Teacher Preparation Opinion

How Massachusetts Is Building Capacity of Educator-Preparation Programs

By Urban Education Contributor — October 18, 2018 3 min read
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This post is by Hayley Didriksen, Associate at Abt Associates (@abtassociates).

Today’s post outlines use in practice of the research introduced in Monday’s post: Helping Prepare Teachers in Massachusetts for Day One

Massachusetts needs its teachers to be ready to teach—and teach well—from day one. On Monday, my colleague Claire Abbott from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) shared a few key lessons the Commonwealth has learned through research about the implementation of the Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP), a newly developed performance measure designed to assess teacher candidates’ readiness to teach. Abt Associates has worked with DESE for over a decade on a series of education program evaluations—our partnership work on CAP is our most recent collaboration. As a partnership we are not only studying the implementation of CAP, but also supporting the collaborative execution and application of findings from this study among teacher candidates, preparation programs, districts, and the public.

Our research-practice partnership intentionally focuses on dissemination, engagement, and capacity building and throughout our work, the DESE and Abt teams communicate frequently, are flexible about the focus of our work, and continuously assess the research and its focus. Each partner offers a unique perspective and skill set, which results in the shared ability to design and implement relevant, useful, and timely research to improve statewide systems that support educator effectiveness.

Use of Research Findings in Practice

As researchers, a big part of our work is to engage directly with practitioners on the ground taking part in CAP to provide real-time feedback and findings to DESE about how institutions and educators are experiencing the implementation of CAP and what additional supports may be needed. This feedback not only informed and refined the research agenda but also resulted in the development of tools and resources for preparation programs to better support teachers in training.

One way we gather such feedback is through CAP-specific survey items developed by the research team to include in DESE’s annual practitioner surveys. DESE then uses these findings to shape next steps implementation. For example, during CAP’s first year, findings from the survey showed that fewer than half of surveyed supervising practitioners (i.e., cooperating teachers) reported that they received sufficient training on CAP and its components. In response, DESE released an online module series to introduce supervising practitioners to the CAP process and their responsibilities as supervisors assessing candidate readiness to teach as a supplement to trainings offered by preparation programs.

The partnership has also developed a CAP File Review Tool, a resource designed to examine the quality of evidence and feedback provided to teacher candidates through CAP. The tool was developed initially as a research instrument to systematically collect and analyze the feedback provided to teacher candidates at a state-level as part of their pre-service training. As part of its development, the Abt team used a pilot tool to analyze over 100 CAP candidate files from 11 teacher preparation programs. Initial analyses revealed substantial variation in the types and quality of evidence and feedback documented for candidates in the CAP files, and highlighted potential gaps in the guidance that had been previously provided by DESE to preparation programs.

These findings also underscored a broader need to help preparation programs provide high quality feedback to their candidates. As such, the research team refined and adapted the tool for use as a diagnostic tool to help programs assess the quality of feedback provided to teacher candidates within and across their programs. This tool will be made publicly available in winter 2019 and will be accompanied with a user manual, a video with instructions for using the tool, hands-on training sessions, and a quick reference guide for educators responsible for supervising and providing feedback to candidates.

Future Work

We look forward to continuing to partner with DESE to generate real-time, actionable information to support continuous improvement and to build the long term capacity of districts, schools, and educators to better serve the needs of students.

Photo: iStock.com/Grady Reese

The opinions expressed in Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.