Corrected: A previous version of this story misidentified Robert Floden’s affiliation.
A variety of methods for evaluating teacher education programs will be weighed for their methodological rigor, accuracy, and utility as part of a new research project recently launched by the National Academy of Education and George Washington University.
The new project is at least partly a reaction to a controversial review of every teacher education school in the country that is now being conducted by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report.
The chair of the academy project’s steering committee, Michael J. Feuer, has been among those raising concerns about the methodology of the NCTQ review—though he insists it is not the only impetus behind it.
“As we’ve shaped and framed this project, we understand the issue is broader, deeper, and worthy of attention regardless of what NCTQ is planning to do,” said Mr. Feuer, the dean of GWU’s school of education. “Our purpose here is to think systematically about the different mechanisms that exist or could be invented, possible hybrid approaches based on existing models, and whether these approaches, separate or together, could serve multiple purposes.”
For instance, he added, the project will consider what information on program quality might be useful for prospective students, for the general public, and for institutions, to help them improve the curricula of teacher training.
Project investigators will likely examine such measures as:
• Teacher-college accreditation;
• Value-added approaches that determine how program graduates are faring at raising students’ academic achievement;
• Teacher-performance assessments; and
• Syllabus studies, which form the basis of the NCTQ review.
Several of those methods are fairly new. Their validity, reliability, and how they might shape teacher education are the subject of much debate, even as they garner interest in the policy community.
The U.S. Department of Education, for one, is among those pressing for changes to teacher education. The agency wants to compel programs to provide more information on the effectiveness of graduates and the kinds of schools in which they’re placed. It has begun to use the rulemaking process to rewrite federally required reporting for teacher colleges in favor of such measures. (“Negotiators Debate Reporting Rules for Teacher Preparation,” Jan. 25, 2012.)
The steering committee will commission several research papers, a policy brief, and presentations for teacher educators. It aims to release the first products this fall.
One challenge will be finding measures that are applicable across programs. Teacher-preparation programs, both within and outside of higher education, have very different coursework, curricula, and student-teaching requirements, and, to an extent, they serve different populations and markets.
The project’s steering committee also consists of Deborah L. Ball, dean of the education school at the University of Michigan, and Brian Rowan, a professor of education from the same school; Robert Floden, an education professor at Michigan State University; Lionel Howard, an assistant professor of education research at George Washington University; and Jeanne M. Burns, the associate commissioner for teacher and leadership initiatives for the Louisiana board of regents.
Kate Walsh, the president of the NCTQ, expressed skepticism at the project’s timeline. She said her group’s review took seven years and 10 pilot studies to prepare.
“And we’re a pretty nimble organization,” she said. “I can’t imagine how long it will take academia. Good luck to them.”
Coverage of “deeper learning” that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, at www.hewlett.org.
A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2012 edition of Education Week as Panel to Assess Methods for Judging Teacher Prep