Overall, the committee was tasked with answering three broad questions:
- What do the current workforce demographics and expectations of the teacher workforce suggest about how the future workforce will change?
- What does the changing nature of the teacher workforce mean for the way higher education and other providers address K–12 teacher preservice and inservice education?
- In light of the current and anticipated structural changes in the teacher workforce, how can effective models, programs, and practices for teacher education (including principles of deeper learning) be sustained and expanded?
To address these questions, the committee reviewed the relevant evidence from the peer-reviewed literature as well as from ongoing programs. As noted in Chapter 1 and throughout the report, the committee did not find strong evidence to support the assumption that there have been substantial changes in the demographics of teachers. But what has become clear is that what it means to be a teacher today—that is, the expectations and demands placed upon teachers—has changed.
This chapter opens with 14 conclusions that reflect the committees’ consensus understanding of the current state of evidence. The committee then turns to a discussion of four high-priority issues requiring the immediate attention of education stakeholders. What follows is the committee’s
consensus on the conclusions, high-priority issues requiring immediate action, and an agenda to direct future research.
As described in Chapters 2 and 4, given the particular timeframe examined (past 20 years), the trends in the composition of the teacher workforce remained relatively unchanged. That is, on average, there have been modest changes, at best, in race/ethnicity (although there have been some increases in Black and Hispanic teachers), gender (still majority female), average age (42 years old), and teaching experience. These relatively modest changes for the time period examined are contrary to other data that suggest more substantial changes in the makeup of teachers observed over a longer duration. As such, the committee concludes:
CONCLUSION 1: At the national level, the composition of the teacher workforce (e.g., distribution in gender, age, race and ethnicity, years of experience) has been relatively stable over the past 20 years.
Despite little change in the composition of the teacher workforce as described above, there have been marked changes with respect to the expectations for teachers in the classroom (beyond things like the increasing paperwork burden). As described in Chapter 2, dramatic shifts in the U.S. education policy contexts combined with an increasingly diverse student population have altered expectations for what teachers should be able to do in their classrooms. These changes are also compounded by states that may have recently adopted and are in the process of implementing newer rigorous national content standards that move from a sole focus on demonstrating understanding of concepts to also asking students to also demonstrate proficiency in disciplinary practices that require them to use their knowledge (see Chapter 3). Moreover, there has been an increasing emphasis in technology, both in terms of how teachers use technology as a vehicle for learning, for communication with families, and as a medium for sharing ideas with other educators.
Chapter 3 highlights how teachers are increasingly charged with ensuring that classrooms serve as equitable learning communities, fostering trusting and caring relationships among students and with teachers. Moreover, with shifts in standards that require attention to deeper learning, the expectations for students’ learning have increased, which in turn has raised expectations for instruction. These compounded expectations for learning, combined with the demand to create a learning environment that responds to the experiences of all students, call for innovative approaches
to instruction that may differ substantially from teachers’ own experiences as students or their preservice education.
The committee concludes that:
CONCLUSION 2: There are more explicit demands placed upon K–12 teachers today. There continues to be an increase in the level of content and pedagogical knowledge expected of teachers to implement curriculum and instruction aligned to newer content standards and deeper learning goals. Teachers are called on to educate an increasingly diverse student body, to enact culturally responsive pedagogies, and to have a deeper understanding of their students’ socioemotional growth. Integrating these various, layered expectations places substantially new demands on teachers.
CONCLUSION 3: The adoption of state standards and accountability systems has contributed to increased expectations for what teachers need to accomplish for all students in terms of achievement and content mastery.
Chapter 4 provides an overview of the trends in the teacher labor market, highlighting some of the issues that arise with staffing different types of classrooms for schools in different labor markets that serve different kinds of students. Overall, it is clear that national statistics mask the dynamics of the labor markets and the ability of teacher preparation programs to respond at the state and local level. State policies determine teacher licensure, seniority, tenure, and pension rules, and they differ from one another in ways that can create barriers for cross-state teacher mobility. The strong state role in influencing teacher labor markets results in labor market conditions that vary from state to state and sometimes even from locality to locality.
