Teacher Preparation Program Models Overview
Teacher Preparation Models PDF
Cleaver, S., Detrich, R. & States, J. (2021). Teacher Preparation Models. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institutehttps://www.winginstitute.org/pre-service-teacher-program-models.
Teacher preparation plays an important role in teacher success (Bacharach et al., 2010). Research supports that teachers who are well prepared and have had high-quality preparation experiences (e.g., student teaching) have the greatest influence on student achievement (Wilson et al., 2001).
In particular, the quality of teacher preparation determines how well new teachers manage in their first year in the classroom (Putman & Walsh, 2021). For example, a new teacher who has had strong mentoring learns enough to avoid many mistakes that beginning teachers often make, and can produce student gains similar to those of a teacher with 3 years of experience (Goldhaber et al., 2020).
The K–12 teaching workforce is large; each year 4 million teachers are employed across the United States (Congressional Research Service, 2019). From 2008 to 2016, total enrollment in teacher preparation programs declined by one third, at the same time as an increase in enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs occurred (National Center for Education Statistics tables 303.10 and 303.70, 2018; Sutcher et al., 2016; Walsh, 2016). About 8% of teachers leave the profession in a given year, although the COVID-19 pandemic has added some uncertainty to teacher retention forecasts. A recent Education Week poll found that 33% of teachers were considering leaving the profession in the next 2 years (Loewus, 2021).
In the role of preparing teachers, university programs face multiple challenges. In a survey of university presidents, provosts, and deans, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (2016) found that university-based teacher education programs faced declining enrollment and increasing costs, even as the U.S. student population was growing in size and diversity, increasing the demand for teachers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for high-quality teachers and for teacher preparation that provides teachers who are ready and able to support students from day one. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) identified trends in teacher preparation programs (Putman & Walsh, 2021):
- Many states have lowered or removed academic requirements to enter teacher preparation, a decrease from 2015.
- Efforts to recruit and support people of color to enter teaching have increased since 2017.
- Efforts to strengthen the quality of student teaching and clinical in-service, an important part of the teaching preparation, have occurred (see Student Teaching and In-Service Overview).
The purpose of this overview is to provide information about the various program models that train teachers for the classroom. The models include 4-year university training, postgraduate training, and alternate certification programs (e.g., Teach for America). This overview is not focused on what teacher preparation should teach (see Teacher Curriculum Content), what teaching methods teacher preparation programs should use (see Teacher Instructional Effectiveness), or teacher recruitment (see Teacher Outreach).
Important questions about program models include:
- Do teacher preparation program models impact student outcomes?
- Does the length of teacher preparation impact outcomes?
- Is there a difference between traditionally and alternatively certified teachers?
- Do teacher preparation program models impact teacher retention?
History of Teacher Preparation Program Models
For much of American history, entering teaching was relatively easy (Ravitch, 2003) and training occurred in a variety of settings (Larabee, 2008). Requirements for teaching certification increased in the 1800s: In 1834, teachers in Pennsylvania were required to pass a reading test. By 1867 most states required some sort of state teaching certificate, with a focus on content (Ravitch, 2003).
In the 20th century, teacher training became standardized and shifted to state colleges and regional universities; schools of education worked to professionalize teacher training (Larabee, 2008). During this time, schools of education added courses in pedagogy and methods (Ravitch, 2003). Through these transformations, teacher education broadened to include a liberal arts education in addition to courses in instruction and pedagogy (Larabee, 2008)
In the 1980s, teacher preparation shifted again in response to poor test scores and a shortage of certified teachers. The Nation At Risk report (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) prompted worry that American schools were failing, and multiple reform efforts were initiated to address concerns laid out in the report. In particular, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards launched professional standards to strengthen teacher education and certification (Darling-Hammond, 1996). Federal legislation focused on teacher preparation as a way to bolster student achievement (States et al., 2012). Subsequent legislation, including No Child Left Behind Act (2001) and Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) focused on teacher preparation in some way (Klein, 2018).
Additionally, alternative certification programs were developed in response to teacher shortages in certain areas such as STEM and special education, and in certain regions (Ingersoll et al., 2018). These programs were intended to increase and potentially diversify the teacher applicant pool (Woods, 2016). They have succeeded in recruiting new teachers to the field. In 2015, 20% of the country’s teachers came into the profession through alternative certification programs (DeMonte, 2015).
