As Tennessee embraces higher academic standards and prepares students for a more competitive and demanding economy, the training that teachers receive is increasingly important. Research has shown time and again that teachers are the most important in-school factor in driving student achievement. As such, focusing on understanding and improving the quality of teacher preparation programs in Tennessee is critical to the state’s continued success.
Each year the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Education and Tennessee State Board of Education, puts out a Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs that examines the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs. The report is required by law to examine the performance of preparation programs related to: placement and retention, Praxis II pass rates, and teacher effectiveness data for graduates based upon TVAAS.
This year’s report contains a wealth of information including statewide numbers and individual profiles for each of the state’s 43 teacher preparation programs. According to the report, in 2012-13, Tennessee produced 4,784 teachers down from 4,900 in 2011-12, and 5,109 in 2010-11. The report cites that three institutions – Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, and University of Memphis – together produced over 30 percent of teachers in 2012-13. In addition, the report provides information about how many graduates Tennessee is producing in certain subject areas. In 2012-13, the most common certification was elementary education with 32 percent of graduates receiving this endorsement.
The report also examines a range of information about the candidates that Tennessee’s teacher preparation programs accept. Alarmingly, several institutions are admitting students in teacher preparation programs with very low ACT scores. One Tennessee preparation program accepted candidates with ACT scores as low as 12, which is higher than only 4 percent of ACT test takers nationwide.
The report also cites several programs that consistently outperform the state average: Lipscomb University, Memphis Teacher Residency, Teach for America Memphis, Teach for America Nashville, and University of Tennessee Knoxville. This information is based upon on TVAAS teacher effectiveness data. This measure, the subject of a recent SCORE policy memo, is one of many important measures to consider when judging the effectiveness of both preparation programs and individual teachers. As such, THEC plans on incorporating other measures of teaching effectiveness, such as data from the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM) and other alternative teacher evaluation models into future report cards.
Over the coming months, Tennessee will adopt a new and more robust policy for the monitoring and approval of teacher preparation programs. As these policies are adopted, it is important that the policy is effectively implemented to ensure that preparation programs are focused on the appropriate inputs (such as selectivity of candidates and rigorous curricula) and appropriate outputs (such as teaching effectiveness and teacher retention). Tennessee has made great strides in education, and in order to continue this progress, we must ensure that preparation programs continue to raise the bar in order to guarantee classroom-ready graduates to teach our students.