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Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy (2010)

Chapter: 8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education

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Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

8
Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education

Our examination of teacher preparation for reading, mathematics, and science brought out some interesting differences among the three as well as some important similarities. We found a variety of sources to support conclusions relevant to teacher preparation. The support was strongest for conclusions about reading and weakest for conclusions about science. Overall, based on professional consensus in each field about what successful students know and a variety of evidence about the experiences that support student learning, we offer conclusions that can point teacher educators toward the best currently available guidance about preparation in these fields.

The next question to ask, then, is how these conclusions can be useful to policy makers in holding teacher education preparation programs accountable for the quality of the education they provide. Before discussing the utility of our conclusions for this purpose, we consider more broadly the accountability mechanisms in public education and teacher preparation.

ACCOUNTABILITY: AN OVERVIEW

Accountability—the mechanism by which institutions meet their obligation to report to others about how their resources have been used and to what effect—is a central concept in democratic societies (Trow, 1996). It can function through a variety of structures, including government regulation, private markets, and self-regulation (Graham, Lyman, and Trow, 1995). Accountability has become the cornerstone of K-12 education re-

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

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:

  1. the direct monitoring of teacher preparation programs, by means of program approval and accreditation, and

  2. 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

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

of teacher preparation because adequate information about key aspects of teacher education is not readily available. Accountability mechanisms are important tools for improving teacher education and could be an excellent ongoing source of the kind of information Congress has requested. For these reasons, we determined that a report on teacher preparation programs would be incomplete if it did not address accountability mechanisms. We look first at accountability mechanisms that affect teachers directly.

CERTIFICATION, LICENSURE, AND TESTING

Certification

The quality of individual teachers is addressed by states in various ways. Certification is the process by which states assess individuals’ qualifications for teaching jobs, and each state develops and enforces certification in its own way. According to data collected by the Education Commission of the States and the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality and made accessible in an interactive website (see http://mb2.ecs.org/reports/reportTQ.aspx?id=1137 [December 2009]), of 54 jurisdictions (states, U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia), the state board of education authorizes teacher certification in 21, in 16 it is the state education agency, and in 16 it is a board or commission established specifically for that purpose (no policy was found for Guam or Michigan). Requirements may include background checks and fingerprinting; character recommendations; oaths of allegiance; minimum age; state-mandated teacher tests of basic skills, professional knowledge, or content knowledge; the completion of coursework in various domains (e.g., subject-matter majors or minors, the teaching of reading, classroom management, content courses aligned with state level standards for students); and participation in clinical field experiences (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000).

The requirements for teacher certification have evolved over time, reflecting shifting expectations of teachers. In the colonial period, religious elders and important citizens would assess the moral and physical strength of teacher applicants. In the mid-19th century, reformers worked to establish professional standards and examinations. Tests were based on individual authors’ views of what constituted professional knowledge, which might include geography or mathematics facts or moral views (Sedlak, 2008). Gradually, the curricula of teacher education programs expanded to include educational foundations (philosophy, psychology, sociology), instructional methods, and subject-matter courses.

Program administrators looked for guidance in designing their curricula from a variety of sources: professional organizations, local and state

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

boards of education, state legislatures, other teacher preparation programs, faculty in the disciplines, state superintendents of schooling, and education research. The content of teacher preparation programs is determined in part by state requirements (which are developed through the political process), but they also reflect the values and views of faculty in both colleges of education and disciplinary departments. There is no centralized source of information about state requirements or the content of teacher preparation programs currently offered in the United States. We could find no evidence that state requirements for teacher certification are based on research findings, and it appears that they vary significantly.

States also vary in the way they classify teaching certifications: teachers can be granted provisional certificates, professional or permanent certificates, or emergency certificates. Most states have a staged licensure process: 31 require an initial license that is valid for 2-5 years, with a permanent license to follow when additional requirements are fulfilled (such as completing advanced degrees or continuing professional development) (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000). To earn a full license, teachers in some states must pass assessments of classroom performance. These assessments include the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) content-specific portfolios and Praxis III, an observation instrument developed by the Educational Testing Service.