Research on Teacher Preparation Program Models
In an effort to understand how well teacher preparation programs are doing, NCTQ reviewed 1,668 teacher preparation programs across 836 institutions (Putnam & Walsh, 2021). NCTQ reviewed programs based on 19 criteria ranging from selection criteria, student teaching, content, classroom management, and rigor. More than half of the nation’s programs were unaccredited, and 17 states and Washington, D.C., did not have a top-ranked program. The study found that elementary preparation programs were weaker than secondary programs; 1.7 times more elementary programs than secondary were found to be failing. As one example, only 17% of programs equipped teacher candidates (elementary and special education) in the five fundamental components of reading instruction.
The aspects of high-quality programs and state initiatives that were effective included:
- Assessing licensure assessments: Massachusetts conducted an assessment of its state licensure tests to ensure that performance on the test was predictive of how a teacher would perform in the classroom. (It was.)
- Focusing on licensure tests in key areas: Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, and Texas licensure tests focus on the science of reading, especially on improving how well teachers understand how to teach students to read.
- Including content knowledge assessments: Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, and Texas have changed tests to ensure that teachers are entering the classroom with content knowledge. This is significant because, according to the NCTQ review, district superintendents reported that teachers did not know the core subjects of the elementary curriculum.
While the NCTQ report included a list of the inputs that go into teacher preparation programs, relatively little research has been done on how teacher preparation programs affect teacher and student outcomes.
Do Teacher Preparation Program Models Impact Student Outcomes?
Research does not provide decisive direction on the impact of credentials and pre-service training on teacher quality; in general, the results are mixed (Guarino et al., 2004).
Chingos and Peterson (2011) found that majoring in education or earning a master’s degree in education was not associated with greater effectiveness in the classroom. Likewise, the university that a teacher attended was not associated with greater effectiveness in the classroom.
Clotfelter et al. (2007) studied the effect of teaching credentials on student achievement using a data set from North Carolina of students in grades 3, 4, and 5 from 1994 to 2003. They found that a graduate degree had little effect on student achievement. Teachers without a master’s degree were as effective as teachers who entered teaching with a master’s degree, or who earned it within their first 5 years of teaching.
The factor that did matter was classroom experience, although not necessarily for new teachers. However, when hiring teachers moving from one school to another, it may be worth considering years of experience over education. The general quality of a teacher candidate may impact classroom outcomes. For example, a math teacher who is not well qualified (low scores on a licensing exam, little experience, noncompetitive undergraduate degree, and emergency license) has the same impact on student achievement as parents with less education. This suggests that teachers with weak credentials in classrooms with low-income students could widen existing achievement gaps already associated with socioeconomic differences (Clotfelter et al., 2007). It also points to the importance of hiring the most qualified teachers for the schools and students who need them the most.
Does the Length of Teacher Preparation Impact Outcomes?
If programs provide a longer preparation time (e.g,. 4 year vs. 5 year programs), we do not know a lot about differences in length of teacher preparation programs and outcomes in the classroom. Additional research on how 4-year versus 5-year programs impact teacher preparedness would help universities plan.
Is There a Difference Between Traditionally and Alternatively Certified Teachers?
Alternative certification programs are often started to solve teacher pipeline concerns (e.g., increasing diversity, increasing the number of teachers in high-need areas). Alternative certification refers to programs such as Teach for America (TFA) that provide teaching certifications after a brief training. Sykes and Dibner (2009) reported that high-poverty, high-minority districts were more likely to have a fast-track or alternative certification route to teaching to attract more high-quality applicants. See et al. (2020) found that programs like TFA recruited more teachers and more candidates with higher academic qualifications. Specifically, the New York City Teacher Fellows Math Immersion program attracted more candidates to teaching in a critical area of need (Boyd et al., 2012).
Teacher certification signifies the knowledge and skills that teachers have when they start teaching; it is a minimum proxy for these skills, including knowledge of content, behavior management, and teaching practices (Darling-Hammond et al., 2001). In analyzing 6 years of data (1995–2002) on reading and math tests for grades 4 and 5 in Texas, Darling-Hammond et al. (2005) found that certified teachers produced significantly stronger student achievement gains than uncertified teachers, including alternatively certified teachers, like those in TFA. The effectiveness of teachers was strongly related to the preparation the teachers had received for teaching. The structure of TFA, which requires only a 2-year commitment, has raised questions about retention. Some research has shown that TFA teachers leave the profession before they gain enough experience to be effective (Darling-Hammond, 2011; Ravitch, 2013).
A study of K–5 teachers found no difference between cohorts of alternately and traditionally certified teachers on important criteria. Specifically, there was no statistically significant difference in student outcomes produced by teachers who had completed alternative certification compared with those who had completed traditional certification (Constantine et al., 2009).
