In October, the federal government released new regulations for teacher preparation programs. As described in an earlier blog post, these regulations will require teacher preparation programs to be evaluated in new ways, primarily based on the placement and effectiveness of program graduates in their first teaching jobs. However, much is still unknown about how the regulations will be implemented – and the regulations leave many of the choices related to measuring program effectiveness to the states. Clearly, then, the first implication for our Teacher Preparation Program at Michigan State University, is the need to work closely with our state partners to develop rules and processes for implementation that are not only rigorous and transparent, as called for in the regulations, but also equitable and logically sound.
In terms of equity, it is important to recognize that the regulations continue to be in some ways at cross-purposes, simultaneously attending to the numbers of program graduates employed in high-needs schools and districts while requiring the inclusion of student achievement scores, typically lower in high-needs schools, as part of the evaluation of teacher preparation programs. This potential conflict must be addressed in the implementation of the regulations.
In terms of logic, for example, the chain of logic and evidence linking teacher preparation quality to student performance on standardized assessments is tenuous. Any productive system of evaluation must account for the intervening and mediating factors. Ultimately, our goal is to build capacity across the educational system to support the learning of all students – and our implementation of the regulations should reflect our understandings of the ways in which high quality teacher preparation programs can contribute to that capacity-building effort.
As we await the specification and implementation of the regulations, I see three immediate priorities for the Michigan State University Teacher Preparation Program.
First, as a teacher preparation program with a commitment to equity and social justice and strong connections between research and practice, we must continue to prepare candidates to teach successfully in high-needs schools, districts, and communities. This means continuing to investigate and enact teacher preparation practices that support teacher candidates in developing and implementing culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogies that provide access to rigorous content for diverse groups of students. The research and teaching of many of our faculty and graduate students exemplify this approach.
Second, we need to engage as partners in building capacity across the system in multiple ways, not only through the preparation of teachers. As Dr. Terry Flennaugh and I wrote about earlier this year, in the current accountability context it is more important than ever that teacher preparation programs leverage their capacity to support teachers across their careers, employ strengths-based approaches to school and community development, and advocate for policies that support teaching and learning in high-needs schools and communities. Teacher preparation programs should be held accountable for their efforts to build capacity in high-needs schools, but these efforts should be evaluated based on the collective program efforts to improve teaching and learning and not on the teaching of individual novices, using test scores that are flawed and taken out of context.
Finally, we need to continue to contribute to the research and policy knowledge base related to the measurement of teaching and the assessment of teacher preparation. If we want teacher preparation programs to be evaluated in the systemic, capacity-building, and socially just ways described above, we need to provide policymakers with conceptual and measurement tools to inform and measure these approaches to teacher preparation.
We are working in an uncertain time in teacher preparation, particularly university-based teacher preparation. In addition to these new and as yet unspecified teacher preparation regulations, we are responsible to ever-changing accreditation systems, concerned with declining enrollment in teacher preparation coupled with teacher shortages in high-needs districts and, most importantly, confronted with ongoing inequities in K-12 and higher education. As a teacher preparation program, we need to partner with stakeholders across the system to ensure that the implementation of these new regulations will contribute to building capacity for a more just and equitable educational system for all students and teachers.