Licensure

The terms certification and licensure are essentially synonymous in education, though that is not the case in all professional contexts. Some states issue teaching certificates and others issue licenses, with both typically serving the same function. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards also offers certification, available in all states, that identifies successful candidates (among teachers who have been in the classroom for at least 3 years) as accomplished teachers, and the states offer other sorts of specialized certification as well.

Testing

Forty-two states require some form of teacher testing as part of the certification or licensure process (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000). Teacher tests may cover basic skills, general knowledge, subject-matter knowledge, or pedagogical knowledge. Different tests are used to evaluate candidates in more than 25 credential areas (e.g., elementary education, chemistry, art, special education), and every state sets its own pass rates. There are more than 600 teacher tests

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

currently in use (National Research Council, 2001). Two test development companies, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and National Evaluation Systems (NES), produce most of these tests, although some states develop their own. The limited information available about the development of these tests suggest that decisions about test content are generally based on either the mapping of K-12 student standards or teacher standards or the consensus views of panels of professionals (teachers, teacher educators, state department staff, faculty from the disciplines) (Wilson and Youngs, 2006).

There is a limited amount of research on the psychometric characteristics of these tests. For example, Wilson and Youngs (2006) located 14 studies of teacher testing, but all were conducted before the National Teachers Examination (NTE) was replaced with PRAXIS. Moreover, variation in the ways these tests are developed and used makes it very difficult to generalize about them. For example, states use different cutoff scores even when using the same test. Moreover, candidates also take these tests at different times in their careers, and thus will have had varying amounts of education and student teaching when they are tested. The available research was not designed to account for these and other sources of variance in performance: consequently, there is very little systematic information about the content or the predictive validity of these tests.

The quality of teacher tests has been a subject of public concern, with critics charging that they are simplistic and calling attention to embarrassingly low cut scores (e.g., Fowler, 2001). ETS has published reports about how their tests are constructed, but most teacher tests are not available to researchers for content analyses or research. One reason for the lack of access is that testing companies invest considerable funds in test development, and they do not want to bear the cost of replacing publicly released items, which they would have to do if the test items were available for study. One report on test content (Mitchell and Barth, 1999) found that most teacher tests in English/language arts, mathematics, and science used a multiple-choice format and covered knowledge at the high school level: they “found no evidence of content at the baccalaureate level” (p. 8).

For tests of professional knowledge to provide valid information on which to base accountability systems, they will need to be aligned with scientifically based research on student learning and instructional practices. However, for this kind of alignment to be possible, the developers of teacher licensing exams would need to make the necessary data available so that qualified researchers can, without breaching test security, study and report on the content of these exams.

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

PROGRAM APPROVAL

States also exercise authority over the programs that educate prospective teachers through program approval. An individual teacher can apply directly to the state department of education for certification, but individual teachers can also be recommended for certification by state-approved programs of teacher preparation. That is, program approval allows for graduates of particular programs that meet state criteria to be automatically recommended for individual certification at the program’s discretion. State departments of education set program approval requirements and stipulate the review process for program approval, which typically involves an initial registration process and ongoing reviews; this process may or may not be related to national accreditation reviews (National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 2006). We could find no systematic information on or analysis of how state program approval is carried out or of its effects on quality.

Teacher education programs and state departments of education do have significant experience with managing program approval in their own states. In Michigan, for example, program approval often requires the construction of a matrix that aligns all state requirements to all program content. These analyses can include presentation of annotated course syllabi that highlight and point out where, when, and how particular topics are covered. Reviews may also include materials that demonstrate alignment between a program and state requirements. Some states convene panels of teacher educators from across the state to review these materials.

Teacher education program approval is typically mandatory. However, the effects of state approval on program quality have not been systematically demonstrated. The current mechanisms and standards vary considerably across states, can be inefficient, and can include requirements that have little empirical base.