In another study, Bos and Gerdeman (2017) matched teachers through TNTP (previously known as The New Teacher Project) with traditionally trained teachers who were in their first 2 years of teaching and found no difference in teacher performance or student achievement.
Grow Your Own (GYO) teacher preparation programs are partnerships between teacher preparation programs, school districts, and community organizations to recruit and train teachers for local communities. In a descriptive review of GYO programs across the country found the following (Garcia, 2021):
- Communities have varying goals for GYO programs, including addressing specific teacher shortages, increasing the teacher pipeline, improving teacher retention, and increasing diversity in the teacher pipeline.
- All but three states (North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming) have at least one GYO program.
- The funding and program design varied from program to program.
The review did not examine the outcomes that these programs produced, or their outcomes compared with traditional or alternative certification routes.
Alternative certification programs may not produce teachers who are more effective, but they do increase the hiring pool for districts, which serves an important goal. More research is needed to learn how the various program models impact teacher outcomes and student learning, how they compare with one another, and which candidates are best suited for each model.
Do Teacher Preparation Program Models Impact Teacher Retention?
Another consideration for districts is teacher retention. Ingersoll et al. (2014) used data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2003–2004 Schools and Staffing Survey and the 2004–2005 Teacher Follow-Up Survey to examine the question of whether teacher university education impacted teacher retention.
Beginning teachers varied in the teacher preparation they received. Math and science teachers had more content education and more graduate-level education, and less pedagogy and method instruction than other teachers. After controlling for background characteristics of teachers and schools, the analysis found that the type of college, degree earned, entry route, and certification did not have a significant impact on retention. One consideration is the mission of the alternative certification program; a Mathematica Policy Research study found that the vast majority (87%) of TFA teachers did not plan to stay in teaching for their career, compared with 26% of other teachers (Clark et al., 2017).
The substance and content of teachers’ pedagogical preparation did matter. Teachers with more training in methods and pedagogy, especially practice teaching and classroom observation, were less likely to leave teaching after their first year. This suggests that what happens in the program may be more important than the structure or model itself. Additional research on how teacher preparation program models impact long-term retention, or retention after a teacher’s first year in the classroom, is necessary.
Cost of Teacher Preparation Program Models
The cost of teacher training varies significantly based on inputs (e.g., cost of tuition) and other factors. In one example of a cost analysis, the cost of the Pathways to Careers Program, which produces teachers from a pool of uncertified teachers, was estimated to range from $14,738 to $30,770 (Rice & Brent, 2001). Costs come from a variety of sources, including administration, infrastructure, student recruitment, the academic program, support services, student assessment, and follow-up services. This analysis did not provide information on what accounted for the range of costs or how the cost translated to benefit for teachers, districts, or students.
The actual numbers are not as helpful as understanding the cost categories (Rice & Brent, 2001). The costliest category was the academic program, which included tuition. Administrative and support services were the next highest because of personnel costs (e.g., mentor teachers). Also, this cost study revealed how costs were distributed across various individuals and organizations:
- Universities assumed many costs associated with the program (administration, infrastructure, tuition).
- School systems provided support through the allocation of time and resources, and at times, loan forgiveness programs.
- Students reduced the cost for districts and universities by paying for a portion of tuition, and purchasing books and supplies.
Recommendations for Teacher Preparation Program Models
Despite the importance of understanding the impact of program models, on the whole, we do not know enough about how program models contribute to important outcomes for teachers and students. The following recommendations come from the available research:
- Having experience in the classroom, and a strong mentor during student teaching may be more important than an advanced degree in teaching (Clotfelter et al., 2007).
- There seems to be no statistically significant difference between traditionally and alternatively trained teachers in important criteria (Bos & Gerdeman, 2017; Constantine et al., 2009).
- There is some argument for certification; teachers who were certified produced stronger student achievement gains (Darling-Hammond et al., 2005).
- The substance and content of a teacher’s program, regardless of model, seems to be the most important aspect in determining how training translates to classroom success (Ingersoll et al., 2014).
- While GYO models are widespread, little is known about their impact on teacher outcomes and student learning (Garcia, 2021).
Teacher preparation programs include a variety of models: 4-year university training, postgraduate training, and alternative certification programs (e.g., Teach for America). Regardless of model, the content and quality of training that teachers receive contribute to their success in the classroom. Focusing on content and experiences that teachers receive rather than on the model may be more productive. More information is necessary to better understand how teacher preparation program models impact outcomes.
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