Tennessee Teacher Preparation Moving In The Right Direction

Teacher preparation – a powerful lever for advancing great teaching that supports higher student achievement – shows signs of growth in the latest Teacher Preparation Report Card from the Tennessee State Board of Education (SBE). The report card rates all Tennessee preparation programs using a number of factors such as whether candidates earn jobs in public schools after graduating and the degree to which they are effective in those positions. Programs earn a rating between 1 and 4, with 4 being the highest rating.

Now in its second year of production with a new design, the report card is considered a national model for communicating performance of programs to the public. In this year’s report card, more than half of the programs scored more points compared to last year. Eight programs also increased their overall rating. Continue reading for more highlights from the 2017 report card.

Performance of large providers: In the 2016 report card, smaller programs like Teach for America- Nashville earned the highest rating of 4. In 2017, these programs continued to maintain their performance and the larger providers also made some strong gains. Middle Tennessee State University and East Tennessee State University both scored a 3, a full overall category score up from last year’s rating. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville scored a 4, the first public university in the state to earn the highest rating. These scores reflect an intentional plan by state partners to ensure that our largest providers are preparing new teachers for the classroom. For example, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the SBE, and the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) have been conducting one-on-one meetings with presidents of public universities and the leadership of their colleges of education, with the goal of encouraging program improvement.

High-demand endorsements: This year’s report card continues to include detailed data about how well preparation programs are doing to align endorsement areas based on district needs. These data come at the heels of a 2017 TDOE report that highlighted teacher shortages in several subjects, including English as a Second Language. The 2017 report card shows that programs are still not producing enough new teachers who are endorsed in secondary math and science.

Teacher diversity: The percentage of racially and diverse completers in Tennessee programs increased slightly to 13 percent, up half a percentage point from last year. SCORE’s 2016 report, Prepared for Day One, stressed the need for a diverse teaching workforce because of the significant impact that teachers of color have in the classroom. In the last two years, the state has invested resources to increase teacher diversity. The TDOE awarded grants to districts and preparation programs committed to increasing the diversity of the state’s teachers. The Trailblazer Coalition, a group of preparation programs in middle Tennessee, released a report in 2017 identifying barriers that people of color face when considering teaching as a profession. The Coalition also committed to taking actions to help increase the diversity within their own programs. 2017 also saw the formation of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance, a nonprofit organization that is committed to elevating the voices of teachers of color in the state. These actions represent a step in the right direction but even more work needs to be done to recruit and retain teachers of color in Tennessee.

SCORE’s Prepared for Day One report challenged Tennessee to become a national leader in improving teacher preparation. More than half of the state’s programs improved their performance from last year, indicating that we are meeting the challenge. Even more encouraging is that several of the state’s largest programs made gains since 2016, ensuring that even more of our newest teachers are ready for the classroom. This momentum to improve teacher preparation will ensure that all Tennessee students are taught by effective, prepared teachers.

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Indira Dammu

Indira provides policy and research analysis that advances a more effective public education system in Tennessee. Prior to joining SCORE, she worked as a policy analyst at North Carolina New Schools in Raleigh, providing research support on competency-based education. Originally from India, she earned her Master of Public Policy degree from Duke University and her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. Indira was a middle school math teacher in Baton Rouge and a high school college readiness teacher in New Haven.

The SCORE Sheet is the online conversation on public education reform in Tennessee and is hosted by SCORE. The blog mirrors SCORE’s collaborative nature and features contributors from Tennessee and across the country including students, parents, teachers, policymakers, community groups, and members of SCORE’s team. Regardless of perspective, contributors share a common goal: that every child graduates from high school prepared for college or the workforce.

Posts on The SCORE Sheet are the opinions of the individual contributors and are not necessarily reflective of the opinions and positions of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).