The president of the Washington Association of Colleges for Teacher Education(WACTE) today said a national survey of colleges of education has missed the chance to improve teacher preparation education programs. WACTE President Connie Lambert said a review, sponsored by US News & World Report, relies on program inputs—syllabi, textbooks, and handbooks—but overlooks results, such as degree completion, student teaching performance, state tests of teacher candidates, and employment. US News & World Report is expected to release results of its survey in April.
“The US News survey relied on inputs and ignored performance,” said Lambert, dean of the Central Washington University College of Education. “Washington’s teacher preparation programs have extensive performance data that the survey could have used instead of focusing on inputs that don’t predict or measure what teachers know and are able to do.”
Lambert said inputs, such as course syllabi, were routinely used as the primary means of assessing teacher preparation back in the 1970s. Since then, in the interest of enhancing the utility and accuracy of assessments, CWU and most of the nation’s other top colleges of education have moved to more sophisticated measurements, based on student performance. These comprehensive data systems were available but not included in the survey, conducted for US News by National Council on Teacher Quality.
For example, the Washington Educator Skills Test-Endorsements (WEST-E) measures content knowledge by subject area. Every teacher candidate must pass the test before being certified to teach in Washington. From 2009 through 2012 the state rates for passing the WEST-E improved across all content areas, including an increase from 85 to 90 percent for middle-level math endorsements.
Lambert said the US News survey also failed to consider an innovative new way of evaluating teacher candidates, the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA). Piloted at CWU, the TPA now is in effect at all 21 teacher preparation programs in Washington. Partners in the new assessment include Washington’s Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB), Washington State Board of Education, Washington Student Achievement Council, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Washington State Legislature.
The colleges and agencies have built a robust set of performance data that identified best practices that produce positive results in K-12 teaching and learning. The TPA looks at actual performance and work products at the end of a student’s education. Teacher candidates must collect evidence of teaching competence. Video, lesson plans, student work samples, and other work products form a portfolio examined and scored by master teachers.
“Students must prove they’re ready to teach before they graduate,” said Lambert, adding that all teacher preparation programs regularly open their records and reports to legitimate state and federal review agencies.
Teacher preparation programs prepare for comprehensive analyses and reviews by a variety of agencies and organizations. In Washington, the PESB reviews preparation programs every five years, and digs deep into college data to analyze results.
Lambert added that meaningful performance data about teacher education preparation in Washington is available to the public on individual college websites, and collectively on the PESB website.
Jim DePaepe, WACTE policy research analyst, said colleges collaborate closely with the state PESB to track graduates from university admission through their first job in a K-12 classroom. Colleges can measure how students are performing in school, how quickly they’re progressing, and whether they’re ready for student teaching.
“We’re now working on predictability models using data collected at pre-admission and continuing through performance in the classroom,” said DePaepe, director of the CWU Office of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment, who developed a comprehensive performance database for CWU that houses scores on 20,479 WEST-B and 6,297 WEST-E scores for 36 endorsements areas.
“It would be quicker and easier to just collect syllabi and course schedules, but comprehensive performance data does a better job of helping us understand what graduates know and are able to do—and that’s what counts,” said DePaepe.
Colleges of education also provide comprehensive data about teacher performance to the federal Department of Education for inclusion in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Many colleges also provide detailed data to recognized and accountable assessment agencies, including the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Teacher Education Accreditation Council, and American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Information within all of these agencies is open to public examination.