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National Academy of Education Releases New Consensus Report

Evaluating and Improving Teacher Preparation Programs

This article was written by Kenneth Zeichner, Ph.D., and Linda Darling-Hammond, Ed.D.

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) recently released a consensus study report, Evaluating and Improving Teacher Preparation Programs, which addresses the interconnectedness between the role of teacher preparation programs (TPPs) to both prepare teachers well and the larger policy supports necessary for the nation to meet the critical goal of recruiting, retaining, and equitably distributing a well-qualified workforce to ensure that all students are taught by well-prepared, culturally responsive teachers.

Too many students, especially those from historically marginalized communities, do not have equitable access to qualified, well-prepared teachers. This is combined with increased teacher shortages which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, high teacher attrition rates, wage penalties when compared with comparable professions, and difficult working conditions. Acknowledging the importance of TPPs in educating teachers, this report provides recommendations to enhance program evaluation to address program improvement. Importantly, given the larger educational context in which TPPs are positioned, this report also provides recommendations for broader reforms to the educational system—including federal and state financial support for teacher education and teacher salaries — that are necessary to support equitable access to high quality teacher preparation for prospective teachers.

Through examining the current landscape of teacher preparation evaluation, the report delineates the complexity, nuance, and interrelatedness of the three goals of TPP evaluations — program improvement, consumer information, and accountability. It also highlights the complex and variable characteristics of TPPs and TPP approval and accreditation — including the wide range of TPP pathways into teaching and the variability both across and within states concerning program approval and accreditation, particularly for alternative pathways which often provide little (if any) student teaching experiences. The report addresses the various evaluative entities shaping the field of TPP evaluation, which bring about multiple evaluation objectives and processes that present both challenges of data collection burden and opportunities for program improvement. It also highlights the high student debts and subpar working conditions that are disproportionately affecting BIPOC teachers.

Grounded in the scientific research on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that teachers need to support student learning and development, the report identifies crucial TPP features associated with high quality preparation as targets for evaluation and provides a roadmap that links key evidence and measures to these TPP features while also addressing the strengths and weaknesses of these measures. The report also highlights teacher preparation systems in other high-achieving countries as examples of effective evaluation processes.

Based on this critical information, the report makes recommendations to support the evaluation and improvement of TPPs by addressing four crucial components: (1) improving TPP accreditation and program approval; (2) enhancing TPP self-study; (3) providing system supports for TPP evaluation; and (4) creating system supports for teaching and teacher preparation.

Addressing these complex issues requires new levels of funding and resources in teacher preparation—however, doing so has never been more necessary or consequential. All students should be provided the opportunity to benefit from an equitable, culturally responsive, and high-quality public education.

More on This Project

This consensus report is part of a NAEd research study focused on the evaluation and improvement of TPPs. The project identifies best practices among existing models of evaluation tools and provides recommendations for the development of new models. Major outcomes of this project include (1) a republished 2013 NAEd report on the evaluation of TPPs as a multi-layered website, (2) a commissioned paper series, and (3) a peer-reviewed consensus study report. Based on the commissioned papers and an extensive review of relevant literature, the study report documents the consensus of an interdisciplinary steering committee of scholars, researchers, and practitioners in teacher education.  

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Kenneth Zeichner

University of Washington