Teacher Preparation Program Accountability:
Pennsylvania

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.

Meets a small part

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

Pennsylvania'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, Pennsylvania does not collect or report data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.

The state does rely on some other objective data to measure the performance of its traditional teacher preparation programs. Pennsylvania requires that programs "demonstrate how information from systematic evaluations of their programs, including students and educator evaluators, and achievement levels of candidates for certification in the Department-designed assessment program are used for continual program improvement." However, these data are not collected for alternate route programs.

The state also collects programs' annual summary licensure test pass rates (80 percent of program completers must pass their licensure exams). Regrettably, the 80 percent pass-rate standard, while common among many states, sets the bar quite low and is not a meaningful measure of program performance.

Further, in the past three years, no programs in the state have been identified as low performing—an additional indicator that programs lack accountability.

The state's website includes comparisons of program pass rates but does not include any further report card that allows the public to review and compare program performance.

In Pennsylvania, the state maintains full authority over teacher preparation program approval. The state also conducts its own program reviews.

Citation

Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs. 
As one way to measure whether programs are producing effective classroom teachers, Pennsylvania 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 all programs are preparing teachers for the classroom. Pennsylvania 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
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. Pennsylvania should be mindful of setting rigorous standards for program performance, as its current requirement that 80 percent of program completers must pass their licensing exams 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. 
Pennsylvania 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.

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

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.