Opinion > Commentary

California should embrace new national teacher preparation standards


Benjamin Riley

Benjamin Riley

Are we finally about to get serious about improving the professional training of school teachers and principals in this country? And will California be a leader or laggard in this effort?

Earlier this week, a special blue-ribbon commission convened by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) – the new national accreditation organization – issued its final report with recommendations for dramatically different standards for accrediting teacher-preparation programs. These new standards, if adopted by CAEP as is expected, will shift the accreditation process from one that is largely input-based to one that focuses on outcomes. Three major changes illustrate this:

  • Accrediting programs based on the impact their teachers have on student learning. The new standards explicitly require that teacher-preparation programs demonstrate that their teachers contribute to “an expected level of student growth,” which must include all available growth measures required by the state in which the program operates. This means that, if a state chooses to collect value-added measures of student growth, programs will be held accountable for the impact their graduates have as teachers in the classroom. No longer will it be acceptable for a program to claim that it can’t control what happens when its teacher-trainees go into the field.
  • Requiring programs to report annually on a range of outcome measures. For the first time, teacher-preparation programs will be required to provide yearly data on the impact their teachers are having. This data will include student-achievement measures, surveys of school districts (the employers), the ability of teachers to meet state licensing standards, and even student-loan default rates. The annual reporting of this data will serve as a de facto “Consumer Report” card that prospective teaching candidates (and others) can use to identify which programs are training great teachers – and which ones are not.
  • Raising the bar for entry into the profession. Compared to other professional fields, such as medicine or law, U.S. colleges of education have had much lower standards for admission into their programs. Somewhat paradoxically, to increase prestige and attract more talent into the field of teaching, we need to make it tougher to become a teacher. Accordingly, the new standard states that “the average grade point average of [a program’s] accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds … 3.0.” Similarly, CAEP will require that (in the short term) the average score of a program’s cohort on the ACT, SAT or GRE be in the top 50% – and this will rise to the top 33% by 2020. Virtually every other high-performing education nation makes it challenging to enter the teaching profession, and now the U.S. is poised to join them.

As a member of the CAEP Commission who helped craft these standards, I am understandably biased in their favor. But I am not blind to the serious challenges that remain ahead – nor do I think these new standards are a panacea. As with the Common Core, the success of the CAEP standards will turn upon implementation. Indeed, there are serious obstacles ahead, particularly given the variety in type and quality of data that can be collected on programs. And I would have gone further in attaching specific points to each of the standards to create a simple, transparent process that would have identified the specific strengths and weaknesses within a program (similar to the LEED green building certification system). Yet I also recognize that transforming institutions of higher education will take time and require a deep cultural shift that cannot happen overnight. I believe that CAEP’s new standards are a good first step toward transforming the field of educator preparation in the U.S.

The question for California’s colleges of education, and its Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), is whether programs in the state will embrace CAEP’s standards. The credentialing commission bears ultimate authority in approving educator-preparation programs in this state and, under a somewhat convoluted state law, California has historically treated national accreditation as an acceptable substitute for state accreditation. Will the credentialing commission continue to follow this policy? The early signs are troubling. I was disheartened, for example, to see credentialing commission Chair Linda Darling-Hammond immediately reject any interest in learning from the recent teacher-prep program rankings issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

The debate over NCTQ’s methodology has obscured the perhaps more salient fact that NCTQ’s standards are in fact very similar to what CAEP demands. Both NCTQ and CAEP call for more rigorous selectivity, strong content and skills preparation – I’d argue NCTQ’s standards may even be superior to CAEP’s in this regard, given the emphasis NCTQ places on Common Core – and both focus on student-learning outcomes. Perhaps this is why CAEP President Jim Cibulka, in contrast to Darling-Hammond, offered only muted criticism of NCTQ’s report, mostly related to the transparency (or lack thereof) of its effort, rather than the substance of its standards.

There is growing interest within education policymaking circles to improve our nation’s educator preparation programs. I hope that California’s institutions of teacher training, and the governmental entities that oversee them, embrace CAEP’s new, higher, outcomes-driven standards. It is time to raise the bar, make accreditation meaningful, close low-performing programs and expand those that demonstrate excellence through their impact on student learning.

•••

Benjamin Riley is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports education entrepreneurs. He also currently serves as a commissioner on the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation Commission, the body charged with promulgating new national standards for accreditation of educator-preparation programs.

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37 Responses to “California should embrace new national teacher preparation standards”

  1. el said

    on July 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I’m all in favor of great teachers and high standards, but I can’t help but wonder:


    Similarly, CAEP will require that (in the short term) the average score of a program’s cohort on the ACT, SAT or GRE be in the top 50% – and this will rise to the top 33% by 2020.

    What jobs are we going to allow people who merely have a median SAT score to do?

    • CarolineSF replied

      on July 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Sound the alarm — half our students are below average!

    • Paul Muench replied

      on July 17, 2013 at 5:44 am

      The great variety of jobs that are not as critical to society as teaching?

    • Manuel replied

      on July 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Uh, let them eat cake?

    • navigio replied

      on July 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      They can go into politics.

  2. Peter Jones said

    on July 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Benjamin Riley obviously is ignorant about professional teacher preparation in the State of California. It would be helpful if EdSource did some due diligence before publishing these kinds of purported expert opinions. It is one of the more frustrating problems we have relative to the field – opinions from those who don’t have a grasp of the facts.

  3. Gary Ravani said

    on July 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    It was rather unfortunate for the gentleman’s argument that he compared the “standards” he contributed to with the NCTQ “study.” That one has been debunked so often the author’s heads would be spinning, if the authors cared what real educators thought and demonstrated about it. The NCQT “study” never did real research at the teacher programs it “evaluated,” just what they posted about their programs. As someone said, it would be like judging a restaurant’s food by reading its online menu.

    Then there was what Diane Ravitch, who was present at the formation of NCQT, and what she says about its purely political and ideological motivations. Yikes!

    CA already has at hand various recommendations about the future of teacher preparation in the state in the form of the work presented to the CTC by the Teacher Advisory Panel and the work of the Educator Excellence Task Force in the form of Greatness by Design. These recommendations were constructed by experts in the education field as well as a wide range of stakeholders.

    When you get “entrepreneurs” involved you are likely to end up with the educational equivalent of derivatives or something. We know what those did for the economy and we don’t need it in education. Particularly when the justifications revolve around the old canards about the “low admissions standards” of “colleges of education.” Teachers meet the same standards for admission to CA CSU or UC system as any other student as undergraduates.