STANDARDS

Central to state review and program accreditation processes are the standards against which institutions are judged. Many states have their own standards for teachers, and some have standards for beginning teachers. Others use the standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). NCATE’s standards are developed through a consensus process and are updated every 7 years (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2008). Data from the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality show that 32 states require their programs to align their curricula in some way with K-12 academic standards, and 28

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

require that programs align their curricula in some way with state standards for K-12 teachers (see http://www2.tqsource.org/mb2dev/reports/reportTQ.aspx?id=946 [December 2009]). However, we were not able to find any comprehensive documentation or analysis of the standards that states used in accrediting teacher preparation institutions. From our examination of materials from TEAC, NCATE, and four states (California, Florida, Michigan, and New York), as well as regional agencies, it seems that states’ standards generally incorporate or draw on local requirements and the recommendations of professional associations and that their content and character vary significantly.

The standards that do exist are not based on research that demonstrates links between particular standards and improved outcomes for students taught by teachers who were educated in a particular way because such evidence is not available. Thus, as in other professions, states and accrediting bodies draw on the standards developed by professional associations, other consensus recommendations, widely held commitments, or recognized best practices. We note that teacher education is hardly alone in lacking data that directly link components of professional preparation to the outcomes for those who receive the professionals’ services.

ACCREDITATION

Professional societies associated with other fields, such as architecture, medicine, and law, require preparation programs to obtain national accreditation as a way of assuring the public of the programs’ soundness and rigor. This is not a requirement for teacher education programs, though individual states can mandate it, requiring either state program review or accreditation by a national body (National Research Council, 2001). Virtually no research exists that demonstrates the effects of accreditation on teacher quality (Wilson and Youngs, 2006). Again, there is limited centralized information about the specifics of how programs are actually accredited across the states. Data available on the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality website indicates that each state develops its own policy (see http://www2.tqsource.org/prep/policy/index.asp [December 2009]). States may accept the accreditation of one of two national bodies, NCATE and TEAC, or develop their own requirements for program review.

There are also six regional agencies (the Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, and Western Associations of Schools and Colleges) that accredit institutions of higher education—though not teacher education programs specifically—and some states rely on this general accreditation. Many states allow more than one route to program approval, either accepting more than one type of review (national or state) or requiring that programs meet both the standards of a national or regional

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

TABLE 8-1 Accreditation for Teacher Preparation Programs

State

State-Set Requirements

NCATE

TEAC

One or More Regional Bodies

No Policy Found

AK

 

 

 

*

 

AL

 

 

 

*

 

AR

 

*

 

 

 

AS

 

 

 

 

*

AZ

 

*

*

*

 

CA

*

 

 

*

 

CO

 

*

*

*

 

CT

 

*

 

*

 

DC

*

 

 

 

 

DE

*

*

 

 

 

FL

 

 

 

*

 

GA

 

*

*

*

 

GU

 

 

 

 

*

HI

 

 

 

 

*

IAa

*

 

 

 

 

ID

 

*

*

*

 

IL

 

*

*

*

 

IN

 

*

 

 

 

KS

 

*

 

 

 

KY

*

*

 

 

 

LA

*

*

 

 

 

MA

 

 

 

 

*

MD

 

*

 

 

 

ME

 

*

*

*

 

MI

*

 

 

 

 

MN

*

 

 

 

 

MO

*

*

*

*

 

MS

 

*

 

 

 

MT

*

*

 

 

 

NC

 

*

*

 

 

body and additional standards set by the state. Eight states do not appear to have set a formal policy for accreditation. In addition, some states have a policy for intervening with or closing a program that does not meet its criteria. The variation in states’ policies regarding accreditation is shown in Table 8-1.

