What’s the Formula for Designing Rigorous Standards for Teacher Preparation?
Read on to find out.
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) published recommendations for Accreditation Standards and Evidence: Aspirations for Educator Preparation. According to the CAEP website, “July 1, 2013, marked the de facto consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC), making the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) the new, sole specialized accreditor for educator preparation.”
Who serves on this council?
On page two of the report is a listing of the CAEP Commission on standards and performance reporting. Table 1 outlines the CAEP commission membership to revamp the standards for teacher education. An analysis of the commission leads to some interesting statistics. The membership of the commission has a lot of administrators—deans, presidents, & superintendents, who make up 60% of the group. Professors, the women and men that design teacher education programs and courses and are out with their students in schools makes up only 9.5% of the commission. But this is typical of national commissions in most disciplines. The people making decisions tend not to be the “real” players in the field under consideration.
|Commission Composition||Number of Representatives||Comments|
|Deans, College Presidents, Superintendents||
|Largely Deans, but also College Presidents, & Vice-Presidents|
|Policy Advocacy Groups||
|New Schools Venture, Fordham Institute, Alliance for Excellent Education, EDGE Consulting LLC|
|AFT, NAESP, ATE, NEA|
|Professors of Education||
|No content disciplines identified|
|Math & History/Theatre|
|Teach for America||
|VP for Program Design|
Table 1. CAEP Commission Membership
From my point of view, the commission lacks credibility among the nation’s colleges that offer teacher preparation programs. If we want to develop standards that are realistic and will attract a range of people into the teaching profession, then standards need to show the research and experience of teacher educators who are involved in the day-to-day activities of preparing teachers and conducting teacher education research.
Overloading the group with administrators, many of whom are far removed from the day-to-day actions of professors is a disservice to the profession. Any profession. There needs to be at least a balance on commissions such as these to include more practitioners, and researchers. Personally, I would tip the scale in favor of practitioners and researchers.
Teach for America and the Thomas Fordham Institute are members of this commission, as well as three more advocacy groups, New School Venture Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, and EDGE Consulting. The fact that these groups are members of an organization writing standards for America’s institutions that prepare teacher is outrageous. The Fordham Institute is a right wing advocacy group that has little use for colleges of education. But the real kicker for me was the inclusion a VP from Teach for America. Here is an organization with right-wing funding that has seduced superintendents and school boards with the idea that putting unlicensed teachers in the nations poorest neighborhood schools is a good idea. How does the CAEP leadership reconcile the position of TFA with their own about teacher preparation?
The report quotes a U.S. Department of Education Report on Equity and Excellence that says those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates school in developing nations, and now is a pivotal moment for the teacher education profession to reform itself. But I smell some smoke here.
The same words to describe the standards for K-12 American education are found in the CAEP report: rigor, raising the bar, outcomes based, achievement scores, competing in the global economy, etc.
Providers, the name for teacher education institutions and the completers (students in the program), according to the Commission, will benefit from the CAEP report. Notice in the following quote from the report, the emphasis on data, better data, using better data, measuring and raising the bar:
CAEP accreditation will strengthen the quality of evidence measuring whether programs prepare effective teachers. It supports multiple measures. It judges programs by the impact that completers have on P?12 student learning and development. It requires providers to report their performance, discuss it with stakeholders, and use data to continuously monitor and improve their performance.
Commissioners are optimistic that advances in the quality of evidence are at hand, and CAEP must undertake substantial continuing responsibilities to upgrade the currently available data on which educator preparation providers and accreditation rely. These involve several related activities to both develop better data and to use data better.
The Commission has set a high bar, ensuring that attaining accreditation status is a meaningful achievement providing a mark of distinction for educator preparation providers, and one that ultimately ensures that educators enter the classroom ready to have a positive impact on the learning of all students and prepare them to compete in today’s global economy. Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation, Commission on Standards and Performance. (June 11, 2013) CAEP ACCREDITATION STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: Aspirations for Educator Preparation Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/
Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge (Which is more important, content knowledge or knowing how to teach the content?)
Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice (Keep an eye on which partners become collaborators)
Standard 3: Candidate Quality, Recruitment, and Selectivity (Raising the Bar of Grade Point Average)
Standard 4: Program Impact (Value-Added Measures)
Standard 5: Provider Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement (The Stock Market Analogy)
The standard categories have been part of teacher education for years. However, in this Commission’s report, there is a creeping suspicion that teacher education institutions might be held hostage by this organizations acceptance of value added measures being used to “measure” the effect of a teacher’s preparation. Institutions will also be held responsible for continuous growth. How will continuous growth be ascertained? Following candidates into the classroom and measuring their student’s achievement, that’s how. Policy wonks have convinced schools that it the nature of schooling for achievement test scores to improve each year. In an ecological world view, this is really not sustainable. Isn’t enough enough?
