AACTE to Honor JTE Article Linking Field Placements to Graduates’ VAM

AACTE has chosen Matthew Ronfeldt of the University of Michigan School of Education to receive the 2016 AACTE Outstanding Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) Article Award for his article “Field Placement Schools and Instructional Effectiveness,” published in the September/October 2015 issue of the journal. The award will be presented at the 68th AACTE Annual Meeting Speaker Spotlight Session, Thursday, February 25, at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.

Ronfeldt’s study aimed to determine (a) what types of schools in an urban district are used most for preservice field placement, (b) what school characteristics make a difference in the effectiveness (gauged by value-added measures, or VAM, in reading and math) of the teachers placed there, and (c) whether teachers’ effectiveness corresponds to the degree of match between their preparation sites and the schools where they currently work.

In answer to his first question, Ronfeldt found that teacher preparation programs were more likely to place student teachers in schools with lower student achievement, more teacher turnover, less professional collaboration, and more historically marginalized students than other schools in the district.

Regarding the second question, teachers’ math VAM scores were higher if their preservice field placements had better professional collaboration, higher student achievement, and more Black students. In reading, these factors showed little effect, although field settings with more gifted students showed a positive correlation with teachers’ later reading VAM scores. (Surprisingly, the duration of student teaching appeared to be unrelated to a teacher’s later effectiveness in either math or reading.)

Ronfeldt found little correlation between teachers’ effectiveness and the degree of match between their student-teaching setting and current school of employment, although effectiveness seemed to suffer when the school size (in enrollment numbers) was very different.

“The hallmark of good research is that it produces surprise, new ideas, and new questions,” said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, William H. Payne Collegiate Professor and dean of the University of Michigan School of Education. “Ronfeldt’s study investigates the relationship of field placements—a key component of teacher preparation—to beginning teachers’ instructional effectiveness. He finds that placing student teachers in schools with more positive organizational cultures is more likely to prepare them to be instructionally effective. Ronfeldt’s article is exemplary both for its design and analytic approach as well as for challenging common assumptions about how best to prepare teachers who are ready to teach in urban schools.”

The review committee chose to honor this article over the other strong contenders because it addresses a core topic within teacher preparation—as noted by Dean Ball. “The link between the field placement of teacher candidates and how they learn to be effective teachers is an enduring issue in the field, and the findings from this well-designed and large-scale study offer some important insights,” said Mistilina Sato, chair of the AACTE Committee on Research and Dissemination. “This paper also suggests a call to the field to better understand the effects of field placements on preservice teacher learning.”

At the end of each journal volume year, the JTE editors nominate what they consider to be the year’s top articles for this award. The nominees are then reviewed by the Committee on Research and Dissemination, which chooses a winner. SAGE Publications, AACTE’s publishing partner for the journal, supports the award with a cash prize.

AACTE issued a press release today announcing all of its 2016 award winners. For information about the journal, visit http://jte.sagepub.com (and remember, AACTE members can access full JTE content for free through the link on this page). For more information on AACTE’s awards program, visit http://aacte.org/professional-development-and-events/awards.

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