Missing Steps in Teacher Prep
As we close out the year, I’d like to reflect on 2015 and give a preview of what’s to come in 2016. Anyone following teacher preparation this year will know this is a trending topic. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded millions of dollars to develop Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers, Harvard announced a new model for developing teachers, and a new campaign (of which we are proudly part) called TeachStrong emphasizes reimagining teacher preparation. On top of this, the U.S. Department of Education plans to release new regulations around teacher preparation before the end of the calendar year.
“It has long been clear that as a nation, we could do a far better job of preparing teachers for the classroom. It’s not just something that studies show – I hear it in my conversations with teachers, principals and parents,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.
With all of this going on, we had to uncover – what do teachers think? What do teachers actually need in order to be prepared to teach?
At Hope Street Group, we wanted to combine what Secretary Duncan referenced and conduct a study led by teachers with teachers. This fall, Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows collected data from current classroom teachers across the country by conducting dozens of focus groups. Teacher Fellows heard from nearly 2000 educators from 49 of the 50 states about how preparation programs might be strengthened and better prepare new educators for the current education environment. With teachers leading their peers in professional dialogue about how to improve teacher preparation, we hope to add to current research and help national organizations and state education agencies make informed improvements.
The full results of the research will be released in 2016 but overwhelmingly, we found that teachers would like to see more data and information about preparation program success.
When asked how to consider measuring the effectiveness of a teacher preparation program, we heard a number of ideas. The number one recommendation was to use teacher retention rates, followed by job placement rates (see table below).
Teacher Fellow David Edelman noted, “Teacher retention and satisfaction over time were both measures discussed in my focus groups. If I were looking into programs now and those figures were available that would influence my decision making.”
We also heard from teachers in the study:
“I think that teacher retention rate is an important measure.
Teachers who are well prepared and love their profession
despite the everyday challenges are more likely to stay in
“Job placement was top for me. I was investing a lot of time
and money and wanted to be sure I would get a job.”
Our findings align closely with what USDOE has proposed as key indicators for states to assess the performance of teacher preparation programs. How state education agencies decide to work with institutes of higher education will be up to them. Our hope is that states include current teachers in these discussions and use our study along with other resources to effectively prepare new teachers for the field. Imagine the impact a continuous and supportive teacher prep program could have within your school, district and state. Our recommendation is to continue to engage teachers in this work – we know they have a lot to offer – most importantly they offer the eyes and ears on the ground. Who better to ask?