Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Evidence in Teacher Preparation: Establishing a Framework for Accountability

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Evidence in Teacher Preparation: Establishing a Framework for Accountability

Article excerpt

A rising chorus from many different quarters demands that university-based teacher education programs prove their effectiveness (Finn, 2003; Paige, 2002). State legislators wonder if university-based teacher education is worth the money being invested (Education Commission of the States, 2000). Hiring officials and parents wonder about the competence of recent teacher candidates (Education Testing Service, 2002). Advocates of alternative programs imply that quality programs can be delivered in less time for less money (Feistritzer, 2004; Hess, 2001). And state officials implement new strategies such as the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence Passport to Certification test to assess teachers' capabilities (for more information, see http://www.abcte.org/passport/ index/html). The demand is always the same: Produce evidence to prove the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs.

Feeling the mounting pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs with solid evidence, university administrators and teacher educators are trying to respond to growing expectations. In this article, I present the initial results of a survey of the members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), which was intended to find out what kinds of data are being collected to meet the demand for evidence. The survey reveals that many of the administrators and faculty members involved in teacher education at institutions across the country are expending extraordinary energy and resources in the data collection process. However, the survey also shows that educators are responding to the demand for evidence in the absence of a shared consensus about what should be measured and how and may well be collecting information that is of dubious utility. In this article, I suggest that what is needed is a national framework for evidence of teacher education program effectiveness, including guidelines that institutions could use pro-actively to develop data systems that promote a culture of evidence on their campuses. To be useful, such a framework for evidence would need to be developed collaboratively, broadly agreed on, and implemented on a state-by-state basis.

BACKGROUND: THE SEARCH FOR CREDIBLE AND PERSUASIVE EVIDENCE

Linking teacher practice to pupil outcomes has proven particularly challenging for teacher educators. Profound methodological problems occur when linking individual teacher actions with subsequent pupil performance, including substantial intervening variables, questions about appropriate measures of student learning, issues regarding the lack of test standardization between schools and districts, and problems in the mechanics of tracking candidates and accessing data (Zeichner & Conklin, 2005). Alternate measures of student learning, such as whole school scores, or proxies for student learning, such as teacher behavior, only add to the attribution complexity (Rice, 2003).

For AASCU member institutions, the accountability pressure is particularly acute. AASCU has a historic commitment to public education, especially to the preparation of teachers. Many AASCU institutions began as normal schools (from approximately the 1840s to the 1930s), and they take pride in their sustained contributions to public education. AASCU represents more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems of higher education throughout the United States and its territories, and its members enroll more than 3 million students or 55% of the enrollment at all public 4-year institutions. In the 2002-2003 academic year, member institutions conferred 35%--more than one third--of the undergraduate degrees awarded nationwide, and they conferred half of the undergraduate degrees in education (55,105 bachelor's, 58,656 master's, and 1,354 doctorates).

In 2001, AASCU reinvigorated the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award which, although created in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster to identify outstanding teacher education programs, had been discontinued in the early 1990s (for more information, see http://www. …

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