The finding that labor market trends vary from state to state and even locally is seen in both staffing challenges as well as in teacher turnover. Although teachers develop a number of valuable skills during their preparation, there still remains a mismatch in terms of the preparation teacher candidates seek out and the job opportunities available. A common finding across states is that staffing challenges are generally far greater for schools serving students living in poverty, students who are low-achieving, students of color, rural schools, those geographically far from teacher education programs, and in high-needs subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and special education. This is similar to what is observed for teacher turnover: there is somewhat more turnover in schools with larger numbers of students from low-income families, students who
are low-achieving, and students of color as well as in the south and cities (as compared to suburbs or more rural areas).
Because higher turnover rates have been attributed to lower-quality working conditions, it is important to understand why working conditions matter for teachers’ experiences. In particular, schools with higher turnover typically have teachers who are less qualified, in addition to less effective leaders, greater leadership churn, fewer resources, and less adequate facilities. These are long-standing issues with the way the teacher labor market functions (or fails to function well) and merit greater attention. The committee concludes that:
CONCLUSION 4: Teacher labor markets are quite localized. As a result, national statistics provide a limited understanding of the trends in the K–12 teacher workforce. Local labor markets are shaped by a variety of factors including state rules and regulations regarding licensure, tenure, and pensions.
CONCLUSION 5: There is a mismatch between the areas of certification chosen by those preparing to be teachers and the areas in which schools and school systems struggle with teacher shortages. For example, there are often many more teacher candidates that are prepared with an elementary education credential than there are slots. At the same time, school systems often struggle to fill science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and special education positions.
CONCLUSION 6: The current racial/ethnic composition of the teacher workforce does not mirror the racial/ethnic composition of students being served in schools today. The mismatch has grown larger over the past 20 years and is an artifact of both the rapidly changing student population and historical policy decisions connected to school desegregation efforts. There is good evidence that the discrepancy has negative consequences, particularly for underrepresented minority students who often lack teacher role models.
CONCLUSION 7: Students of color, students from low-income families, and students who are low achieving more often are served by teachers who are less qualified. These inequities have been documented across states, districts, schools within districts, and even within schools.
Creating classroom learning experiences that respond to more rigorous content standards while promoting the success of all students regardless of
background is no easy task. Responding to these dual demands is likely to require significant shifts in what teaching looks and sounds like in most U.S. classrooms. Both preservice and inservice education are considered to play key roles in helping teachers respond to the changing conditions of K–12 education; however, the committee also notes the role of the workplace in teacher learning. Chapter 5 provides an overview of the literature on preservice teacher preparation, while Chapters 6 and 7 discuss opportunities for professional development (Chapter 6) and the role of the workplace to support teacher learning (Chapter 7).
As described in Chapter 5, the research base on what makes preservice teacher preparation effective is more limited than the nature of the evidence described in Chapters 6 and 7. This is attributed in part to the variability in the pathways and program models of teacher preparation programs, making it difficult to decipher what was “actually” taught and the accuracy with which it is subsequently measured in student learning. Whereas it is difficult to assess the causal impact of programs on teacher candidates given the wide array of programs (including increasing prevalence of online programs), factors such as coherence and integration across program components, strong mentors and field experiences, and preparation in culturally responsive pedagogy are indicators of promising changes. The difficulty of assessing the causal impact of programs on teacher candidates presents a challenge for understanding the ways in which teachers are being prepared to meet the changes in the expectations of the classroom.
Similarly, as illustrated throughout Chapter 6, inservice experiences for teachers vary widely and there is disagreement in the research community about the strength of the evidence for effective design of professional development. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that inservice experiences alone are not sufficient for shaping teachers’ instructional practice. Rather, as described in Chapter 7, what teachers do in their classrooms is shaped by a variety of factors, including the nature of the social relations, material resources, and organizational conditions of the schools and districts in which teachers work. Workplace conditions (e.g., school leadership, salary, resources, mentoring, and induction supports) have also been linked with whether teachers move schools or leave the profession. Moreover, for some teachers, school-level characteristics (e.g., school size, percent of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, student demographics, and teacher demographics) are a determining factor in whether they move schools.
