Teacher Preparation Program Accountability:
Arizona

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 Arizona's policies

Arizona's approval process for its traditional and alternate route teacher preparation programs has improved but still can do more to hold programs accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

Arizona does not require teacher preparation programs to show evidence of PreK-12 student achievement data for approval. However, the state does suggest that programs collect and report this data, along with several other suggestions including internal and external evaluations (i.e., student/faculty/employer evaluations, graduate surveys) and program completer data.

Each approved program must submit a biennial report to the Arizona Department of Education, which any of the data suggested above, as well as changes in preparation courses, assessments and field or capstone experiences are reported. The Department will make summaries of these reports, which will include program status, deficiencies and commendations, publicly accessible.

Commendably, Arizona eliminated the low bar in its definition of "low performing institutions," which required teacher preparation programs to show that at least 75 percent of their graduates from the prior two years passed on their first attempt the professional knowledge portion of the state's licensing test, the Arizona Teacher Proficiency Assessment. The state now refers to programs at risk of losing Board approval as probationary educator preparation programs, which are programs with "at least one deficiency identified...as a result of a Department review of the biennial report. Programs with the same deficiency(s) in two consecutive biennial status letters are subject to revocation of Board approval. A deficiency may include, but is not limited to, stakeholder surveys, completer data and student achievement data." Regrettably, the state does not set the minimum standard of performance for each category of data programs must supply in the biennial reports.

The Arizona Board of Education maintains authority over its approval process for preparation programs. Programs seeking approval are reviewed by committees comprised of representatives from the Department and "at least three of the following entities: institutions under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona private institutions of higher education, Arizona community colleges, other organizations with a Board approved educator preparation program, professional educator associations, PreK-12 administrators from local education agencies, and National Board Certified Teachers."

Citation

Recommendations for Arizona

Collect data that connect student achievement gains to teacher preparation programs.
Arizona should take a step further in the right direction by requiring preparation programs to show evidence of PreK-12 student achievement data. Arizona should ensure that the data collected is specifically 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.

Collect other meaningful, program-level 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. Arizona should expand its requirements to also include such measures as average raw scores of teacher candidates on licensing tests, including academic proficiency, subject matter and professional knowledge tests; and the number of times on average it takes teacher candidates to pass licensing tests.

Establish minimum standards 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. Arizona should be mindful of setting rigorous standards for program performance, which programs should be held accountable for meeting. There should be consequences for failing to do so, including loss of program approval.

Publish an annual report card on the state's website.
While it is commendable that Arizona is now publishing summaries of programs' biennial reports, the state should produce a report card that shows all the data the state collects on individual teacher preparation programs in a transparent, accessible way. Data should be presented in a manner that clearly conveys to the public and other stakeholders whether programs have met performance standards.

State response to our analysis

Arizona was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for 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.