Tying Student Performance to Teacher Prep in Delaware

February 28th, 2012

Category: Policy and Practice

As states continue to grapple with the question of whether—and how—to include student performance in teacher evaluations, some (including Delaware) are looking at other ways to use this information. One idea gaining traction is to use this information as a way of evaluating the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs.

According to a recent Education Week article, at least 14 states (including Delaware, as part of its Race to the Top commitments) plan to collect and report information on how graduates of teacher preparation programs do once they have their own classrooms; half of them plan to use it for accountability purposes.

Skeptics urge proceeding with caution, pointing warily to two missteps that have already occurred in Tennessee and Florida. Tennessee’s first efforts were hindered by errors in the data and confusing communication and reporting, while schools of education in Florida complained about the states’ preliminary efforts being simplistic, flawed, and subject to misinterpretation (both states have since addressed these complaints).

Proponents, on the other hand, point to Louisiana’s system (the most established to date), which, despite meeting initial resistance among teacher-educators, has steadily gained acceptance—and praise. Leaders of the state’s teacher preparation programs say that once they got over the initial shock of no longer being deemed perfect, they began to analyze the data and make adjustments—with immediate and noticeable effects.

Meanwhile, most states are still wrestling with the question of if—and how—to use this information to evaluate their teacher preparation programs. Says one professor at Louisiana State University involved with the state’s reporting, “All value-added can do is signal to you that something’s the matter. There aren’t many institutions that have practice getting [the data] and figuring out what to do with it.”

As for Delaware, this is a particularly apt question to consider. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a report that commended Delaware for making significant strides in improving our state teacher policies. This same report stated that teacher preparation was the most glaring weakness we had yet to address—including the fact that we don’t hold teacher prep programs accountable.

So while I’m glad we’ve made a commitment to collect and publish this information, we should keep a close eye on what other states do—especially those that plan to incorporate it into their formal evaluations.

Any readers have any thoughts about this issue? Should our teacher preparation programs be held accountable for the performance of their graduates?

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Brian Yin




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