Some states have performance, or competency-based, processes, requiring that programs demonstrate how they ensure that prospective teachers have acquired the necessary knowledge and skill; others examine program outcomes, examining graduation, job placement, and retention rates. See Boxes 8-1 and 8-2 for descriptions of the approval processes for New

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

State

State-Set Requirements

NCATE

TEAC

One or More Regional Bodies

No Policy Found

ND

 

*

 

 

 

NE

*

*

 

 

 

NJ

 

*

*

 

 

NM

 

 

 

 

*

NY

*

*

*

*

 

OH

*

*

 

 

 

OK

*

*

 

 

 

OR

 

 

 

*

 

PA

 

*

*

*

 

PR

 

*

 

 

 

RI

 

*

 

*

 

SC

*

*

 

 

 

SD

 

*

 

*

 

TN

*

 

 

 

 

TX

*

 

 

 

 

UT

 

*

*

*

 

VA

 

 

 

 

*

VI

 

 

 

 

*

VT

 

 

 

*

 

WA

 

 

 

*

 

WI

 

 

 

*

 

WV

 

 

 

*

 

WY

 

 

 

 

*

Total

17

30

12

22

8

aThe database shows no policy for Iowa, but we obtained independent confirmation of the state’s policy as well as information for California (Commission on Teacher Credentialing, 2007).

SOURCE: Compiled from data available on the website of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, see http://www.ecs.org/html/offsite.asp?document=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Etqsource%2Eorg%2Fprep%2Findex%2Easp++ [December 2009]); updated to 2006.

York and Florida, respectively. The accreditation standards for NCATE are shown in Box 8-3.

According to data from NCATE and TEAC, over half of the approximately 1,300 U.S. teacher education programs they examined are accredited by one of the two national bodies: 632 by NCATE (see http://www.ncate.org/public/listofaccredinst.asp [December 2009]) and 59 by TEAC (see http://www.teac.org/index.php/membership/teac-members/ [December 2009]). NCATE, which was established in 1954, draws on the expertise of a variety of professional associations concerned with education in developing its standards; see Box 8-4. (We note that disciplinary organizations, such

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

BOX 8-1

New York State Teacher Education Program Approval Process

The initial process of registering teacher preparation programs in the state involves providing written documentation of such things as program philosophy or mission; faculty cooperation across university departments; efforts to recruit faculty and students from historically underrepresented populations; efforts to educate potential students about labor market conditions for each certification area; use of assessments; and facilities.

In addition to these general requirements, state regulations specify a “content core” and a “pedagogical core” for each certification type. For example, elementary education programs are required to provide study (and specify each by listing the relevant college course numbers) that will permit candidates to obtain an 11-point list of pedagogical knowledge, understanding, and skills (e.g., human development, learning, language acquisition; curriculum planning; technology). The list is different for alternative certification programs. The field experience portion of pedagogical core is further specified, requiring at least 100 hours of field experiences related to coursework prior to student teaching or practica and at least two college-supervised student-teaching experiences of at least 20 school days each. The types of experiences and overseeing faculty are also specified.

Once programs are registered with the state, all programs must be accredited by the state once every 4 years. Accreditation can be obtained through the State Regents Accreditation of Teacher Education (RATE) process or through accreditation by NCATE or TEAC.

RATE includes five standards of quality:

  1. commitment and vision

  2. philosophy, purposes, and objectives

  3. standards for program registration

  4. teaching effectiveness of graduates, including evidence their graduates:

    1. promote well-being of all their students

    2. help them learn to their highest levels of achievement and independence

    3. use their knowledge to create nurturing environment for all students

  1. assessment of candidate achievement

Additional standards relate to financial resources, support servies, advertising, candidate complaints, public disclosure of accreditation status, and annual reports.

Each program submits a self-study report for review by up to three external reviewers, selected by the New York State Department of Education. The program submits written reports to the state commissioner who makes a recommendation to the Board of Regents, which ultimately decides accreditation action.

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

as the American Mathematical Society, are not included.) The organization has repeatedly revised the accreditation process. The current process emphasizes the need for institutions to demonstrate that the content of their programs aligns with relevant standards. TEAC was created in 1997 by a group of education school deans and college presidents. TEAC’s accreditation model is based on audits in which the organization’s quality principles (e.g., evidence of student learning, assessment of student learning) are applied (Murray, 2001). A TEAC audit may be coordinated with state standards and accreditation procedures. As this report is being completed, TEAC and NCATE are discussing possibilities for creating a uniform system of accreditation that would combine their separate efforts.

