Assessing and Evaluating Teacher Preparation Programs

An increasingly bright and pitiless spotlight is being shined on America’s schools of education. With the encouragement of the federal government, states are developing systems to tie student performance data to teacher preparation programs; competition and comparisons with alternative certification programs are bringing additional pressure to bear. The upshot for those who train our teachers is increased scrutiny and ever-louder calls to prove that the teachers they turn loose on the nation’s classrooms can actually do the jobs they were trained, certified, and licensed to do. Against this backdrop, a task-force report from the American Psychological Association aims to offer a practical resource for accreditors, state education departments, and policymakers seeking to improve teacher-preparation programs. The report focuses on three data sources that are “well-established scientific methods that have evolved from the science of psychology” and that the authors argue should form the basis of all credible evaluation systems: value-added assessments; standardized observation protocols; and surveys of graduates, employers, and students. To their credit, the report authors are clear-eyed, taking pains to note the “utility and limitations” of value-added and the other proffered evaluation systems—but maintaining that we should judge the merits of teacher-prep programs “with the best evidence that can be obtained now, rather than the evidence we might like to have had, or that might be available in the future.” The report offers thirteen recommendations for evaluating teacher-prep programs, the most important of which is to insist that such programs have “strong affirmative, empirical evidence of the positive impact of their graduates on preK–12 student learning.” This is welcome news for schools, students, and future teachers, if not for the accountability-averse programs that produce them. “In some cases these recommendations will require a cultural change in teacher preparation,” the authors note with understatement. Anticipating pushback, they note “there will always remain some aspects of teaching that may not be evaluated, but this should not deter us from addressing those that can and should be addressed.” Indeed.

SOURCE: Frank C. Worrell, et al., Assessing and Evaluating Teacher Preparation Programs (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2014.

Robert Pondiscio
Robert Pondiscio is a Senior Fellow and the Vice President for External Affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.