The absence of good data on teacher preparation programs and their graduates has been a perennial issue for the profession, policymakers, and the public. The National Research Council, in its 2010 report, Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy, explained that it could not evaluate which program characteristics produce effective teachers; there simply wasn’t enough comparable data to collect. The authors opine, “Ideally, teacher education programs would be evaluated on the basis of the demonstrated ability of their graduates to improve the educational outcomes of the students they teach. Unfortunately, the data needed for such evaluation do not exist” (p. 5).
In keeping with public demands for more transparency and policymaker demand for accountability and meaningful data from teacher preparation programs, the Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP), the teacher preparation accrediting body, instituted demanding new standards in 2013 designed to yield data from institutions that could then be collected to form a national database—to begin to answer the NRC’s—and the public’s—questions about teacher preparation. The standards are so demanding that some of the requirements are being phased in through 2020. One of the phase-in standards is Standard 4: Program Impact. A component of that standard focuses on completer satisfaction with the program: 4.4 REQUIRED COMPONENT The provider demonstrates, using measures that result in valid and reliable data, that program completers perceive their preparation as relevant to the responsibilities they confront on the job, and that the preparation was effective. CAEP Standard 4.
The public wants to know: Are teacher preparation programs relevant to the needs of teachers today, and have they prepared new teachers for the job?
Past iterations of accrediting standards asked for survey results, but in additional narrative, not in the text of the standard itself; thus, most preparation programs made no real effort to follow up with graduates. Under the new standards, programs have been challenged to improve the very poor response rates to surveys that educator preparation providers (EPPs) ask employers and graduates to complete. Providers send them out every year, but returns have been marginal to abysmal, often below 20 percent—neither reliable nor valid.
TEACH-NOW’s Digital Platform Aids Data Collection on Program Completers
In May 2017, TEACH-NOW achieved full CAEP accreditation, just four years after its inception in 2013. The digital nature of the TEACH-NOW program has enabled it to meet CAEP data requirements immediately, in contrast to many brick and mortar preparation programs. For example, TEACH-NOW’s latest survey of all of its completers, administered in April 2017, has a 69 percent response rate, far above that of almost all programs. The survey includes those who just completed the program as well as those who completed it up to three years ago; 77 percent of respondents had at least one year of teaching experience by the time they took the 2017 survey. Most brick and mortar programs have not tried to survey graduates with more than one year of teaching experience, and other programs’ surveys of grads with one year of experience (many attempting to do so for the first time) do not approach TEACH-NOW’s 69 percent response rate.
TEACH-NOW Alumni Are Making Teaching Their Career
TEACH-NOW’s alumni survey reveals that 82 percent of completers are teaching full time, 5 percent part-time, and 11 percent working in an education job other than teaching (principal; media/tech); only 1 percent of respondents are in a job other than education. Those who completed the program expect teaching to be their career; 81 percent said they expected to be teaching or in a related position (specialist/administrator) five years from now; 6 percent expected to be teaching at the post-secondary level.
Why are these important markers? Policymakers want to be sure tax money is put to good use; in past years, up to 50 percent of some state institutions’ teacher preparation graduates did not enter teaching. TEACH-NOW does not rely on state funding, but the data on graduates is helpful to states, as it demonstrates the viability of the program, and would be a factor in a state or state (or private) institution decision to partner with TEACH-NOW.
Respondents Rate Program Highly in Helping Them Develop Teaching Skills
How do alumni who have been teaching for a year or more perceive the value of the program? On all factors that were rated, respondents overwhelmingly rated the program positively in helping them to develop important teaching competencies. The survey asked respondents to rank how competent they felt in key teaching competencies before and after the TEACH-NOW program. In the ‘assessing student learning’ competency, only 13 percent were ‘very’ confident and 39 percent were ‘somewhat’ confident before the program. After the program, 62 percent were ‘very’ confident, and 97 percent were ‘very/somewhat’ confident combined. The survey yielded similar results for other critical teaching skills: organizing instruction, classroom management, preparing lesson plans, ability to teach the subject, and additional areas.
When asked to rate the program, 82 percent said it was ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’; 12 percent rated it as ‘good.’ When asked if they would recommend the program to others, 97 percent said ‘yes.’ In addition, 95 percent said they had achieved the goals they set before entering the program. TEACH-NOW also collects data on the skills of each instructor. The ratings are remarkably similar, showing that the majority of instructors receive ‘outstanding’ or ‘very good’ marks from their students. Student evaluations of instructors provide transparency and accountability for all involved in the program. Only one or two instructors out of 43 were poorly rated overall. The ‘poor’ ratings provide feedback to TEACH-NOW staff and the instructors for remediation or counseling out.
We at TEACH-NOW are thrilled to contribute to positive progress in teacher education. If you are thinking about changing your career to teaching, contact us at 844-2TEACH-NOW (844-283-2246). If you are a state policymaker interested in exploring how we can partner with you or districts in your state, contact Dr. Emily Feistritzer, CEO and Founder at [email protected].