  4. Manuel said

    on July 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Well, first there is a claim that teachers are failing because half the students they teach are below the average (!!!) and, therefore, failing the standardized tests. That idea has been doing wonderful as evidenced by Race to the Top (I wonder what we are supposed to do with those who don’t win; Soylent Green, anyone?), now firmly entrenched in the proposed re-authorization of NCLB (will it ever pass?).

    Now the reform is taken to the next level: teachers are failing because their training is faulty! Thus, if a teacher program does not produce teachers that “demonstrate that their teachers contribute to “an expected level of student growth,”” well, we have to take away their “accreditation.” I mean, how could we continue to support schools that produce such lousy product, excuse me, educators? Why aren’t we getting on with the program because, after all, “the children can’t wait.”

    But wait, this entire column is authored by the Director of Policy and Advocacy of an organization that claims to be “committed to transforming public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children — especially those in underserved communities — have the opportunity to succeed.” Said author has a JD from Yale and a BA from the University of Washington and his entire professional experience consists on educational law, which, presumably, is what makes him uniquely qualified to occupy his current position (that is, if I read his official bio right). But does this qualifies him to define what constitutes a good teacher program and to chide experts in the field?

    Am I missing something here? I have often served as a peer reviewer for respected scholarly journals, but I have never been asked to render judgement on papers outside my specialty, let alone my field in the sciences. For that matter, I always make sure that my comments are posed from my unique experience as a data wonk but still from an “educational layman’s pov”. Why is Mr. Riley. Esq., allowed to do so? Because his boss is Ted Mitchell? That’s a pretty thin qualification, it seems to me.

    (BTW, Gary, as I am sure you know, presently teachers are, by the standards of admission you mention, in in the top 33% [from CSU] and top 12.5% [from UC] of California high school graduates. Mr. Riley would like to see only the top 33% of these 33%, which works out to the top 11% of California high school graduates, become teachers. Given their location at the top of the curve, is Mr. Riley seriously suggesting that these candidates will choose the lousy work conditions and low salaries of typical starting teachers instead of going, say, for a degree in biochemistry? Has he and those like him thought this through? What were the other members of the CAEP panel thinking? I’d like to see a labor economist take a really good look at these “suggestions” and see if they are even feasible.)

    • el replied

      on July 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      We all know that the way to Expert-tude is to write some kick-ass press releases. The rest is optional.

      (And honestly, that’s a skill most educators are deficient at. They believe in meritocracy, that people will notice that they’re good just because they are. Alas.)

      I’m going to go so far as to say that the percentile requirement for teachers isn’t just laughable and indicative of a failure to understand statistics, but also fundamentally in error. The only thing that saves it is that it applies to the whole class, not each individual.

      Often people who are naturally gifted in a topic are also great teachers. But it’s also the case that people who become proficient through persistence and enthusiasm after having difficulty in the material are often even better teachers, especially for those who are likewise not naturally gifted at it. They’ve really thought about how the concepts go together and have better understanding of the ways one’s thinking can go wrong. I have seen this not only in academics but also in sport. Rarely does the world’s best athlete grow into the world’s best coach in a particular sport.

      The point is: Yes, we need great teachers! We need to pay them well and recruit the best! But, the SAT is not a measure of teaching skill.

      • navigio replied

        on July 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

        Hi el. Allow me to posit that the school site plan could be exactly that ‘kick-ass press release’. Too bad no one sees that as one of its potentials; teachers included. Oh well.

        Regarding the stats, I think I’m missing something because I don’t see the problem–at least in theory, statistically speaking–of requiring a percentile cutoff for teacher applicants. From a labor market perspective, I agree there would be some hurdles to overcome–like needing to raise starting teacher compensation significantly and making teaching easier, ie reducing class sizes and/or properly staffing pupil services positions–but those don’t contradict the laws of physics (or statistics), just of politics.
        Interestingly, I wonder if this were to happen whether people would use that to argue for reducing the rigor of certification programs (assuming they have any now). If so, maybe this would just be another word for TFA?

        To the article more generally, I must say it makes me sad to think our kids would spend time taking tests whose primary reason would be used teacher measures. I thought tests were supposed to be for deciding where students need extra help. It will be interesting to see whether these recommendations will be adopted only partially anywhere, ie forget about the barrier to entry idea but go ahead with the test score analysis of teaching positions.

        I’m also glad you point out that it takes more than book smarts to be a teacher. Too bad we seem to have no way to measure that..

        • Manuel replied

          on July 18, 2013 at 11:07 am

          Navigio: I’m under the impression that entrance to a teacher program in California requires having a BA or BS. Aside from private universities, these degrees are granted by CSU and UC, whose entrance requirements I give above. That means that prospective teachers were at least in the top 33% of their high school graduating class.

          For the purposes of my back-of-the-envelope calculation, I assume that the new requirement that teacher program applicants be in the top 33% of this cohort. Extrapolating further, it would mean that only 11% of the California senior class that entered CSU/UC is eligible to be enter such program. Taking the very big leap of faith that CSU studens cannot crack the upper 33% of their cohort, then this means that only UC graduates are worthy of this honor.

          If (a very big if) this were to happen, then the teaching profession will have a serious numbers problem as I don’t think there are enough people graduating from UC that can support our need for teachers as well as other professionals needed to sustain a knowledge-based economy. I just don’t. Even if you were to import a boatload of TFA’ers.

          • navigio replied

            on July 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

            thanks manuel, sorry for missing that. valid point, though i think paul muench also makes a valid point in that re-prioritizing the role of teaching would be something we’d need to do. in theory, if such a proposal actually achieved anything, the percentile restriction could still be eased while equaling the supposed ‘quality’ it was supposed to have been a proxy for, since the resulting graduates will now have shifted the entire bell curve to the right, so to speak. ;-)

            i recently read something that indicated that post secondary education was becoming less of an indicator of eventual job performance anyway.. this may have even been specific to technology, which would be appropriate given so much of what is driving this urgency now is this assumption about the importance of technology in the future job market. its also a valid, albeit uncomfortable question as to whether our changing demographic will be able to sustain a knowledge-based economy anyway, given the impact that change is apparently having on educational outcomes. obviously we want it to be able to, but that alone is not sufficient. no society wants to fail, but many of them do nonetheless. i dont mean to be a downer, or to imply that is going or even likely to happen, but its noteworthy how much we tend to simply want to hope that everything will be ok without even bothering for even the least bit of self reflection.

            sorry, too much traveling… ;-)

            “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

          • Manuel replied

            on July 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

            Navigio, no problem. Yet, I don’t think that the proposal will lead to a skewing of the curve. Rather, I think those selected will shake themselves into a new curve but with a narrower spread. But those are just speculations on my part.

