The state's approval process for teacher preparation programs should hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.
Vermont'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, Vermont does not collect or report data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
However, the state does rely on some objective, meaningful data to measure the performance of teacher preparation programs. It bases its program approval on a formal system to collect information, such as evaluation forms and testimonials, from both educators that have been recommended for licensure as well as program graduates' employers during the first five years in the profession. Vermont also collects programs' annual summary licensure test pass rates (80 percent of program completers must pass the Praxis I; 60 percent must pass the Praxis II). Regrettably, both pass-rate standards set the bar quite low and are not meaningful measures of program performance.
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 Vermont have been identified in required federal reporting as low performing.
The state's website does not include a report card that allows the public to review and compare program performance.
Vermont maintains control over its approval process.
Results Oriented Program Approval, Standard III http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/pgm_prostandards/vsbpe/ropa_07.html Title II State Reports https://title2.ed.gov
Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
As one way to measure whether programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Vermont should consider the academic achievement gains of students taught by programs' graduates, averaged over the first three years of teaching. Data that are aggregated to the institution (e.g., combining elementary and secondary programs) rather than disaggregated to the specific preparation program are not useful for accountability purposes. Such aggregation can mask significant differences in performance among programs.
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 programs are preparing teachers for the classroom. Vermont should expand its requirements to 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.
Merely collecting the types of data described above is insufficient for accountability purposes. The next and perhaps more critical step is for the state to establish precise minimum standards for teacher preparation program performance for each category of data. Vermont should be mindful of setting rigorous standards for program performance, as its current requirement— that 80 percent of program completers must pass the Praxis I and 60 percent must pass the Praxis II—is too low a bar. Programs should be held accountable for meeting rigorous standards, and there should be consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval.
Publish an annual report card on the state's website.
Vermont should produce an annual report card that shows all the data the state collects on individual teacher preparation programs, which should be published on the state's website at the program level for the sake of public transparency. Data should be presented in a manner that clearly conveys whether programs have met performance standards.
Vermont asserted that it is working to reduce the inconsistencies among the higher education institutions using the form [for satisfaction ratings], as they gather feedback from school principals and cooperating teachers. ROPA Reports document which programs have met performance standards, and this information is on the state's website. Preparation programs not meeting Vermont's standards are required to create a plan for remediation. Failure to comply within a set time frame will result in the closing of the program.
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.