The accreditation process of the six regional agencies is not comparable to the specialized accreditation offered by NCATE or TEAC. Teacher preparation institutions that are accredited through the regional agencies must demonstrate that they meet the standards of eligibility of the Commission of Higher Education and then go through a process of self-study determined by the regional agency and aligned with that agency’s standards. The regional agency procedures may include paper reviews of program curricula; in other cases on-site reviews are conducted by teams of educators and others. Historically, these regional agency reviews have tended to emphasize inputs, asking such questions as whether prospective teachers have the opportunity to learn various knowledge and skills. Only recently has attention turned to accountability for outputs, that is, results.

Accreditation also commonly includes some sort of peer review or audit of programs by teams of peers, which may include teachers, teacher educators, state education department staff, school administrators, and faculty from the disciplines. For example, NCATE has a board of examiners who are trained by NCATE in the accreditation processes (for details, see http://www.ncate.org [October 2009]). TEAC sends a team of auditors to check the accuracy of the materials submitted by an institution. These auditors include TEAC-trained educators, and in some states local practitioners and representatives of the relevant state department of education (for details, see http://www.teac.org [October 2009]). Regional agencies use similar processes, with faculty from peer institutions who make campus visits to check the validity of self-studies. The practices for appointing and educating these visiting peers vary among the accrediting bodies.

We note that the identification of suitable peers for the accreditation of teacher education programs presents some challenges. The criteria for the selection of peers—whether teachers, administrators, or researchers—might have a profound influence on the resulting review because of those individuals’ professional views regarding the elements that are important or effective in teacher preparation. Similar concerns would hold for parents, policy makers, or any other participants. Moreover, without a strong empirical

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

BOX 8-2

Florida State Teacher Education Program Approval Process

Review and approval of educator preparation programs in Florida consists of two parallel systems—one for initial approval and one for continuing approval—both of which are governed by both law and rules. The focus of the initial review is process oriented; the focus of the continued review is performance based.

In brief, institutions seeking initial approval of their programs submit curriculum folios describing the design, delivery, content, and evaluation of each program for review by statewide teams of peer reviewers. This folio review is followed by an on-site review for institutions that do not currently have approved programs. Initial approval is granted first for all of the programs the institution is seeking approval for; then, the institution transitions to the continued program approval standards and process, for which there are annual reporting requirements and a site visit every 7 years in order to monitor program outcomes, candidate performance, and continuous improvement.

The standards for (performance-based) continued review include three major standards, on content, on the candidate teachers, and continuous improvement. The key elements in each of these standards is shown below.


Standard 1. Core Curriculum Content

  1. Current mandated state requirements and curricular content are consistently implemented and published in required documents.

  2. Field or clinical sites represent diverse cultures and varying exceptionalities and performance levels, in a variety of settings, including high-needs schools.

  3. Faculty meet state-mandated requirements for supervision of field or clinical experiences.

  4. 4. School district personnel meet state-mandated requirements for supervision of field or clinical experiences.

base on which to make decisions about the quality of teacher preparation, any interested party can claim some reason for participating in accreditation visits and processes.

In sum, teacher education program accreditation traditionally has been voluntary and has been conducted by states and national nongovernmental organizations. More institutions are currently accredited by NCATE than by any other state or national body. The effects of state program reviews and national accreditation on program quality have not been systematically demonstrated. There is no centralized information about how comparable these various modes are. States’ accountability practices have relatively little foundation in empirical findings because little such evidence is available. We note that this dilemma is not unique to education.

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

Standard 2. Candidate Competency

  1. Each program consistently applies state-mandated admission requirements.

  2. Candidate evidence of attainment of uniform core curricular content is assessed and data is collected from coursework, field or clinical experiences, and on the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations.

  3. Candidates demonstrate impact on P-12 student learning based on student achievement data in field or clinical experiences and during the first year of teaching.

  4. The program documents the assistance and the results of the assistance provided to program completers who do not meet employer satisfaction in their first 2 years of teaching.

Standard 3. Continuous Improvement

  1. The program remains responsive to the needs of the state and districts served.

  2. Employers of program completers indicate satisfaction with the level of preparedness for the first year of teaching, including the rehire rates of program completers and length of stay in the classroom.