            The problem I have with this headlong rush to a new economy is that we seem to be collectively assuming that STEM is king and, therefore, we must put as many of our eggs into that basket. That’s totally nuts if I go by what I see in my own immediate family. We forget that there is no single way of learning and, ergo, that not all of us are capable of functioning in a STEM environment which is what seems to be proposed (remember the “students must read 70% informational text when in high school, such as scholarly articles?” I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that. Scholarly articles are tough for grad students and we are expecting high school students to understand them? What have they been smoking?)

            Yes, we agree that we all can go out there and make a life for ourselves. To get a real job. Yet, we are demanding that ALL our children be put through the meat grinder that promotes STEM and, by extension, we need “highly qualified” teachers to be able to teach to the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards. And woe be to those kids and teachers if they cannot generate “above average” scores! This is pure insanity.

            Why? Because we are not the same. Imagine what a highly artistic kid will do when faced with this. It is the same as demanding that the geeky kid next to him become a song-and-dance man in the next school musical. And, yes, we need to truly reflect on this and not just promote things because “the children can’t wait.”

            BTW, I showed my daughter your Twain quote. She immediately seized on it and berated me for not funding her travels. In other words, she loved it. ;-)

  5. Paul said

    on July 18, 2013 at 11:36 am

    I agree that the author’s connection to the classroom is tenuous, and that he portrays the NCTQ report as something it’s not.

    Still, we are making some mistakes on the selectivity front.

    Teacher credential candidates in California are graduate students, not undergraduates. I know Gary and Manuel know this. I’m not in any way attacking them, just observing that we cannot on one hand pat ourselves on the back for our state’s solid, post-baccalaureate teacher preparation model and then on the other hand justify our non-selective admission standards by saying, “Oh, but teachers are just like other undergraduates.” They aren’t undergraduates at all.

    Provisions such as “top x per cent of your local high school’s graduating class”, important as they are for preserving access, promoting equity, and maintaining a constituency for the CSU system, apply to undergraduate, not graduate, admissions. Astute observers will note that, even though the Master Plan seemed to throw open the doors of higher education, one of its purposes was to protect the top UC campuses. Yes, there was a place for everyone in California’s higher education system, but this meant community college for all, CSU for some, and UC for a select few. It is telling that most California teachers are trained in the inherently less-selective CSU system and in career-oriented private universities such as Brandman/Chapman.

    The cutoff for teacher credential program admission is a 2.75 GPA, or 2.67 in recent coursework. Candidates whose GPAs fall below those levels may petition. Yes, I know that half of people are below-average by definition. I would want the above-above-average ones to teach my children. Low salaries, lack of professional authority, and minimal opportunity for professional advancement (without leaving the classroom) are the only practical justifications for continuing to welcome C-students to the teaching profession.

    In logic, we have the notion of a “necessary but not sufficient” condition. No one — not even the original author — is claiming that high grades and test scores make a person a good teacher. I am claiming that, especially if we want things like Common Core-style sense-making (rather than mere teaching of procedure) in elementary mathematics, teachers must themselves demonstrate high levels of academic achievement. Twice I’ve shared the ETS tables showing differing GPA and test score levels for teachers in different grades/subjects. Both times, other commentators ignored the differences, told me that I was advancing a myth (when the nuanced statistics were in front of us, in black and white), and that teachers were just fine, thank you. When a local teacher of the year tells me, “I’ve never understood what it means to divide fractions” (and other such nonsense), I cannot agree with inviting C-students to become teachers.

    Oh, and I’ll say again that by law and regulation, TFA teachers in California, as intern credential-holders, meet all of the same standards as other teachers. The only difference is that they teach (with employer and university supervision) while finishing their 31 units of geaduate coursework, instead of after. Before setting foot in the classroom, they’ve met the same 2.75/2.67 GPA requirement (yay!), passed the CBEST (basic knowledge test) and CSET (subject matter knowledge tests), been admitted by their universities, and even been hired by their school districts! (Note that universities and school districts have absolute discretion not to admit or not to hire, respectively.) I’ve posted links to CTC leaflets and program pages before.

    • navigio replied

      on July 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      The TFA model claims ‘that high grades and test scores make a person a good teacher.’

      • Paul replied

        on July 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        Hello, Navigio. What is the context of that claim? Does TFA say that academic results are the ONLY criteria, or, as I’ve said, that personal academic excellence is an important building block for professionals who are being asked to teach an increasingly sophisticated curriculum, in greater depth, to an ever more varied student population? Is there a link to a TFA policy document expressimg the claim?

        Separate note, on the “half of people are below average” issue: I was borrowing CarolineSF’s language. We mean, of course, “half of people are below the median”! :-)

        • Manuel replied

          on July 18, 2013 at 1:24 pm

          Paul, I believe that when dealing with Gaussians, which is what all these tests are supposed to be, the median is the same as the average.

          As for TFA claiming that as the ONLY criteria, I’d like to see Navigio come up with a citation. But I have to say that this is how the whole program presents itself at least to me: “the best and the brightest will bring much needed teaching where it is needed most in the Nation.” (Never mind that the best and the brightest got into Vietnam. The road to hell and all that…)

          • navigio replied

            on July 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm

            no, it was not a citation but as you experienced, how the program ‘presents itself’ to me. to be fair (i sometimes do that), i think tfa presented itself much differently in its initial years than it does now. for one thing they focused more on ivy league schools early on, now they are much broader in their selection. i also remember reading about a study they had done that looked at gpa correlation with performance. i cant find it now, but it think it found that the gpa of only a subset of the years in college were correlated with teaching performance. so they definitely have approached this topic that way. i dont think they release much of their internal studies though so dont to me for a quote on that.
            they do have a minimum requirement of a 2.5 gpa, but i did find that their average corps member had a 3.6 gpa as of a couple years ago. that may or may not be above average depending on the school and major.
            btw, does anyone happen to have a copy of kopp’s thesis?

    • Ben Riley replied

      on July 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Paul, I was hoping you’d comment on this piece, as I read with great interest your comments to Ms. Darling-Hammond’s piece on the NCTQ report. I appreciate your focus on facts and that you acknowledge the nuances around selection within California’s education-preparation system. If you are so inclined, I’d love to learn more about your background and interest in this topic. You can contact John Fensterwald at jfensterwald at edsource.org and he can give you my email (or you can share your email with him to forward to me).

      Meanwhile:

      — It is true that I’ve never been a school teacher, and thus for some, my connection to education policy will always be tenuous and my views unworthy of consideration. Short of becoming a teacher, there is little I can do to remedy this defect. Of course, many other commentators that I think are worthy of listening to share this deficiency — for example, Matt DiCarlo of Shanker Blog, who writes critically (and eloquently) of the education-reform movement.

