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Eleven states now tie teacher outcomes back to their preparation programs, and an increasing number of states are planning to use that data to decide whether to keep programs open, according to a new report by Bellwether Education Partners.
The report comes as many teacher preparation programs and experts are waiting on the U.S. Department of Education to finalize new federal regulations that could require all states to determine how graduates fare after completing teacher preparation programs and report that data publicly.
The 11 states that currently track this data look at a variety of graduate information, including the academic growth of students taught by graduates (as measured by standardized tests), job placement rate of graduates, and the persistence rate once teachers begin teaching. Some states, like North Carolina, track outcomes by institutions, while other states, like Ohio, dig into individual programs within institutions.
The report said three states, Florida, Massachusetts, and Ohio, currently use graduate data to make decisions about programs. Florida’s program data, for example, is used with several other data points to determine if programs are reapproved, a process that takes place every five years. Massachusetts looks at data about program graduates, which this year will include teacher evaluation data, when determining whether to approve teacher preparation programs. In Ohio, the state currently only uses licensure test pass rates.
Six states plan to use this data in the future to make “consequential decisions” about programs. Delaware will roll out consequences this year, including a probationary period for programs that have poor outcomes. Tennessee will begin to use data from graduate reports when approving programs during the 2017-18 academic year.
It’s likely that more states will begin to consider this data, whether or not it included in the DOE’s new regulations. In September, the United States Department of Education approved “educator equity plans” from 16 states, which are meant to identify the root causes of why poor and minority kids receive more inexperienced teachers and fix the problem. Several states said they would focus on determining the success of training programs as one of their main strategies. The Indiana Department of Education, for example, will survey new teachers and the principals that oversee those teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of Indiana’s educator preparation programs. Pennsylvania will track teachers who have been dismissed to determine if they are coming from a specific preparation program.
Experts have debated for years about whether student test scores can provide a reliable and fair measure of teacher performance or academic training. Some say that it’s hard to disaggregate other factors, like school-based professional development, from a teacher’s preparation program.
The authors of the Bellwether report said that looking at graduate data is critical to make systemic changes in teacher preparation. “Researchers are still debating how to track results and define a successful preparation program,” wrote the authors of the report. “But preparation programs will never be able to improve unless states track their results.”