Teacher Preparation Program Accountability :

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state's approval process for teacher preparation programs should hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher Preparation Program Accountability : Tennessee results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/TN-Teacher-Preparation-Program-Accountability--6

Analysis of Tennessee's policies

Tennessee's approval process for its traditional and alternate route teacher preparation programs could do more to hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Most importantly, Tennessee requires an assessment on the effectiveness of teacher training programs, with a focus on the institutions' graduates and teacher effect data.

In addition, the state also requires programs to gather other objective, meaningful data, including:

  • Recruitment, graduation and placement rates in teacher education, including minority teacher candidates;
  • Academic measures of teacher education graduates, including GPA and test scores;
  • School system feedback on the performance of graduates during apprentice years using results from local evaluations;
  • Feedback from graduates using a common instrument; and
  • Faculty involvement in schools.
However, Tennessee reports these data only for its university-based alternate route programs, and the data do not distinguish between candidates in traditional and alternate route programs.  No data are reported for any non-higher education programs.

Further, it does not appear that Tennessee applies any transparent, measurable criteria for conferring program approval, and 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, Tennessee's website does include a report card that allows the public to review and compare traditional teacher preparation program performance. The report card includes placement and retention rates, performance on licensing exams and teacher effect data.

According to the state's winning Race to the Top application, Tennessee plans to study report card redesign options so that the data are clear and easily understood, and it will work on issues related to report card usage, such as the renewal or nonrenewal of state approval for programs shown to be ineffective.


Recommendations for Tennessee

Establish the minimum standard of performance for each category of data.
Programs should be held accountable for meeting established standards of performance, with articulated consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval after appropriate due process. 

Collect and report data for all teacher preparation programs.
Tennessee is commended for collecting and reporting objective data for its university-based teacher preparation programs. In order to provide the public with meaningful, readily understandable indicators of how well all of its programs are doing, the state should expand its data collection to include all teacher preparation programs in the state. These data should then be reported at the program level.

State response to our analysis

Tennessee acknowledged that its report card does not make a distinction for university-based alternate route programs; however, it does distinguish alternate route programs for Teach for America and Teach Tennessee. The state also asserted that it does apply criteria for program approval. "All teacher preparation program providers, traditional and transitional, must address the NCATE unit standards that include the requirement of a teacher candidate assessment system." Finally, Tennessee contended that its report card provides information on how well Tennessee institutions are performing. 

Last word

Tennessee is commended for its report card and for distinguishing data for Teach For America and Teach Tennessee; however, the state is encouraged to report data for all its teacher preparation programs, including those that offer an alternate route to certification, even if that route is university-based. Doing so will provide the public with a clear picture of how all teacher preparation programs are performing.

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:

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.