Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Evidence-Based Teacher Preparation: Policy Context and What We Know

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Evidence-Based Teacher Preparation: Policy Context and What We Know

Article excerpt

Policy Context

Teacher preparation is receiving a great deal of policy attention these days, and there are good reasons for this. A mountain of empirical evidence shows that teacher quality is the schooling factor that most influences student test achievement, and newer evidence shows a relationship between teacher quality and outcomes such as high school graduation, college-going, and labor market earnings. (1) Moreover, a significant proportion of the nation's investment in teacher workforce occurs during their preparation period (i.e., prior to their employment in public schools). (2)

Yet despite the commonsense notion that preparation for classroom responsibilities should improve the readiness of teacher candidates, the value of formalized preservice teacher education is unclear--at least in terms of judging teacher education based on the inservice outcomes of those teacher candidates who eventually become teachers. An important caveat, however, is that there is hardly consensus about how inservice teachers ought to be judged, especially in terms of their performance. The use of "value added" as a measure of teacher effectiveness, (3) a frequent metric used to judge performance in quantitative studies, is especially contentious (Braun, 2015; Darling-Hammond, 2015; Goldhaber, 2015). Whether value added is seen as a useful metric for judging either teacher performance or preservice teacher education will depend at least in part on one's views of the purposes schooling and teacher education (Glazerman, Loeb, Goldhaber, Staiger, Raudenbush, & Whitehurst, 2010; Hansen, 2008). That said, there does appear to be broad agreement that teacher preparation programs (TPPs) could more effectively prepare teacher candidates. (4)

About a decade ago, Arthur Levine (2006), former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, noted that "[u]nder the existing system of quality control, too many weak programs have achieved state approval and been granted accreditation" (p. 61). More recently, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated that "by almost any standard, many if not most of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges and departments

of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom" (U.S. Department of Education, 2009, n.p.). (5) These critiques come despite the fact that programs require state approval and, often, professional accreditation.

More recent of policy debates over the efficacy of formalized teacher preparation, whether it is necessary and what it should entail, is connected to two strands of research. The first strand relates to new teacher effectiveness research that relies on large samples across whole school systems or states. Although there exists a long history of studying the efficacy of teacher preparation based on qualitative case study research (e.g., Ganser, 2002; McDiarmid & Wilson, 1991; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2002), large-scale quantitative TPP research has been made possible over the last decade by data systems that link teachers and students at the individual level so that teacher effectiveness can be judged by student test scores or summative teacher performance ratings. This type of research (described more fully in "Outcomes-Based Evidence About Teacher Education" section) tends to find relatively weak relationships between the characteristics and academic experiences of preservice teachers (e.g., Harris & Sass, 2011) and student achievement. But, as I describe below, there are important limitations to most of the existing outcomes-based research on TPPs related to the selection of teacher candidates into TPPs and the localness of teacher labor markets.

The second strand is related to cross-national research on the systems that govern entry to the teacher workforce in different countries. This work finds that the teacher preparation in the United States compares unfavorably with preparation in other countries with high-achieving students (Felton, 2016; Greenberg, Walsh, & Mckee, 2014, 2015; New York Times Editorial Board, 2013). …

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