Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct the required study. With additional support from the Kaufmann Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Spencer Foundation, the NRC established the Committee on the Study of Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States to carry out this work. The committee’s charge was to answer four questions:
Who enters teacher preparation programs (preservice, graduate, and alternative)? What is their academic preparation? What is their educational background?
What type of instruction and experiences do participants receive in the preparation program? Who delivers it? To what extent is there commonality in content and experiences?
To what extent is the required coursework and experiences in reading, mathematics, and science across teacher preparation programs consistent with converging scientific evidence?
What model for data collection would provide valid and reliable information about the content knowledge, pedagogical competence, and effectiveness of graduates from the various kinds of teacher preparation programs?
We interpreted this charge as focusing on public school teachers both because they are the objects of public policy and because the majority of the research on teacher quality and teacher preparation also focuses on them. We recognize the vital contribution that private school teachers make, but more than 85 percent of students in the United States attend public schools.1
Broadly viewed, our charge was to review the scientific evidence that pertains to teacher preparation and to consider the data collection that will best support improvements to this critical element of the public education system. The goal, implicit in our charge, was to rely on findings that are the product of responsible scholarship. We faced several challenges, however. First, the available data relevant to our charge are patchy. Second, the task of applying empirical evidence to some of the questions raised complex conceptual issues, such as the challenge of linking teacher characteristics and preparation to measures of student outcomes. In pursuit of answers,
In 2006, more than 49 million students were enrolled in public schools, just over 6 million were enrolled in private schools, and another 1.5 million were home schooled (see http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/ [January 2010]). Career pathways and preparation for private school teachers may differ in significant ways from those of public school teachers, but these differences are not well documented.