Teacher quality is widely recognized as a leading factor in student achievement. As accountability pressures put teachers under greater scrutiny calls are increasing for more stringent evaluation of teacher preparation programs. But what qualities make a teacher effective? And how are those qualities acquired? A growing number of scholars are using rigorous research methods to address such questions -- not only to compare the effectiveness of prep programs but also to try to trace program effects from teacher/graduates to the achievement of students they teach.
Scholars tackling this research face complex dilemmas. For example, how do they parse out which of a teacher’s skills and practices derive from formal training and which from other influences, such as induction programs, professional development, and characteristics of the schools and districts where she works? They also must deal with a great amount of variation among the more than 2,000 prep programs in the U.S. While nearly three-fourths are traditional programs based at institutions of higher education, their offerings vary greatly in such aspects as admissions standards, the availability of online classes, graduation requirements, pedagogical frameworks, field experiences, and types of districts where graduates are placed (i.e. rural, urban, suburban). Alternative programs offer similarly rich variation, ranging from intensive residency programs sponsored by K-12 districts to programs relying heavily on distance learning.
The links below lead to policy briefs that describe the complexities of evaluating teacher prep programs and discuss the challenges and limitations of research on their effectiveness as well as the new levels of understanding arising from the best studies.