Making substantial changes to current teachers’ perspectives and practices will require significant and sustained opportunities for professional learning. Such opportunities encompass opportunities embedded in the school workplace as well as specially designed programs of professional development. Responding productively and on a large scale to new demographics and new expectations for teaching and learning will likely depend
on relationships established between external professional development providers and local workplace conditions and learning opportunities. The committee concludes that:
CONCLUSION 8: The current landscape of preservice teacher education in the United States exists as a large, varied array of programs and pathways. In this respect, it reflects the traditions of state and local control.
CONCLUSION 9: There has been a significant growth over the past two decades in online teacher education and professional development, but very little is known about the efficacy of this increasingly prevalent mode of providing preservice and inservice education.
CONCLUSION 10: The research base on preservice teacher preparation supplies little evidence about its impact on teacher candidates and their performance once they are in the classroom. Preservice programs in many states assess the performance of teacher candidates for purposes of licensure, but few states have developed data systems that link information about individual teachers’ preservice experiences with other data about those teachers or their performance. Overall, it is difficult to assess the causal impact of teacher preparation programs.
CONCLUSION 11: Features of the school and district context in which teachers do their work matter greatly for teacher retention, for teachers’ attitudes about their work, and for how teachers’ preservice and inservice experiences translate into effective classroom instruction. Characteristics of the workplace matter for ensuring that teachers are equipped to respond to the changing expectations.
CONCLUSION 12: Induction supports for newly credentialed teachers are associated with reduced odds that teachers (a) leave the profession or (b) move schools within the first 5 years of teaching. Providing multiple supports increases the retention of teachers in the profession and reduces teacher migration in the first 5 years.
CONCLUSION 13: Based on nationally representative surveys, teachers report that they receive minimal opportunities to engage in professional development that is explicitly focused on supporting a broad and diverse student population (e.g., English learners, students who receive special education supports). Moreover, teachers report that when they do receive professional development focused on supporting specific student populations, it tends to be disconnected from the subject matter they teach.
CONCLUSION 14: There is mixed evidence about the impact of professional development on student outcomes. There is better evidence that inservice, content-specific professional development programs with the following characteristics can have a positive impact on student learning:
- work on instructional strategies is specific to the content area;
- professional development is organized around the actual instructional materials teachers use;
- teachers participate with colleagues from their own school; and
- opportunities are built into the professional development sessions to discuss how to adapt the focus to teachers’ local needs.
The amount and frequency of professional development is not necessarily related to student learning outcomes; the impact depends on the quality of the professional development.
While reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine often provide explicit recommendations to the field, here the committee declined to prescribe specific actions for specific education stakeholders to pursue due to a number of different concerns. The committee made this decision for three reasons: first, there is some disagreement in the field about what kinds of outcomes should be used for making decisions about policy and programming in teacher education and preparation. That is, should student outcomes (such as achievement and completion data) be the sole outcomes used to judge the quality or effectiveness of teacher learning experiences? Can teacher outcomes, such as improved knowledge and classroom instructional practice be used instead of student outcomes, or should a combination of student and teacher outcomes be used?
Second, there is ongoing debate in the field about sufficient evidence that is needed to clearly establish links between the characteristics or design of a program for teachers and student and teacher outcomes. That is, there is not agreement on whether there is enough evidence to date on particular programs or program models that could lead to specific and measurable outcomes (at either the student or teacher level). The committee itself could not come to consensus on what kinds of indicators should be considered as sufficient evidence upon which to make recommendations.
Third, the evidence base itself is uneven. As described throughout this report, the evidence linking preservice teacher education and programming to student outcomes is extremely limited. While the evidence linking inservice programming to student outcomes is somewhat more robust, the committee did not feel that, when taken as a whole, it was enough to warrant specific recommendations. With respect to the role of
the workplace in predicting student outcomes, the variability of local contexts is so important to how students fare that it is challenging to make a recommendation about how to improve the workplace that would apply to all contexts.
However, the committee does not wish to suggest that action on the issues highlighted throughout this report is not warranted. On the contrary, the committee has identified four high-priority issues for the U.S. system of preparing and educating teachers that require immediate attention from all stakeholders. Given the variability in local context described throughout this report, the committee offers for each of these issues some considerations for policy makers to take into account as they are deciding how to act.
