Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Using a Participant Pool to Gather Data in a Teacher Education Program: The Course of One School's Efforts

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Using a Participant Pool to Gather Data in a Teacher Education Program: The Course of One School's Efforts

Article excerpt

Introduction

A decade ago, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, along with the Ford and Annenberg Foundations, undertook a reform initiative, Teachers for a New Era (TNE). The goal of the TNE was to "stimulate construction of excellent teacher education programs at selected colleges and universities" (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2001, p. 1). As part of this project, one mid-Atlantic university designed and implemented a participant data pool (PDP) to collect and manage data on teacher education students. The purpose of the PDP was to use the data to better understand whether the teacher education program was, indeed, an excellent program and to further stimulate knowledge creation about teacher education and preservice teachers.

Ten years later, it is now time to examine the implementation of a PDP. In reflecting on the creation of PDP, McNergney and Imig (2006) wondered whether it was feasible to conduct teacher education program evaluations within and across settings. To this end, this study sought to examine the implementation of the PDP over the past ten years and to address McNergney and lung's question.

Review of the Literature

Research has consistently shown that teachers are the most important in-school factor in determining student achievement ( Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004; Sanders & Horn, 1998). In the last decade, teacher education programs have come under increased pressure to demonstrate that they are providing an important contribution to the development of effective teachers. The federal government has put a focus on teacher performance and teacher education through Race to the Top, which requires evidence of successful teacher education (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). In a broad condemnation of traditional teacher education, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan stated that most university and college teacher education programs do a mediocre job of preparing teachers (Medina, 2009). Further, a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has deemed traditional teacher education "an industry of mediocrity" (Greenberg, McKee, & Walsh, 2013, p. 1). The report has received a great deal of attention because the NCTQ claims to have done what teacher education research has failed to do-empirically assess teacher education programs and compare across contexts.

High-profile alternative teacher preparation programs, such as Teach For America, have also put pressure on the traditional teacher education establishment to demonstrate the importance of its role in the educational system. However, empirical research has not provided systematic evidence of the efficacy of traditional teacher preparation. Instead, studies that have used statistical methods to control for differences in teacher placements have shown either small or no differences in the effectiveness of alternatively certified and traditionally certified teachers ( Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005; Kane, Rockoff, & Staiger, 2006). In the face of such criticisms and evidence, teacher education programs need to make the argument that they provide an important role in training effective teachers.

Challenges of Studying Teacher Education

Research on teacher education has lacked a common agenda or methodology across situations and researchers (Grossman & McDonald, 2008). This has made it difficult to create a general knowledge of effective teacher education. An important challenge to studying teacher education's impact on student learning is the difficulty of connecting student outcomes to teacher education programs. There are many variables that play a role in student learning, and isolating the teacher characteristics or behaviors that make a difference in student learning is difficult (Goldhaber, 2008). Identifying which teacher characteristics are a result of a teacher educa- tion program adds complexity and makes it challenging for researchers to estimate the effects of teacher preparation. …

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