Tennessee State Board of Education, 2010 Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs (Nashville, TN: Tennessee Higher Education Commission, December 1, 2010).
Add Tennessee’s newly released report card—required by state statute—to the growing number of studies that bring into question the efficacy of teacher training programs provided by education schools. While this is the thirdsuch report issued by the Volunteer State, it marks the first time there have been sufficient data to include some of the state’s alternative training programs. Since many other influences come into play once teachers get far removed from their training experience, the study is limited to teachers with one to three years of experience who teach math, ELA, science, or social studies. Analysts examined teacher effects relative to average district gains for a fairer measure. They focused only on teachers ranked in the highest and lowest quintiles relative to the statewide distribution (not the middle) to determine which institutions produce the most and least effective teachers. The results are another gold star sticker for Teach For America. Of the forty-two programs examined, TFA was the only one to consistently produce highly effective teachers in reading, science, and social studies based on student performance data. Vanderbilt University was the only education school to consistently produce highly effective teachers—but only in math. Tennessee State produced some of the least effective teachers in both math and reading. Even when compared to veteran teachers (used as a comparison group), TFA alums outperformed in reading. (Vandy’s outperformed in math.) Of course, TFAers are culled from some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities (and Vanderbilt is no slouch). So these results are likely due to teacher selectivity at the front end. Here’s hoping education schools take a cue from their TFA brethren and raise admission standards.