Decision-making in the 21st century is guided by data. Whether buying a car or selecting a doctor, we have access to a vast amount of information at our fingertips regarding quality, performance and customer satisfaction.
This raises the question of why it’s nearly impossible to find data on the effectiveness of teacher training programs, an industry that produces nearly 240,000 teachers a year—impacting the lives of millions of children.
Despite the fact that teaching is one of the largest occupations in the United States, there is a marked lack of available data on how well teacher training programs actually prepare new educators for the classroom. We all know the power of great teaching; most people can recall at least one teacher who made a huge difference in their life.
In fact, there is a sizable body of research supporting the impact a teacher makes in the lives of their students. Yet teacher preparation programs are still not held accountable for publicly releasing data on the quality of their programs and the performance of their graduates in the classroom.
This nationwide lack of accountability means that neither potential teacher candidates nor school leaders have a reliable means for comparing the effectiveness of teacher training programs and assessing program quality. It is instead a gamble to enroll in a program—which may or may not sufficiently prepare candidates for classroom success—or to hire graduates from a program whose quality is indeterminate.
Students become the biggest losers in this equation when they end up with teachers who lack the support and qualifications needed to be effective. Why are we gambling with the education of our children, specifically our most underserved student populations?
This summer, we at Urban Teachers brought together a coalition of nine teacher preparation programs to tackle this critical question and identify ways that we and other programs can improve not only how we educate teachers but also how we can track our progress and make meaningful improvements to our programs.
One idea is for teacher preparation programs to proactively begin to collect and report data on the performance of all of their participants and graduates—such as teacher retention and attrition, principal satisfaction surveys and student learning outcomes.
This data will not only help aspiring educators and school leaders to make evidence-based enrollment and hiring decisions, the data will also enable programs to identify and address program weaknesses. Data transparency can push the field, revealing innovative practices in teacher training that result in student growth. Program improvement will ensure we are all producing more of the high-quality educators our city school system and students need.
With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is a new opportunity for states to build the data-sharing systems needed to strengthen teacher quality.
The Department of Education and Congress, however, must also play a role in these efforts. States should be provided specific guidance and funding to support a nationwide data collection and reporting system that leads to improved student outcomes. Programs themselves can commit to publicly sharing results data now, enabling their customers’ ability to provide students with the best possible education.
The shortage of quality teachers in the U.S. denies students some of their most important opportunities to learn and grow. We can help all our children succeed by having a great teacher in every classroom.
If we make data about teacher training programs available to the public, we will be supporting our schools in identifying strong teacher pipelines and helping new teachers excel in the classroom from day one.