      — Although everyone is understandably focused on NCTQ’s actual rankings of programs, I wish more people would pay attention to the actual standards it based its report on (you can find them on page 8: http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Prep_Review_2013_Report). In my view, there really isn’t much difference between the CAEP Commission standards and the NCTQ is suggesting. So perhaps we can move past attacking NCTQ and focus instead on improving educator preparation programs by raising entry standards, developing more robust clinical preparation, and tracking the impact teacher have on student learning.

      — “I am claiming that, especially if we want things like Common Core-style sense-making (rather than mere teaching of procedure) in elementary mathematics, teachers must themselves demonstrate high levels of academic achievement.” Exactly right. I would add that I attended an event earlier this week where a tenured math professor at an institution that trains a large number of urban teachers (not in CA) delivered an incoherent lecture about “the state of teacher preparation in mathematics.” She had no familiarity whatsoever with the instructional shifts required in the Common Core math standards, such as fluency in core functions, and spent the majority of her time making bizarrely wrong claims (such as “NCTQ accredits teacher prep programs” — um, no). The teachers who train underneath this professor are not going to have the first clue how to teach to the Common Core standards (apart from whatever they self-teach or learn from other sources, of course). And yet, troublingly, such teachers may be held accountable for improving student learning despite the inadequacy of their training.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Manuel replied

        on July 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

        Mr. Riley, it is not that your comments are unworthy of consideration. The problem I have is that you present them as if you are an expert in the educational field.

        Anyone can write eloquently, including you. It becomes an issue when claims are made that a program should be implemented because it was imposed by politicians and, therefore, it must be right.

        Are you aware that our current testing system, the CSTs, have the “proficient” cutoff point set at the mean of the score distribution? Given that, VAM is a sham, whether it was approved by legislators or appointed personnel. To propose that this is a legitimate tool to define teacher performance is just wrong. To assume that a student taught by a teacher with a higher GRE score will be able to score higher than the average is just wishful thinking.

        Hence, if important policy promoted by you is based on a demonstrably improper application of statistics, what level of confidence can I have that you are “doing your homework” to be able to do the correct thing?

        • Ben Riley replied

          on July 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm

          I’m not sure where I claimed expertise, Manuel. I did in fact serve on the CAEP Commission, so I do feel I can speak to the development of those standards, which were endorsed by a broad spectrum of folks in education, including Randi Weingarten from AFT, NEA, TFA, multiple deans from institutions of higher education, former school superintendents, teachers, and many others (full list here: http://caepnet.org/commission/commissioners/)

          And yes, I’m actually quite familiar with the CSTs and the cut scores we use in CA. In a former life, I was a deputy attorney general for the state of California who represented the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, the Governor, and others when the state would get sued over education policy. Again, not claiming this gives me “expertise,” but I do have familiarity with California education policy.

          I would caution against conflating concerns you may have about VAM for teacher evaluation versus using it for program evaluation. Many of the psychometric issues that arise when applying VAM to a single teacher are alleviated by using it as programmatic level. This is why I believe educator preparation programs should be held to higher standards than they are today to produce effective teachers who can impact student learning.

          I certainly don’t think a higher GRE score (or ACT or SAT) by itself will be enough to improve effectiveness in the classroom. But, if there is a constant theme across the countries that do well on international exams such as PISA, it’s that they all made it more difficult to become a teacher than we do in the US. In Finland, for example, you cannot become a teacher unless you score in the top 10% of the national matriculation exam. Of course, Finland only trains 600 teachers a year, and we’d have a massive teacher shortage if we tried something like that here overnight. But moving to the top third by 2020 seems feasible to me, and the right direction to head.

          • el replied

            on July 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm

            I don’t know if you’ve ever sat on interview panels to hire teachers at your local schools. It definitely gives you a feel for the people who are out there – many of whom are very very good (and some who are not).

            I am all for selectivity, but we can be stupid about it or we can be smart. Why not be selective about the actual skills we are seeking?

            So, I don’t care what my daughter’s Spanish teacher got on the math SAT. What I care about is whether that person speaks spanish fluently (1) and then all the rest of what makes someone a good teacher of spanish.

            When was the last time you were talking about art teachers and asked how many juried shows had accepted the prospective teacher’s work? (Or better, the *students’* work!) Would you take someone in the 98% percentile SAT for this position over someone who was 40th percentile and nationally known for her work in ceramics?

            When was the last time you heard someone muse about science teachers having published a scientific paper as a prerequisite?

            The market does have a mechanism for this – it’s salaries. This is why Wall Street slurps up a huge percentage of STEM degree holders – because they pay literally ten times what we pay for teachers.

      • Paul replied

        on July 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

        Hello, Ben.

        As a second-career teacher who had several strikes against him — a subject-matter masters’ degree, preparation through the internship pathway, and worst of all, S.B. 57 early completion — I myself was always written off as an outsider. I am sorry, and I shouldn’t have bought into that logic by saying that you had a “tenuous connection” to the classroom. (I still do believe that teaching experience is necessary before people can offer meaningful comments on the willful defiance/suspension issue, because without having worked in a classroom, one simply cannot appreciate the variety of disciplinary problems that occur.)

        Because the NCTQ did little more than a “desktop review” of teacher program Web sites in California, it’s really important to separate dubious findings from worthwhile policy directions. I would have hoped that most people would agree with the goal of increasing teacher credential program selectivity, for example.

        As your math lecture anecdote shows, the math question is critical. There are big variations between teacher preparation programs in this regard. As I was looking a the sizes of the different teacher programs just now, I was disheartened to note that San Jose State, a CSU with a normal school pedigree and a very strong math education initiative (Silicon Valley Math), now produces fewer than 200 elementary teachers a year, with mediocre programs producing more.

        As for the big recommendation in the CAEP report, I don’t know that I could agree with basing a teacher credential program’s accreditation on year-over-year test score changes for students taught by the program’s graduates. Current and forthcoming tests are not designed for such use, and the design problem really doesn’t go away when we average the results over lots of classrooms.

        I’d be ecstatic if we knew about employment levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years after graduation. That would be a great basis for comparing and rating teacher credential programs. Sadly, the data collection tools and systems in place in California don’t support this sort of inquiry.

    • Manuel replied

      on July 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Ah, selectivity. The passport to the Land of Milk and Honey.

      I believe, Paul, I have been misunderstood. Or, rather, I believe the failure to communicate is all mine. My argument is based on “do we have enough bodies at that end of the curve,” not on “well, we gotta put them to work somewhere so we might as well make them teachers if they are so willing to toil in the Lard’s Vineyard.”

