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Date:  April 29, 2010

Contacts:  Sara Frueh, Media Relations Officer

Alison Burnette, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Better Data on Teacher Preparation Could Aid Efforts to Improve Education

 

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the National Research Council on teacher education programs in the United States recommends that the U.S. Department of Education develop a national education data network to integrate existing information on teacher preparation, drive the collection of new data, and provide needed information to researchers and policymakers working toward better approaches to preparing K-12 teachers.  The current paucity of data and well-targeted research severely limits the capacity of policymakers and the education community to draw conclusions about which approaches are effective and how to design better ones, said the committee that wrote the report.

 

"Teacher preparation should not be treated as an afterthought in discussions about improving the public education system," said committee chair Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, professor and senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College.  "Sometimes, however, in high-stakes policy debates, discussions are muddled because information is so limited.  Better data collection and more research would provide a firmer foundation for policy and practice in the future."

 

More than 200,000 students complete teacher preparation programs in the U.S. every year.  Between 70 percent and 80 percent are enrolled in "traditional" bachelor's or master's degree programs housed in colleges and universities.  The rest enter through one of about 130 "alternative" routes, such as Teach for America or Teaching Fellows, which seek to recruit and train teachers without traditional degrees or certification.  Which pathway produces better qualified teachers has been the subject of often-vigorous debate within the education community, but the distinction between traditional and alternative pathways is neither clear-cut nor particularly useful, the report says.  There is broad overlap in content and practice between these categories, and there is as much variation within each category as there is between them.  A program that is considered traditional in one state might be categorized as alternative in another, the report notes.

 

Moreover, there is currently little definitive evidence that particular approaches to teacher preparation yield educators whose students are more successful than others, the report says; existing studies have generally been insensitive to the details of teacher preparation that are most likely to result in differences in quality.  Research is badly needed on specific factors that may ultimately affect student learning, such as programs' particular components or selectivity, or whether coursework is completed before or after a person begins classroom teaching.

 

The report does conclude that both strong content knowledge and familiarity with how students learn a particular subject are important for reading, math, and science teachers.  The committee found that many, perhaps most, math teachers lack the level of preparation in mathematics and teaching that the professional community deems adequate to teach mathematics.  Also, unacceptably high numbers of teachers of middle- and high-school mathematics courses are teaching outside the field for which they were trained. 

 

In order for policymakers and teacher educators to have a stronger empirical basis for decisions about teacher preparation, more research is needed to explore and establish links between teacher preparation and learning -- both teachers' learning and student learning.  Such research would be easier to conduct if researchers had access to measures of student outcomes that provide richer information than what can be gleaned from standardized achievement scores alone, the report adds. While scores are readily available and easy to use, they provide incomplete measures both of students' learning and the effects of teachers.

 

To aid research, the report recommends that the U.S. Department of Education take the lead in encouraging new data collection efforts and coordinating existing ones, with the goal of developing a national education data network that incorporates comprehensive data on teacher education.  This data network would include the use of common definitions across states for terms such as "out of field" teachers, a set of national indicators on teacher education, and a longitudinal, nationally representative study of teachers' career pathways.

 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education at the request of Congress, with additional support provided by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  A committee roster follows.

 

Copies of Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy  are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

 

 

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[ This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org ]

 

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Center for Education

 

Committee on Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States

 

Ellen Condliffe Lagemann  (chair)

Levy Institute Research Professor, and

Senior Scholar

Levy Economic Institute, Blithewood

Bard College

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

 

Herbert K. Brunkhorst

Professor and Chair

Department of Math, Science, and Technology Education

California State University

Carson

 

Margarita Calderon

Senior Research Scientist and Professor

Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore

 

Marilyn Cochran-Smith

John E. Cawthorne Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools

Lynch School of Educaton

Boston College

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

 

Janice Dole

Associate Professor of Reading Education

University of Utah

Salt Lake City

 

Donald N. Langenberg

Chancellor Emeritus

University of Maryland

College Park

 

Ronald M. Latanision *

Corporate Vice President and Director

Mechanics and Materials

Exponent Inc.

Natick, Mass.

 

James Lewis

Professor and Director

Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Eduction

University of Nebraska

Lincoln

 

David Monk

Dean

College of Education

Pennsylvania State University

University Park

 

Annemarie Sullivan Palincsar

Jean and Charles Walgreen Chair of Reading and Literacy, and

Associate Dean and Professor of Education

School of Education

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor

 

Michael Podgursky

Middlebush Professor of Economics and Chair

Department of Economics

University of Missouri

Columbia

 

Andrew C. Porter

Dean, and

George and Diane Weiss Professor of Education

Graduate School of Education

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

 

Edward A. Silver

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

School of Education

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor

 

Dorothy Strickland

Samuel DeWitt Professor of English

Graduate School of Education

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, N.J.

 

Suzanne M. Wilson

Chair and Professor of Teacher Education and Director

Center for the Scholarship of Teaching

Michigan State University

East Lansing

 

Hung-Hsi Wu

Professor of Mathematics

University of California

Berkeley

 

James H. Wyckoff

Professor

Currie School of Education

University of Virginia

Charlottesville

 

 

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

 

Stuart Elliott

Study Director

 

                                                                       

*   Member, National Academy of             

    Engineering