The Need For Evidence-Based Teacher Prep Programs

teacher prep

Reposted from the Brown Center Chalkboard:

New teachers are essential to K-12 education. They allow the system to grow as the number of students grows, and they replace teachers retiring or taking other jobs. In light of the size of the K-12 sector, it’s not surprising that preparing new teachers is big business. Currently more than 2,000 teacher preparation programs graduate more than 200,000 students a year, which generates billions of dollars in tuition and fees for higher education institutions.

Preparing new teachers also is a business that is rarely informed by research and evidence. In 2010, the National Research Council released its congressionally mandated review of research on teacher preparation. It reported that “there is little firm empirical evidence to support conclusions about the effectiveness of specific approaches to teacher preparation,” and, further on, “the evidence base supports conclusions about the characteristics it is valuable for teachers to have, but not conclusions about how teacher preparation programs can most effectively develop those characteristics.” That there is no evidence base about how best to prepare people to teach is concerning.

Accumulating a research base to support stronger preparation programs would mean studying questions that arise in preparing new teachers, such as the right balance between theory and practice, how best to use data, and approaches for managing classrooms. It would be years before results from such efforts emerge. But one way for programs to improve in the near future would be to use data on how well their graduates perform in promoting student learning. For example, data might show that particular approaches for teaching reading are associated with higher reading scores. That information could be incorporated into program courses. Using scores to improve programs emphasizes that the outcome of teacher preparation programs is learning.

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