      This new requirement demands that teachers be at the top of the graduate student cohort (which implies they better have been in the tippy top of the high school cohort because, let’s face it, you don’t get smarter as you get older, you just get experienced!). Fine, I can live with that. But don’t be surprised if there is a major shortage because who in their right mind wants to get the equivalent of a masters to be judged by the responses on standardized tests that mean nothing to the students’ classroom mark? Do you? OK, maybe you do as you left a different career behind. I used to think I would but I don’t think so anymore.

      Indeed, the Master Plan was masterfully created by President Kerr to protect UC’s monopoly in post-graduate degrees (and the money that comes from having slaves, er, graduate students conduct federally-sponsored research). Let’s not forget that what became CSU were the teacher colleges. That is the real reason why CSU is “permitted” to offer Ed.Ds! They can’t offer Ph.Ds at all (please someone correct me if I am wrong, but that’s the way it was last time I looked). And, yes, their teacher programs are growing because UC (or at least UCLA) decided sometime in the last 20 years to demand that students have to get a Masters and not just a teaching credential. Too much work said many and voted with their feet. I don’t think this has to do with the selectivity of the institution because, after all, even prestigious programs have their faults.

      However, if the selectivity argument applies, then perhaps it is worth it to ask what is the proportion of teachers that have a BA/BS from UC rather than CSU. Absent that, I would opine that “there’s not enough data to render a proper conclusion.” (Aside: one of the best grad students in our group came from a CSU, so I don’t think selectivity holds that much water just on this one data point.)

      Similarly with the idea that anyone with a C average should not be a teacher, well, that may “make sense” at face value. But is it supported by the data? Besides, shouldn’t most of those former C students wash off in the first two years of their teaching profession? As for “no one claiming that high grades and test scores make a person a good teacher,” then why demand that they do have high grades and test scores to be allowed to try becoming a teacher? You seem to believe that those ETS tables you mention support your point of view. I must confess that I either missed those postings or did not realize their importance. I’d appreciate it if you would please provide links to those posts or the primary data.

      As for TFAers taking the place of “regularly trained” teachers, I’m afraid that I have a personal bias about their competence due to the fact that one of my daughters took a summer class (US History, because the local community college had no space) with two of them during their training period. The worst “teaching” she ever received. And it wasn’t the fault of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed TFA CMs. They freely admitted they could not go into any depth because their supervisor would not be happy if they did not complete the death march they called “covering the curriculum.” So, no, even if they are stellar students during their undergraduate years, I don’t think they are capable, as a group, to deliver instruction in the same manner as “regularly trained” teachers. I am sure that some of them rise above and beyond the call of duty. But it ain’t the nature of the beast, despite good intentions on their part. Sorry, it is what it is.

      (Navigio: is that a direct quote or a general interpretation of their attitude?)

      • Paul replied

        on July 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm

        Hello, Manuel.

        I agree that raising admission standards for teacher credential programs could cause shortages. That’s why I acknowledged the market realities (low salaries, limited professional authority, etc.) that justify the current 2.75/2.67 GPA threshold. Before raising the GPA threshold and instituting any sort of general knowledge test score standard, I would put the question to voters/taxpayers: are you willing to approve the tax increases and policy changes necessary to make teaching a more competitive professional choice? If not, the standards would have to remain as they are.

        Teachers’ SAT scores are only part of the picture. The ETS also collects GPA data. A person who dismissed standardized test scores as meaningless or irrelevant might place more stock in grades awarded by actual professors. The ETS found patterns of low SAT scores AND low college GPAs for teachers in certain fields, such as elementary education. Here are the SAT score tables by teaching subject:

        http://www.ets.org/Media/Education_Topics/pdf/TQ_full_report.pdf#page=22

        I, not the ETS, am arguing for stricter admissions standards. The tables clearly support my claim that teachers in certain fields exhibit low academic performance. (The ETS doesn’t take a position, except to say, ‘Things are better than they used to be’. For me, better doesn’t mean good enough.)

        You believe that a teacher’s academic performance “mean[s] nothing to” his or her students’ academic performance. I believe that there is a link. I don’t understand how it would be possible for people to teach content that they themselves understood only at C level. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. I will, however, propose a thought experiment, inspired by Diane Ravitch’s remarks on class size a few years ago in San Francisco: In the absence of perfect statistical data, and all other things being equal, would you prefer to have your own child taught by a C student or a B student? (Diane had discovered that the self-same people who were arguing publicly that class size reduction was a waste of money were sending their own children to schools with small classes.)

        As of 2011-2012, the University of California system is producing only 7% of California’s new teachers. The California State University is producing 49%, and the private institutions are producing 44%. See Table H and Figure 8 of the current CTC teacher supply report:

        http://www.ctc.ca.gov/reports/TS-2011-2012-AnnualRpt.pdf#page=11

        Table 1 in the appendix shows career-oriented institutions like National and Brandman/Chapman leading the private university camp. Selective and innovative private schools like Stanford and Mills are, sadly, a very minor factor.

        I’ve never argued that a person with a C average should be refused admission outright. Again, all teacher preparation programs, public and private, have petition mechanisms for applicants who believe that they are exceptional.

        Regarding interns, if a preliminary or clear credential holder was available for the summer school position that you mentioned, it was illegal for your daughter’s school district to hire an intern credential-holder. Unless the district flouted the law (which does happen), your daughter would otherwise have been taught by a day-to-day substitute or a short-term staff permit-holder. Substitutes and STSP-holders have bachelors’ degrees and passing scores on the CBEST (basic knowledge test), but they have not passed the CSET (subject matter competence tests), have not gained admission to a teacher credential program, and are not receiving any employer or university support. Be thankful that someone who had accomplished all of those steps was willing to work for $30 an hour with no benefits (beyond an 8.25% employer contribution to STRS, if the teacher knew to elect it) and no paid preparation time! These are typical summer working conditions; variations are of course possible. Also remember that, once the summer school categorical became flexible several years ago, many districts emphasized credit recovery and stopped accommodating enrichment, which upset the balance of summer classes and made those jobs among the least desirable.

        • Manuel replied

          on July 18, 2013 at 11:44 pm

          Paul, many thanks for your reply. It is a source of many pointers and I have learned (I hope) much while composing this reply. But first I have to state that I am sorry to have not be a better communicator as part of your response addresses points I don’t believe I made.

          Anyway, the ETS study you refer to indeed tracks SAT scores and, because they have access to the data, include GPAs. However, the study is confined to prospective teachers who took their Praxis II test, which was replaced by the CSET in California in 2005. I point this out because whatever its conclusions may be they might not even apply to California.