  3. Program completers indicate satisfaction with the level of preparedness for the first year of teaching.

  4. Continuous improvement across and within programs is the result of routine analysis of data collected on Standards 2 and 3; admission, enrollment, and completion status of each candidate; and results of recent faculty experiences.

COMPARISONS WITH OTHER FIELDS

The challenges of effectively using accountability measures to ensure quality are not unique either to education or to the U.S. system, but the U.S. education system has charted its own course to a considerable extent. A detailed comparative analysis of accountability practices across occupations was not part of the committee’s charge and little information was available, but we do note a few general findings. A comparison of preparation and training in seven fields conducted by The Finance Project (Neville, Sherman, and Cohen, 2005) found that the standards for entry are less consistent, across the states, for teaching than for any of the other six fields examined (law, accounting, architecture, nursing, firefighting, and law enforcement).

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

BOX 8-3

Standards of the National Council of Accreditation in Teacher Education

Twenty-five states have adopted or adapted NCATE unit standards and administer them. Twenty-five states delegate NCATE to conduct the program review process for purposes of NCATE accreditation and state approval. NCATE has six standards, detailed below.


Standard 1: Candidate Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Dispositions: Candidates preparing to work in schools as teachers or other school professionals know and demonstrate the content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and skills, pedagogical and professional knowledge and skills, and professional dispositions necessary to help all students learn. Assessments indicate that candidates meet professional, state, and institutional standards.


Standard 2: Assessment System and Unit Evaluation: The unit has an assessment system that collects and analyzes data on applicant qualifications, candidate and graduate performance, and unit operations to evaluate and improve the performance of candidates, the unit, and its programs.


Standard 3: Field Experiences and Clinical Practice: The unit and its school partners design, implement, and evaluate field experiences and clinical practice so that teacher candidates and other school professionals develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to help all students learn.


Standard 4: Diversity: The unit designs, implements, and evaluates curriculum and provides experiences for candidates to acquire and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to help all students learn. Assessments indicate that candidates can demonstrate and apply proficiencies related to diversity. Experiences provided for candidates include working with diverse populations, including higher education and P-12 school faculty, candidates, and students in P-12 schools.


Standard 5: Faculty Qualifications, Performance, and Development: Faculty are qualified and model best professional practices in scholarship, service, and teaching, including the assessment of their own effectiveness as related to candidate performance. They also collaborate with colleagues in the disciplines and schools. The unit systematically evaluates faculty performance and facilitates professional development.


Standard 6: Unit Governance and Resources: The unit has the leadership, authority, budget, personnel, facilities, and resources, including information technology resources, for the preparation of candidates to meet professional, state, and institutional standards.

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

BOX 8-4

Professional Associations That Provide Input to the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education

Teacher Education Associations

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Association of Teacher Educators (ATE)


Teacher Associations

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)

National Education Association (NEA)

National Education Association (NEA) Student Program


Child-Centered Associations

Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)

National Middle School Association (NMSA)


Subject-Matter Associations

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD)

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

International Reading Association (IRA)

International Technology Education Association (ITEA)

National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)

North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)


Educational Leadership Associations

American Association of School Administrators (AASA)

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)


Policy Maker Associations

Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)

National School Boards Association (NSBA)


SOURCE: Data from http://www.ncate.org/governance/MemberOrganizations.aspx [March 2010].

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

The study noted that in all of the other fields, candidates are required to pass a single national exam or a state exam with a national component before they are allowed to begin practicing. None of the other fields allows candidates to gain licensure through alternative routes or to begin practicing before they have met all licensure requirements. The authors also found that all of the six comparison fields have more consistent program approval mechanisms across the states than does education.

Most of the 50 countries that participated in the Third Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) have the same basic elements in place for teacher education and certification (Mullis et al., 2008). For example, 42 require that candidates who wish to teach at the elementary or primary level earn a degree from a teacher education program, and more than 40 require some sort of practicum (opportunity to apply what was taught in the classroom). The requirements are somewhat different for mathematics and science teachers, but more than half of the countries also require passage of an exam and have a probationary period for new teachers. These comparisons, though limited, suggest that the United States is quite different from other countries in having such a highly variable approach to accountability for teacher education.