These are not issues that require the creation of new lines of research in order to inform immediate action: rather, the research in these fields is relatively robust, but the action that stakeholders should take is contingent upon the needs and particularities of their regional and local context. The following four high-priority issues guide the committee’s thinking about future action:
- Preparing Teachers to Meet Changing Expectations
- Diversifying the Teacher Workforce
- Ensuring the Equitable Distribution of Teachers
- Mapping Teacher Preparation to Teacher and Student Outcomes
Within each of these issues, the committee offers a set of considerations that policy makers and others should attend to in order to make decisions for their specific contexts.
From the evidence presented throughout the report, it is clear that ensuring teachers have adequate preparation and learning experiences across their careers is paramount for helping teachers meet the changing expectations for them. This is a systemic issue that cannot be left solely to preservice or inservice education. This issue goes far beyond the notion that teachers get “prepared” in their credential program and are then “updated” through job-embedded professional development, and it is important that the relevant constituencies across the entire education system (e.g., preservice preparation programs, inservice professional development providers, states, districts, accrediting bodies, curriculum developers) consider the types of actions in a coordinated way that are needed to ensure that teachers have the time, resources, and learning opportunities to support student learning.
In particular, as described in Chapter 3, meeting the changing expectations that occur in response to the changes in student demographics require
teachers to be attentive not only to students’ academic and socioemotional learning, but also to the cultural experiences students bring to the classroom. One suggestion is for teacher candidates to have opportunities during preservice preparation to develop culturally aware pedagogy. In addition, the range and complexity of these combined expectations make it important for practicing teachers to have access to high-quality, job-embedded learning opportunities throughout their careers.
The evidence suggests that teachers show better outcomes when they have access to content-specific professional development opportunities that (1) work on instructional strategies specific to the content area, (2) are organized around the actual instructional materials teachers use, (3) allow teachers to participate with colleagues from their own school, and (4) provide opportunities for teachers to discuss how to adapt the focus to their own local needs.
Given the variability that exists at a local level, it is important to consider the types of professional development opportunities that teachers have access to and how those offerings map to the local needs of the schools. For example, if the schools have a large number of English learners, it would likely be beneficial for teachers to have access to opportunities that allow for a deeper appreciation of the students’ cultures and experiences while also learning strategies that facilitate content learning and language development. In addition to professional learning that focuses on pedagogy, it may be necessary to (1) examine the instructional materials that teachers have access to, (2) assess whether the instructional materials are aligned to the deeper learning goals exhibited by state standards, and (3) provide teachers with time to work both alone and with others to implement the curriculum. (See also National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine  for a richer discussion of promising strategies for STEM subject learning for English learners.)
Given the mismatch between the makeup of the student population and the teacher workforce described in Chapters 2 and 4, there has been substantial attention on how to increase the diversity of the teacher workforce. In particular, there have been efforts at multiple stages of the teacher pathway to recruit and retain teachers of color.
For example, it has been suggested that preservice preparation programs and providers identify and reduce barriers that make it challenging for underrepresented minorities to pursue a path toward a career as a teacher. Potential barriers can be found throughout preservice preparation including recruitment, retention, and placement. When looking at recruitment, it may be beneficial to consider the barriers to access
(e.g., standardized testing/praxis) and the potential access teachers can have to programs. For example, some programs have sought to recruit from local, diverse communities, as these are contexts with which potential teacher candidates are familiar (e.g., grow-your-own programs). This could not only provide a greater level of comfort but also reduce the burden of getting to and from school.
A number of different considerations that need to be taken into account when ensuring the retention of teacher candidates of color in a program. One major issue requiring immediate attention is the financial burden associated with becoming a teacher, such as program costs, expectations that preservice teachers will complete unpaid clinical experiences, and other barriers. Addressing this issue may require policy makers and other stakeholders to find ways to offset the costs through fully covering or reimbursing a portion of the educational costs. Other contributing factors that might be leveraged include ongoing mentoring, tutoring, and access to job placement services as part of teacher preparation programs.
