Teacher Preparation Program Accountability:
Massachusetts

2015 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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

Nearly meets

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

Massachusetts's approval process for its traditional and alternate route teacher preparation programs is on the right track to hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce. 

Massachusetts now requires each organization seeking approval of its preparation program to provide evidence addressing educator effectiveness, which includes the analysis and use of aggregate evaluation ratings data of program completers; program completion rate; employment data on program completers employed in the state; results of survey data, including completers and principals, on whether the program provided necessary skills for success in the classroom; retention rates up to four years; and other available data to improve program effectiveness. 

However, Massachusetts does not appear to have established transparent, measurable criteria for conferring program approval. The state gathers programs' annual summary licensure test pass rates but has no specific cut-score.

The state publishes an annual report that includes the following information: single assessment and aggregate pass rates on licensing tests; survey data from candidates, program completers and district personnel; and aggregate evaluation ratings of program completers.

In Massachusetts, the state maintains full authority over teacher preparation program approval.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

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. Massachusetts should be mindful of setting rigorous standards for program performance, and programs should be held accountable for meeting rigorous standards, with consequences for those failing to do so, including loss of program approval.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts stated that it does not yet have survey data from completers, hiring principals and supervising practitioners, nor does it currently incorporate aggregate educator evaluation data into program reviews; however, the state plans to include all of these measures in the 2016-2017 formal review cycle.

Massachusetts asserted that it does have criteria on which program approval is based.

Last word

While Massachusetts does have criteria on which it bases its assessment of teacher preparation programs, the criteria is largely descriptive and relies heavily on the interpretation of the evaluator. The state should consider setting precise minimum standards for the objective measures that are a key part of the state‚Äôs thoughtful process.

How we graded

Research rationale

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.