An analysis of teacher education and development policies in a smaller group of countries that participated in TIMSS (the United States, Australia, England, Honk Kong, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Singapore) provides a more detailed analysis (Wang et al., 2003). This study found that the United States and Australia have the least centralized systems and are the only two that do not have a single national agency that oversees teacher preparation programs. The scope of the challenge of ensuring accountability in the United States is suggested by the sheer numbers of programs in the country: 1,500 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In comparison, no other nation has more than a few hundred.1 The United States and England are the only two countries in the study that allow alternative routes to teacher certification. It is also worth noting that some countries that perform at high levels on TIMSS, such as Singapore and Finland, provide financial support for teacher candidates and are recognized for their ability to recruit high-achieving students for teacher preparation programs.

1

The Netherlands offers teacher preparation in 12 public universities and 13 professional colleges; Australia has 35 institutions; and England has 123. Japan has 138 institutions that offer preparation in mathematics and 149 that offer preparation in science (with some overlap).

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

It is clear from our review of accountability in teacher preparation that the existing evidence does not support a strong conclusion about the effectiveness of the current accountability process in teacher education. Thus, there would be significant value in investment in research and development to improve the research base and technical infrastructure for teacher education accountability. In addition, although empirical links between teacher preparation and student learning have not been established, current accountability mechanisms could likely use information that is available. Specifically, accountability systems could better integrate in their evaluations indirect evidence, such as consensus about the intellectual foundations and priorities in academic fields and findings about promising instructional approaches.

As part of the broader research agenda on teacher education (discussed in Chapter 9), we recommend research on developing valid means of establishing links between teachers’ preparation and outcomes for students that could be used in accountability policies for teacher preparation programs. This research will require attention to conceptual, data, and measurement issues, with a particular focus on improving the development of measures and technologies that would make it possible to accurately measure the teaching knowledge and practices that are most closely associated with gains in K-12 student achievement. Such measures are particularly needed for accountability purposes.

The accountability systems now in use are haphazard. Not enough is known about the effectiveness of any of their major elements—certification, testing, program approval, and accreditation—either at promoting the practices and approaches that are supported by research and professional consensus or at assuring the public of the quality of programs. The senior leadership of NCATE offered this committee access to its accreditation reports to help us describe programs. However, because teacher preparation varies so much across and within states and because programs bring different—often unique—forms of evidence to bear as they make the case for meeting NCATE standards, we were not able to use these rich sources of information to compare approaches across programs. Yet policy makers need guidance as to how to address the politically difficult issue of accountability in the context of a wide variety of practices. If the Department of Education wishes to meet the serious lack of information about teacher preparation programs, a comprehensive evaluation is needed.

Recommendation 8-1: The U.S. Department of Education should sponsor an independent evaluation of teacher education approval and accreditation in the United States. The evaluation should describe the

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

nature, influence, and interrelatedness of approval and accreditation processes on teacher education program processes and performance. It should also assess the extent to which existing processes and organizations align with best practices in accountability and offer recommendations for how they could do so more effectively in the future.

The evaluation should focus specifically on evidence of learning and effects on outcomes. On the first point, the recommended evaluation should focus on the nature and rigor of the evidence base used to inform approval and accreditation standards and processes. The evaluation should also include an assessment of the near- and long-term effects of these mechanisms on key processes and, especially, K-12 student outcome measures. On the second point, the evaluation should assess the extent to which the information gathered in accreditation reviews serves as a force for ongoing improvement at the program level and whether and how it could contribute to a broader knowledge base about teacher preparation.

Both further research and an evaluation of existing accountability mechanisms are critical. All teacher education programs should be able to demonstrate that their graduates can teach in ways that have been shown empirically to lead to gains in K-12 student learning. As research strengthens the knowledge base that can be used for accountability purposes, it will be possible to better examine many questions. In particular, as stronger indicators are developed, states and independent associations that are involved in teacher education program approval and accreditation will be able to use them as a basis for their accreditation standards and reviews.