Standard 1, which is about content and pedagogical knowledge is what arts and science professors, and content methods professors have struggled with for decades. There is a great deal of research in their area of knowledge, but we must be clear about one thing; simply knowing one’s subject is not enough to be a successful teacher. Clearly, having teacher education programs in which candidates enter the program with a degree in science or history is one of the characteristics of some successful programs. Another important part of teacher education with regard to Standard 1 is the collaboration among professors across university departments. I do not mean simply professors of geology collaborating with their peers in science education. I also mean that professors in educational foundations and special education working with their colleagues in curriculum and instruction departments. And one other aspect that is important here is the involvement of elementary and secondary teachers in teacher education program courses, not just clinical experiences. Having a high school chemistry teacher team teach with a professor of science education in a course on science pedagogy is a powerful approach to help “completers” experience pedagogical content knowledge.
Standard 2, clinical partnerships is another example of an aspect of teacher education that is well established in most colleges of education. In fact, this writer, who started his teacher education career in 1969, was mentored by science education professors who already were integrating their “methods” courses with field experiences, and not waiting for supervised field experiences or student teaching. But field experiences have become ubiquitous with teacher education programs. Yet, there are multiple ways to carry out clinical experiences, and various stages of teacher preparation.
One aspect here is that a single dose of summer training does not prepare teachers to work in our nation’s schools. Yet, this Commission was represented by Teach for America, the organization that attracts high status college students for a two-year stint in teaching, and convinces school districts to place them in schools that probably need more experienced teachers. How does the Commission come to grips with the TFA model vs the intense “traditional” model of teacher preparation.
Standard 3, which is about the quality of students recruited boils down in this report to grade point average. Grade point average has been used to bash colleges of education for decades by claiming that those who go into teaching probably couldn’t cut it in other fields of study. On the one hand, CAEP urges that teacher education providers admit a pool of teacher candidates that show the diversity of the nation. Yet, they recommend raising the bar (why should I be surprised) for candidates to an average of 3.0 GPA. They also suggest that candidates at first be in the top 50%, and then in three years to the top 33% on national tests such as the GRE, SAT, ACT. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the quality of candidates that pursue careers in teaching. Although the average GPA of education students may be a tad lower than say students in arts and science at admission, the GPA of education students upon graduation is no different from students across the university.
Admission to teacher education should include quantitative and qualitative data and other sources of information. Candidates should be interviewed by a team of professors across departments and colleges, involving those that have a stake in the success of teacher education. This is not simply a job for the colleges of education.
Raising the bar only means that there will be more failures, and perhaps less qualified persons as teachers. You should read carefully the rationale on this particular standard, and especially follow the cited research.
Standard 4, dealing with program impact is the standard that needs to be discussed in more detail than I will give here. However, the CAEP Commission is clear that they want to use growth measures (including value-added measures, student-growth percentiles, and student learning and development goals). Value-added and student-growth percentiles are not supported in educational research, and indeed, these metrics have resulted in protest letters from professors of educational research pointing out the fallacies in the statistical use of student test scores within the context of the value-added model. To use the value-added model to assess beginning teachers and then use this metric to check and then rate (yes, is what will happen) schools based on a number is outright unethical, and invalid. There is little opposition from colleges of education to evaluating their programs. But lets not fall into the trap being set by reformers such as CAEP and NCTQ to use and favor quantitative data. Watch out.
Standard 5, deals with the provider having a quality assurance system composed of valid data from multiple measures and to make sure there is continuous improvement. According to the CAEP Commission, providers must set up evidence-based quality assurance systems and data in a process of continuous improvement. Here is what they mean. The Commission writes:
Measures of completer impact, including available outcome data on P?12 student growth, are summarized, externally benchmarked, analyzed, shared widely, and acted upon in decision?making related to programs, resource allocation, and future direction. Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation, Commission on Standards and Performance. (June 11, 2013) CAEP ACCREDITATION STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: Aspirations for Educator Preparation Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/
CAEP is setting up teacher preparation providers for a league standings approach to evaluation. By using data such as value-added and student growth percentages, CAEP will translate these numbers into ratings. Perhaps, like their friends at the Thomas Fordham Institute, or the National Council for Teacher Quality, they will use grades on a scale of A – F, or perhaps they will be more creative and give out Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals. Or, perhaps they will use the star system that is a favorite of many state departments of education.
In the end, instead of carrying out research that is meaningful, reflective and qualitative, CAEP and its corporate partners will steer us toward quantitative methods. They will use these invalid data sets in ways that will be detrimental to teacher preparation.
The kind of research that is needed is being carried out now, and has for decades. In a forthcoming book entitled Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Teachers: Practicing What We Preach, Mike Dias, Charles Eich, and Lauri Brantley-Dias and their co-authors reported on their experiences in which 25 professors returned to teach in K-12 schools for different periods of time. The book provides a rich and courageous examination of teaching and teacher preparation from the trenches. At a time when education policy and practice are being radically transformed by so-called reformers, this group of professors challenged present corporate model of education, and showed that teaching and teacher education is about collaboration, and that the research that in the end is most meaningful is qualitative and reflective, and not simply the collection of student test scores.
The CAEP organization has written a detailed report outlining the standards for the teaching profession. However, there are serious concerns with the make up of the Commission, as well as the emphasis of using quantitative data in recruiting, preparing, and evaluating providers and completers.
What is your opinion of the CAEP Commission’s report on standards for teacher preparation.