          After having read the executive summary and the conclusion, plus examining the figures, I don’t see how you can claim that demanding higher academic achievement by prospective teachers will result in better teaching, unless, of course, getting a high score in the Praxis is prior evidence of better teaching sometime in the future. This study includes no data on correlating student achievement with the prior academic achievement of their teachers. All I see is that teachers who had high GPAs and high SATs did better in the Praxis. Is that really surprising? So where’s the beef?

          But let’s for the sake of argument accept that your premise is somehow supported by this study. The study states in p. 5 that the “challenge that remains is the relatively weak SAT scores and GPAs of those who seek elementary, physical, or special education certifications” while stating in p. 6 that “The report’s data contradicted previous research by suggesting that teachers in academic subject areas had academic abilities that were equal to or higher than those of the general college graduate population.” Unless my comprehension is truly bad, this means that we already have better qualified teachers where we need them: the secondary schools. So again, where is the beef?

          Please forgive the very long sentence that led you to state that I “believe that a teacher’s academic performance ‘mean[s] nothing to’ his or her students’ academic performance.” I said nothing of the sort. I stated that a person who can get a masters in just about any field will resent being graded on the responses of a kid who just bubbles randomly in a test that doesn’t count on the kid’s classroom mark.

          You seem to believe that if the teacher was a stellar student in high school (high SAT/ACT, which are not required to enter teacher programs in California) and in college (high GPA/GRE) that all her/his students will do much better in a standardized test. That’s not the reality of standardized testing, in my experience.

          As for a teacher being a C-level student, well, allow me to quibble: that’s a 2.0 GPA and the requirement, as you point out, is 2.75 and above. Therefore, it is a B- student. I think that a B- college student is amply qualified to teach “pluses and take-aways.” May not be able to teach calculus, but I would hope that her/his principal should catch this during the first two years of her/his employment and gently counsel another line of work. As for which teacher I’d prefer to teach my kids, I take el’s position: as long as the teacher is qualified to teach their subject area, I don’t care if s/he got a C- in that class s/he took on second order differential equations when s/he thought that engineering was a cool field.

          I have a confession to make: I was extremely naive to think that UC produced a significant proportion of California teachers. The indicators were staring me in the face and I did not pay enough attention. Of course UC produces way fewer teachers than CSU. After all, CSUs were the original teacherss colleges! That report you cited led me to this web page. It contains all of Teacher Supply Reports (as well as other reports) going back to 1997-98. This last one states in p. 5 that “The great majority of new teachers continue to be prepared by California State University campuses and by private and independent institutions in California, which is consistent with the State’s Master Plan for Higher Education.” Well, duh!

          If this recommendation is adopted, then CSU would have to compete for students with UC to maintain its teaching programs. And it will have to require that candidates take the GRE, something that is not required at this time (so, no, teachers who get their degrees from CSU are not like other graduate students at UC and not even at CSU.) There will never be enough bodies in the pipeline to do so. No way, no how.

          In regards to my daughter’s experience, perhaps I should have shared much more than I did: the class was supposed to be taught by the most experienced US history teachers: the guys who teach the AP courses. I had an extensive discussion about its rigor with one of them prior to the summer because I fully expected it to be full of kids “recovering credits.” He assured me that he would teach as he does during the year. (She was taking it in the summer so to have more time for electives later.) Unfortunately, once the session began I found out that both of the teachers were merely going to supervise the TFA CMs who will be team-teaching the class. (To call them “interns” at this stage of their training seems to be overblown, but that’s just me.) So, yes, they sat in the back and kept an eye on things but did not engage in teaching. The rest of the details are too gory and not on topic so I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just say that it was too embarrassing to talk about this fiasco with either of them.

          • Paul replied

            on July 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm

            Hello, Manuel.

            I hate to open with a lot of “I never saids”, but…

            I never said that the ETS data were ideal for California. Should we drop the line of inquiry because we will never have perfect data? Is there a reason to believe that California isn’t comparable in this area? When I first cited these data on EdSource or TOPEd, I mentioned that they concerned Praxis-takers, not CSET-takers. Pearson and the CTC will never be able to produce comparable data just for California. CSET-takers self-report their GPAs just like Praxis-takers, but ETS, not Pearson, owns general test (SAT, GRE) scores. The CSET is valid only as a binary (pass/no pass) indicator, and in any case, we already know that all California teachers have passed the CSET in their respective fields.

            SAT, GRE and college GPA may reveal something different about teacher candidates. You’ve concluded that that information is inapplicable, but I disagree.

            I never said that the ETS supported my position that we should select high-achieving teacher candidates. It’s my own position. I said only that the ETS data reveal that teachers in certain fields exhibit low academic achievement.

            I never said I believe (let alone care) that high-achieving teachers might boost their students’ test scores. I said it’s doubtful that low-achieving teachers can properly explain content that they themselves understood at a C level. (B- = C+, and many institutions don’t put +/- grades on transcripts anyway, right?)

            In math at least, I disagree that elementary content is unsophisticated and that only secondary teachers need a thorough grounding. By the time I meet a struggling math student in Grade 6, he or she is more than half-way through his or her state-mandated math education, which ends in Grade 10. If I meet the student in Grade 9, he or she has only 2 years left.

            The elementary math foundation is critical. There simply isn’t enough time left for a secondary specialist to reteach the elementary material AND develop the middle- or high school material. Most of the difficulties I’ve noted in Grade 6-12 math students follow directly from deficient elementary math instruction. (I’m also certified for elementary, have taught elementary remedial math, and recognize the gap between what the state expects and what typical elementary teachers are able to deliver in math. “I never understood what it means to divide fractions”, indeed!)

            No one is arguing that good grades should guarantee entry to the teaching profession. None of the existing requirements, such as a (completely discretionary) graduate program admission decision, coursework, a summative assessment (TPA), or an eventual employment decision (also completely discretionary), would be relaxed. I just want to start with high-achieving candidates, to the extent that voters/taxpayers would be willing to pay for such selectivity.

            We must be very careful when classifying teacher training institutions. CSU Monterey Bay, despite being a CSU, was never a normal school/teachers’ college. At the dawn of professional teacher training, early last century, there was no expectation that any Grade 8 student would master algebra, or that most students would complete high school. When the Master Plan was written, in the 1960s, two thirds of CSU freshmen were certainly not enrolled in remedial classes. Given the high expectations that we place on today’s K-12 students, I wonder what would happen if more teachers could be trained at Stanford, or UCSC, or Mills. You and I disagree on the importance of academic quality, broadly defined. I’ve taken education courses at CSU Monterey Bay, SJSU, UCLA and Brandman/Chapman; the differences were pronounced.

