Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Do Student Achievement Outcomes Differ across Teacher Preparation Programs? an Analysis of Teacher Education in Louisiana

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Do Student Achievement Outcomes Differ across Teacher Preparation Programs? an Analysis of Teacher Education in Louisiana

Article excerpt

The extent to which students are prepared for postsecondary education and/or to effectively participate in the global economy after completing their primary education is linked to the quality and quantity of educational experiences they have while they are in school, most of which may be mediated by their teachers. When students leave school underprepared for postsecondary study or for the workplace, educators and schools have commonly been indicted as having failed those students (e.g., Anderson, 2011; DeWeese, 2007; Postal & Roth, 2011). Although data clarifying the direct impact of teacher preparation on student achievement have been limited (Koretz, 2002), some have cited the underpreparation of new teachers who may not be effective at the point they enter the profession as an important contributor to poor achievement (Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, & Wykoff, 2009; Sawchuk, 2010). This argument and others have led to concerns regarding new teachers' readiness for the workforce, to calls for improving teacher preparation, and more recently, to interest in examining the achievement of students who are taught by new teachers who enter the profession through different programs or pathways (Boyd et al., 2009).

Although there is a clear need and desire for teachers and schools to help students overcome challenges to their success, the extent to which this is possible as well as the specific teacher characteristics and practices that might contribute to this end remain an active area of professional discourse and inquiry (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005a, 2005b; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Rice, 2003; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001). In addition, policies such as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB; 2001) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA; 2004) that place considerable emphasis on test-based accountability increase pressure on educators to identify factors contributing to teacher effectiveness. Teacher preparation programs (TPPs) are an obvious potential source of variability in teacher effectiveness; however, their impact is poorly understood and their impact on student achievement has received limited attention (Boyd et al., 2009; Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005b). Part of the challenge in studying the impact of teacher preparation is that it is a complex enterprise that includes many potentially operative elements. For example, TPPs are engaged to varying degrees in the recruitment of potential teachers, selecting who will be trained, providing new educators content knowledge, transmitting professional knowledge, conveying professional values, teaching new educators professional skills, and selecting who has shown enough promise in preparation to be recommended for licensure. Despite the intuitive appeal that these activities should matter either in isolation and/or in how they are aggregated within programs, limited evidence exists that TPPs produce different student achievement results (Duckworth, Quinn, & Seligman, 2009; Goldhaber & Brewer, 1997).

Historically, one of the most important barriers to studying the impact of TPPs, in this case indicating the ensemble of activities above, is that data systems did not exist that made the necessary connections to complete these kinds of analysis. Ata minimal level, data are needed that link students to themselves to provide longitudinal achievement histories, students to teachers, and new teachers to the programs that prepared them. In addition, other key data about students may be needed such as attendance data and/or disability status. Until fairly recently, data systems providing this web of longitudinal linkages have not been available. As these data become available, they provide researchers, teacher educators, and policy makers the opportunity to examine a dimension of TPP effects that it bas not been possible to study previously: the extent to which programs, pathways, or practices in teacher education influence student outcomes as measured by state-administered standardized tests. …

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