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Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy
form efforts in the United States, as it has in business and other sectors, though there have been disagreements about which sorts of accountability measures are the most useful in the context of public education.
Following decades of state leadership in standards-based accountability, federal policy makers intensified the focus with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. That law tied federal funds to measures of student learning, mandating that states assess achievement in core subjects annually with the goal of ensuring that all students reach proficient levels in those subjects by 2014. Educators are expected to draw on a range of performance indicators to diagnose problem areas and sharpen interventions. Though standards-based testing and accountability are not without problems and detractors, most believe that they are here to stay, and that—on balance—they are having a positive effect (Stecher and Naftel, 2006; Massell, 2008).
Two types of accountability bear directly on teacher education, one related to programs and one related to teachers:
the direct monitoring of teacher preparation programs, by means of program approval and accreditation, and
the monitoring of individual teachers, through certification and licensure.
States and professional accrediting bodies exert direct influence over the operations and content of teacher education programs. Certification and licensure policies affect teachers directly, but they also affect preparation programs, which have the goal of certifying their graduates in particular areas and preparing them for the tests that states require of prospective teachers. Indeed, in some states the connection is explicit: for example, the subject-matter content standards for Florida teachers are designed to undergird both the state’s ongoing approval processes for teacher education programs and the content of the subject-specific certification examinations required for full licensure. In addition, we note that teachers’ performance on high-quality state certification and licensure tests could theoretically be an important measure of what graduates of preparation programs have learned.
The charge to this committee does not include reference to accountability or any individual quality control mechanisms. Yet our examination of the quality of teacher education inevitably led us to consider program approval, accreditation, and certification as crucial policy levers. Accountability mechanisms can be viewed as means of protecting the public from educational malpractice, or, more ambitiously, of ensuring that high standards are met. In either view, their functioning is critical to understanding of both the forces that shape teacher preparation and possible opportunities to leverage future improvements. Congress sought this report on the state