            I don’t at all want to personalize, let alone contest, your summer school account, but I think it behooves you, before you suggest that interns are incompetent and unworthy of being called interns (want to rename the Teacher Internship Act of 1967?), to determine the status of the people who taught your daughter. This is available 4 months (= 75 working days) after the fact, on the CTC Web site. Unless you see an Internship Credential with a start date matching the summer term, an employment restriction matching the school district in question, and a subject area matching the course taught, someone else was teacher of record, or there was an illegal assignment — hardly the fault of TFA or its candidates. The CTC’s Administrator Assignment Manual, for example, warns that day-to-day substitutes may not legally be employed to teach summer school unless they are actually substituting for incumbent summer teachers — but I know from personal experience that school districts violate that rule.

          • Manuel replied

            on July 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

            Arrghhh!! More miscomunication!

            I never said that you said… etc., etc., etc.

            Having a bit of OCD (never diagnosed but my kids swear I have it!), I’d love to go over every single of your paragraphs to show you I did not mean what you think I said! Sigh…

            Look, this “raising of the bar” would require far more training in math that teachers would ever need. But I agree that someone who professes to not know what it means to divide fractions is in serious need of a math intervention.

            Also, I know that the original teachers colleges (11 with a total enrollment of 24,610 students in 1951; I just love google!) were fewer than the number of CSUs now in existence (23, enrollment around 440,000). Therefore, I never implied that CSU Monterey Bay, which has been around since 1994, was in that group. I only said that the master plan assigns CSU the task of training the majority of teachers as the report I cited states! Yes, no doubt there is a difference on academic quality between those schools you mentioned but you get what you pay for.

            Was it legal what LAUSD did in my daughter’s class? Probably, because the teacher of record was at the rear of the classroom. Did my daughter get the learning experience she deserved? Absolutely not. And those two TFA CMs can be called interns within the terms of that Act you mention, but I doubt that an intern would be given the responsibility at a regular school to teach the entire class from day 1 until its end. Yeah, let them teach a day here and a day there. But the entire term? And, yes, I think it was TFA’s fault because that is their “model.” No, I don’t want to speculate on why they get away with it, but I am sure it has to do with educational politics and the fact that there TFA alums in positions to make it happen. If I knew then what I know now…

            Anyway, I’d love to take this long discussion to email but…

            Oh, and I hope you realize that what Dr. Jones wrote below this is not addressed to you, but to Mr. Riley.

          • Peter Jones replied

            on July 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm

            Yes – I misspoke! I should have addressed my remarks to Ben Riley. Sorry Paul.

  6. Peter Jones said

    on July 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I would like to point out a few issues that you might want to consider when thinking about teacher preparation in the State of California. There are many important issues but I will simply address the issues you start your commentary with. I would like to apologize first though. I appreciate that you have held high policy making positions in California but that does not make you an expert in this field. If you would like an education about teacher preparation programs in our State I would be happy to point you to a number of people who have many years experience at both the preparation program level and teacher preparation policy making positions…

    Some basic problems with your logic:

    1) “Accrediting programs based on the impact their teachers have on student learning.”
    The problem we have with your response here is that you cannot measure the impact a teacher has on student learning. I do not know if you assume that a national standardized assessment measures teacher effectiveness but it does not. Question: If a surgeon loses a patient on the operating table does that mean she was not effective? If a student does not learn algebra does that mean the teacher was not effective? Can you begin to identify all of the variables at play in a classroom? I can. I would love to share some of my teacher effectiveness models with you. There are an astounding number of variables that the teacher has little to no control over in a classroom, their school, home, and community that impact a student’s learning. Currently, you cannot define what teacher effectiveness is much less measure it. It is complicated and if we are to make any headway in our society in improving teacher effectiveness we should focus on the science of understanding the issue and not not the policy. I appreciate you are a policy wonk but that is not the solution to this issue.

    2) “Requiring programs to report annually on a range of outcome measures.”
    The problem with your logic here is, well, it defies logic. The mere suggestion that a University teaching program is going to follow their graduates into the teaching field and gather data about private citizens working in the public arena is manifestly ignorant. Not only do Universities not have trained administrators capable of collecting these data efficiently, effectively, and within an appropriate study design model due to their inherent skill sets but it is illegal! If you had taken a moment to consider the public school system and Education Code you would know that. Maybe you do know that. It doesn’t make sense. Districts do not allow access to teacher or student data, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing does not allow access to public school teacher data, public school student data is closely held, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention the types of studies that would have to be conducted to control for a given teacher’s effect. Have you ever done a matched paired study of public school students? It is extremely difficult in elementary grades where students have a single primary teacher. But, of course, that does not include the floating teachers presenting science, art, and music, etc. Much less middle and high schools. But that assumes, of course, that the student is not mobile and starts and ends their school year with the same teacher! Do you have any idea how difficult these studies are in schools with students from low SES households? Do you know that in low SES schools the mobility rates can be as high as 50% in California? Enough said.

    3) “Raising the bar for entry into the profession.”
    So you want to “raise the bar.” A few facts: In the State of California (and in all states in the U.S.) 45-50% of the budget is spent on education. Of that approximately 60% is spent on teacher salaries. That means that approximately 25-30% of the complete State budget goes to teacher salaries. This implies that if you want to generally raise salaries you will need to find the revenue. If you are going to raise teacher salaries you will need to raise taxes. Good luck.
    But lets talk a second about total numbers of teachers needed. The number of teachers needed each year varies due to the vagaries of the market. Approximately, 40-45% leave in the first 5 years of service. This does not include the number that retire. Can you name another profession that has a higher turnover or that has the need for the sheer volume that the public school teaching profession needs? It is specious to talk about ‘raising the bar’ before you talk about the ability of the society to train these numbers to begin with. You compare them with medicine and law schools. This just demonstrates how little critical thinking has gone into your piece. Just compare the numbers and that will suggest you might want to find a better comparison.

    4) Teaching standards…
    There is (by definition) no such thing as a ‘bad’ standard. A standard is a neutral thing. As in many fields there are attempts to create standards by which to measure a profession by. Teaching standards are no different as you know having worked on the new CAEP standards. As I am sure you and your readers know the State of California has had for many years been measuring their teacher preparation programs by a rigorous set of ever changing standards. California has been attempting to improve their standards and their measuring of programs assiduously. So my question is why should States adopt yet another set of teaching standards? You helped create the CAEP standards and yet you seem to not understand the teacher preparation field well. It takes years for professionals in the filed to set up the logistics and systems to adhere to a given set of standards. In what ways did CAEP compare their standards with standards that are already in place in other states and what studies did CAEP do to demonstrate that their standards will be more ‘effective’ than the existing teacher preparation standards?