Although the empirical basis for this sort of accountability is slim at present, the field is not starting at zero. As we discuss throughout this report, a growing body of literature has identified some of the behaviors and skills of teachers that boost K-12 student learning in core subjects, and that knowledge base can be tapped for teacher education accountability. And even in the short term, there are ways to focus current accountability systems on the best available evidence. The established, consensus- and research-based conclusions of the professional and academic communities associated with school subjects provide a critical source of guidance to programs and state accountability systems as to the kinds of content and knowledge and pedagogical content that benefit teachers.

We note as well that there is no reason that program accountability should not extend to all types of programs that prepare teachers, including newer programs that operate outside state postsecondary institutions. As we discuss in Chapter 3, the distinction between traditional and alternative pathways is problematic, but in most states programs described as traditional or alternative are subject to separate systems of accountability and quality control. Thus, requirements for teacher education programs not

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
×

only vary across states, they vary within states as well. In our view, states should hold all preparation programs to the same standards.

Finally, we suggest that accountability ought to focus on assessments that show program graduates can practice effectively. Workforce trends across sectors reflect heightened demand for workers at all levels who can demonstrate their knowledge and skill; high-stakes teacher certification tests are an example of this phenomenon in the teacher labor market (National Research Council, 2002b). But passing a paper-and-pencil test is different from demonstrating effective teaching practices, and a few states are developing performance assessments that are or will be part of their teacher certification requirements (e.g., the Performance Assessment for California Teachers; see Pecheone and Chung, 2006).

Most relevant for our purposes, however, is the observation that, despite changes in the rhetoric, teacher education program accountability is still overly dependent on input and process requirements. Many states continue to require programs to offer particular courses, set minimum admissions standards, ensure minimum contact hours with faculty and student teacher supervisors, and the like. The national accrediting bodies have made progress toward implementing outcome-oriented standards, but much remains to be done. We envision an accountability system that is based primarily on the evaluation of program graduates’ ability to use instructional practices that facilitate K-12 student learning in core subjects. Although such an approach is likely to be more difficult and expensive than the current one, it is a fundamental need if teacher education is to reflect the ultimate outcome, student learning.

More systematic information about the development and content of tests used for teacher accreditation or certification is needed. Accountability is a complex component of the education system and one that provokes strong opinions. Questions about the quality of the nation’s teachers go to the heart of many contentious issues in education policy. For example, discussion of licensure, certification, and accreditation naturally suggests comparisons with other fields in which these issues arise, such as medicine, law, accounting, and various technical occupations. This comparison in turn raises questions about the status of teaching as a field. The purpose of this committee was not to determine whether teaching ought to be considered a profession, nor to rehash the arguments in that debate. Whatever the answer to that question, it seems reasonable to ask that teacher candidates and teacher preparation programs be held to high standards and that the accountability system used be both professionally responsible and publicly credible.

Suggested Citation:"8 Accountability and Quality Control in Teacher Education." National Research Council. 2010. Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12882.
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Teachers make a difference. The success of any plan for improving educational outcomes depends on the teachers who carry it out and thus on the abilities of those attracted to the field and their preparation. Yet there are many questions about how teachers are being prepared and how they ought to be prepared. Yet, teacher preparation is often treated as an afterthought in discussions of improving the public education system.

Preparing Teachers addresses the issue of teacher preparation with specific attention to reading, mathematics, and science. The book evaluates the characteristics of the candidates who enter teacher preparation programs, the sorts of instruction and experiences teacher candidates receive in preparation programs, and the extent that the required instruction and experiences are consistent with converging scientific evidence. Preparing Teachers also identifies a need for a data collection model to provide valid and reliable information about the content knowledge, pedagogical competence, and effectiveness of graduates from the various kinds of teacher preparation programs.

Federal and state policy makers need reliable, outcomes-based information to make sound decisions, and teacher educators need to know how best to contribute to the development of effective teachers. Clearer understanding of the content and character of effective teacher preparation is critical to improving it and to ensuring that the same critiques and questions are not being repeated 10 years from now.

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