's approval process for teacher preparation programs should hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.
Rhode Island recently adopted teacher preparation program standards that now require approved programs to produce effective educators, based on evaluation performance. Candidates must "demonstrate a positive impact on student learning on all applicable measures and demonstrate strong ratings on measures of professional practice and responsibilities."
Rhode Island also relies on other 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.
Commendably, Rhode Island makes its findings available by posting the data and program grades on its website.
According to its Race to the Top updated information, once data system upgrades take full effect, the state will be able to assess teacher preparation programs based on effectiveness data. Rhode Island is on track to create a preliminary teacher preparation report card by 2013-2014, which it will make public by fall 2014.
There is some overlap of accreditation and state approval. Although NCATE/CAEP and the state conduct concurrent on-site reviews, Rhode Island delegates its subject-matter program review process to NCATE/CAEP.
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 all programs are preparing teachers for the classroom. Rhode Island 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 the minimum standard of performance for each category of data.
In order to make use of the data Rhode Island already collects and publishes for accountability purposes, it is critical that the state establish minimum standards for teacher preparation program performance for each category of data. Programs should be held accountable for meeting rigorous standards, and there should be consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval.
Maintain full authority over teacher preparation program approval.
Rhode Island 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.
Rhode Island was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis. The state added that it does not use any of the NCATE process information for state approval, and that it conducts its own review of those areas. Any program wishing to seek national accreditation does so voluntarily, and they have always been separate decisions, with separate evidence. Rhode Island has always maintained full authority about approval and has never allowed any NCATE decision to influence a state decision. Only two programs even seek NCATE accreditation.
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.