As highlighted in the evidence in Chapter 4, inequities exist in the distribution of teachers. That is, students of color, low-income students, and low-achieving students typically are served by teachers who are less qualified (Conclusion 7). To help address inequity in the distribution of teachers, state and local policy makers may need to consider ways to make teaching positions in hard-to-staff schools relatively more desirable. This could include providing teachers with higher compensation or reviewing the relationship between compensation packages and recruitment and retention to inform school funding formulas and funding allocations between districts. Moreover, to hire and retain the best teachers, it may be necessary for schools and districts to evaluate and adjust hiring policies and practices as well as consider compensation changes and offer comprehensive induction. As discussed in Chapter 7, the research suggests that being matched with a veteran mentor who can provide coaching and feedback may help with teacher retention.
A central part of ensuring that the teacher workforce is equitably distributed also has to do with ensuring that the workforce is diverse: that is, having a robust supply of teachers of color (as well as those with disabilities) so that the unique assets of these professionals can be put to use in schools. That said, in order to ensure that teachers can recognize and leverage the various assets students are bringing into the classroom, all teachers need to be prepared to respond to the needs of a shifting population of students. As outlined in Chapter 2, it is not enough simply to ensure that teachers of color are placed in schools with large concentrations of students of color, nor is that an end-goal that the committee sees as productive.
As the committee grappled with how to address the high-priority issues articulated above, it became clear that better infrastructure could help education stakeholders understand the linkages across the teacher education and preparation systems. As noted earlier, because “there is currently little definitive evidence that particular approaches to teacher preparation yield teachers whose students are more successful than others” it is challenging to distill uniform recommendations for how programs could best prepare teachers (NRC, 2010, pp. 62–63). To begin to address this basic question, the committee believes that a comprehensive data system with a feedback loop between teacher preparation programs and the school systems they serve is one potential mechanism that could help education stakeholders as they make determinations about how to address the issues raised above.
One way to achieve this goal could be through the formation of partnerships. That is, teacher preparation programs could document features of the program overall while also keeping track of the experiences each teacher candidate receives. States and districts could use this information to consider the opportunities new teachers might need to be successful in serving their students while also sharing information back to teacher preparation programs on different teacher outcomes. More specifically, the formation of such a data system could allow state departments of education to craft the requirements for individual programs and teacher preparation programs could make better informed decisions about what strategies to use during preservice education.
In particular, teacher preparation programs could collect data that would allow for examining the features of the program that are aligned with meeting the changes in the expectations for K–12 teachers. Some important features to examine might include the overall goals of the program, requirements for admission into the programs, mechanisms for retaining teacher candidates (e.g., mentoring, tutoring), the provisions for integrating coursework preparation and field experience, the timing and nature of student teaching, the courses in pedagogy and academic subjects that are required, teacher candidate evaluations, and placement of teacher candidates. Systemic collection of these data could allow for a deeper understanding of what goes on inside particular teacher preparation programs and could identify aspects of the program that are beneficial for all potential teacher candidates. Systemic collection could also allow for understanding across similar local contexts to add to our understanding of how these aspects play out across states and districts.
Such a data system need not be a comprehensive national one, including all programs, in all states. Indeed, the cost of a national system and the interstate agreements needed, might not, at present, be justified. Instead, individual states or groups of states might extend current data systems, collecting additional data on program features and strengthening connections
to data from the districts and schools where program graduates are employed. With that additional data, trustworthy inferences might be made about the effects of program features on performance outcomes. Without allocating some resources for such data system expansions, policy makers will continue to lack information needed to support specific directions for change in teacher preparation.
Overall, through the consideration of research on the teacher workforce, the changing student demographics, the evolving expectations for student learning, and the contributions of teacher education and professional development, a number of different areas in which the field would benefit from more research have been identified. The existing body of research seeks to measure the impact of factors on changes in teacher candidates and teachers (first order effects), and additional research could expand understanding to how the first order effects impact student learning and outcomes (second order effects). This extension would allow providers of preservice and inservice teacher educators to adapt the range of programs, curricula, and other experiences to affect teacher candidates’ and teachers’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions, as well as the downstream effects of the first order effects on student learning.
