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Date: April 29, 2010
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Alison Burnette, Media Relations Assistant
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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
Levy Economic Institute, Blithewood
Herbert K. Brunkhorst
Professor and Chair
Department of Math, Science, and Technology Education
California State University
Senior Research Scientist and Professor
Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education
Johns Hopkins University
John E. Cawthorne Chair in Teacher Education for Urban Schools
Lynch School of Educaton
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Associate Professor of Reading Education
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
Donald N. Langenberg
University of Maryland
Ronald M. Latanision *
Corporate Vice President and Director
Mechanics and Materials
Professor and Director
Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Eduction
University of Nebraska
College of Education
Pennsylvania State University
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
Middlebush Professor of Economics and Chair
Department of Economics
University of Missouri
Andrew C. Porter
George and Diane Weiss Professor of Education
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
Edward A. Silver
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
School of Education
University of Michigan
Samuel DeWitt Professor of English
Graduate School of Education
New Brunswick, N.J.
Suzanne M. Wilson
Chair and Professor of Teacher Education and Director
Center for the Scholarship of Teaching
Michigan State University
Professor of Mathematics
University of California
James H. Wyckoff
Currie School of Education
University of Virginia
RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF
* Member, National Academy of