The research agenda describes seven areas of potential research:
RESEARCH AREA 1: Preservice Recruitment, Selection, and Teacher Candidate Motivation
- What factors motivate individuals to or discourage individuals from choosing teaching as a profession? How, if at all, do these factors vary by the gender, racial/ethnic group, or age of the candidates? How, if at all, do these factors vary by provider, discipline, and grade level?
- How selective are preservice teacher programs, and which metrics are available to determine selectivity? How does the selectivity vary between providers, disciplines, and grade level?
- What are the factors in preservice teacher education that have the most impact on teacher shortages and diversity of teacher candidates?
RESEARCH AREA 2: Outcomes of Preservice Experiences
- How can field experiences and student teaching experiences be designed to build skills, concepts, and mindsets in teacher candidates? What are the expected learning outcomes associated with these experiences?
- How can the goals between content focus and equity focus converge?
- What are the impacts of technology-enhanced practices on preservice teacher education? This may range from research on understanding the learning opportunities created by simulations, tracing the development of a teacher candidate’s practices over time, and evaluating the effects of simulations on novice teachers’ perspectives and practice.
- In what ways can preservice teachers benefit from guidance on how to best communicate with students and families using newly available technologies?
- What are the factors in preservice teacher education that have the most impact on inservice teacher outcomes?
RESEARCH AREA 3: Professional Development Outcomes
- How can professional development, which may provide a deeper connection to specific concepts, practices, or issues in a discipline, provide opportunities for teachers to connect and adapt learning outcomes to align with the local curriculum in the classroom?
- How can team and network models inform the development of strong, improvement-oriented professional development community?
- What is the impact of culturally responsive professional development on teachers’ practices, as opposed to existing research on shifts in teachers’ beliefs and stances? In turn, how, if at all, does the shift in teachers’ practices, beliefs, and stances affect student learning?
- How can systemic research across theoretical approaches, professional development designs, and data collection methods build the evidence base for definitive conclusions about the characteristics of effective professional development?
- What do teachers gain in terms of skills, knowledge, and disposition from access to informal resources, such as online repositories of curriculum resources or classroom video and other open source offerings?
RESEARCH AREA 4: Institutional Providers of Preservice and Inservice Education
- How do historically designated minority-serving institutions (historically black colleges and universities and tribal colleges and universities) contribute to preservice and inservice teacher education?
- Do newly formed organization and models, such as the “new Graduate Schools of Education,” have differential outcomes for teacher candidates? If so, which factors contribute to the differential outcomes?
- What is the role of the community college sector in increasing the number of teacher candidates?
- What do we know about the efficacy of online teacher preservice education and inservice professional development, which range from programs composed mostly of online components to hybrid models with more frequent in-person components?
- How can the connections be strengthened between preservice providers and inservice teacher education?
RESEARCH AREA 5: Teacher Educator Workforce
- What are the characteristics of the teacher educator workforce, including but not limited to their demographics, personal characteristics, and professional characteristics including their education and credentials, professional experience, teaching ability, and mindsets/beliefs/worldviews?
- What do we know about the recruitment, preparation, and ongoing support of teacher educators?
- In what ways does the teacher educator workforce need to build capacity and knowledge to ensure that K–12 teachers have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed?
RESEARCH AREA 6: Labor Market Analysis
- Which incentives have the greatest effect on state and local teacher labor markets? How do these incentives vary based on the structure of state and teacher labor markets?
- How do district policies on the assignment of teachers within and across schools address the disproportionate placement of teachers (mismatch on hiring) and movement of teachers?
- How do different induction supports (including mentoring) impact teacher outcomes, including retention and the impact on quality of teaching in novice teachers? How do the effects vary across novice teachers by preservice education provider, gender, race and ethnicity, and other variables? Is there a relationship between the induction supports; their impact on novice teachers’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions; and any secondary impacts related to students’ learning outcomes?
RESEARCH AREA 7: Institutional Change
- What policies or practices will lead to significant changes in teacher professional learning, as informed by results from other research on systemic change in both higher education and K–12 settings?
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2010). Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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