    Can you point your audience to these studies so we can understand the methodology from which your arguments (logic?) came to adopt yet another set of teacher preparation standards. Here is my guess… CAEP cannot point to any studies conducted. My guess is that CAEP organized a group of ‘experts’ (like you) who all had a bunch of meetings and decided what you thought the ‘new standards’ should be. Then you all went about the politics of pushing those standards on the rest of the profession of which you cannot claim to be – or ever have been – a member.

    Sorry for the harsh tone. Those of us in this complicated profession of studying the science of teacher preparation and doing the hard work of preparing teachers would like those of you not in the profession to be humble enough to study a position before purporting expertise. I am not a lawyer – like yourself – and don’t write articles purporting an expertise in the field. I did write a dissertation focused on teacher effectiveness though and have studied and worked in the field for over 15 years. My hope is that as you write more on the subject you will find the time to more deeply study the issues.

    Peter Jones, Ed.D.
    University of California at Irvine
    School of Education
    peter.jones@uci.edu

    • navigio replied

      on July 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Peter. Are you saying it is impossible to measure teacher effectiveness, or just that the current methods simply dont do that because they are not finely enough tuned? (If its impossible, this has a bunch of not so pleasant implications imho).

      • Manuel replied

        on July 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        In my limited experience, nothing is impossible if you throw enough resources at it. But since we won’t, it might as well be.

        Currently, there’s a belief that standardized tests can show academic growth. Unfortunately, the numbers guys (and gals) have sold the idea that this is true when it can’t possibly be. Consider, for example, that a standardized test must be constructed of questions that have an individual “probability of being answered correctly.” Putting the right mix of questions of varying probability will yield a test that will produce a distribution of scores that roughly fit the Bell Curve.

        Leaving for a moment that this already questionable, where do we place the “failing” point? Who decides where it should be? What do we do with those who score below that point? Even more importantly, this is a “one shot” test. How confident are we that a student taking the test multiple times will get a similar score?

        We’ve never had a conversation on these and many other issues raised by this massive use of the Bell Curve. But I bet you nobody who has gone to college liked to be “graded on the curve.” Why would they want their children to be graded that way?

        I mention all this because teacher effectiveness is presently defined on “how many of their kids score higher than the year before.” This is the essence of the “Value Added” method of grading teachers. Clearly, it is lunacy to demand that a teacher’s kids all score “above proficient” if we are going to use a standardized test given at one single time of the year and which a predetermined number of kids will be below proficient.

        Back before I knew that the proficient point in California was set at the average, I would never have had a problem in defining teacher effectiveness: if the kid learned enough of the curriculum to go on to the next grade, then the teacher is effective. But now I know better and realize that this is a moving target, especially if we do nothing about social promotion. Hence, I must confess that I don’t know and will have to leave it to the professionals like Dr. Jones to tell us how.

        How would you, navigio, define teacher effectiveness? You’ve got kids in school, don’t you? Surely you must have some idea! ;-)

      • Peter Jones replied

        on July 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm

        You first need to define what you believe ‘teacher effectiveness’ is. Does it mean a child ‘learns’ while you are teaching them. If so, does it mean they ‘remember’ what you have taught? For how long? Does it mean they can use that what you have taught to form other ideas as well?

        We can measure learning in very specific ways. For instance, we can give you an assessment right after a lesson. I made A’s in my calculus courses in college. Did I ‘learn’ the material. Some would argue I did. I could not repeat that feat now. Did I ‘unlearn’ or is it that I have a problem recalling the information? Most would argue that I learned the material and simply cannot recall it. They would be wrong. In fact, the neural networks that were formed while I was studying the subject have atrophied. I ‘unlearned’ the material! [if you would like to learn more about that read Eric Kandel's In Search of Memory - he won the Nobel prize for his work in this field].

        So what are the implications for teachers? Are my calculus professors at fault. Are they poor teachers? I would argue that it is difficult to measure their effectiveness. I would argue that we have not defined what that means.

        I am not arguing that we shouldn’t try to move toward an agreed upon way of trying to measure the professional skills of teachers. What I am arguing is that the normalized standardized tests that policy makers have adopted were never designed to do this. They were designed to measure trends within large populations of students. They do this well for those very specific items they measure. They do not measure a teacher’s effectiveness, a school';s effectiveness, or a district’s effectiveness. They give us an idea of the learning that is occurring within populations at the State level. Other than nationally normed standardized assessments we do not have any measures that are recognized as being able to measure student’s progress at population levels much less at local levels. But that does not mean we could not try to address that issue.

        While teacher preparation standards are good, in and of themselves, you will note they do not come with a set of assessments much less a set of assessments that have been validated. In other words, the standard bearers (good pun!) don’t tell us how to measure their standards. What is ironic though is that the writers of these standards insist that teachers use scientific methodology to arrive at their goals of teaching!!! Literally within their standards! So if they want others to teach using the scientific methodology they purport is important for success I would suggest they be held to the same standard (another good pun!).

        • navigio replied

          on July 29, 2013 at 9:37 pm

          Hi Peter. You said you wrote a dissertation ‘focused on teacher effectiveness’ and even offered to share your ‘teacher effectiveness models’ with us. I have to admit I didnt expect you to respond by asking me to define teacher effectiveness. :-)

          Anyway, it sounds to me like you’re saying its just a lot more complex than policy-makers make it out to be. Fair enough. It still would be nice to hear your opinion though. It also would be interesting to know whether you believe the ways of measuring ‘learning’ would change depending on how you define it, ie would the distribution of student test scores change if you only measured ‘learning’ by the ability to regurgitate on a multiple-choice test within one week of having been presented the material vs if you had deep, project-based, more written analysis of the use of ‘learned’ concepts? (I expect there would still be ‘gaps’ between students of varying nature, and that relative distribution might even look very similar). Only if that’s not true would we have to actually define ‘learning’ (actually you’d probably have to define it to decide whether its true. ;-) ).

          I agree with you on the roles of tests. That point has been made ad nauseum in this forum, yet legislators and policy-makers and who knows who else still believe that they can be used this way (despite the fact that test designers clearly state they shouldnt be). Oh well.

          I am really glad you point out how our tests provide some meaning when the data set is a large groups of kids. I almost brought this up in my original question, but wanted to keep it short. One of our problems, I think, is we tend to believe these trends indicate reality on a case-by-base basis. Its hard to resist that lure (one reason statistics should be required in school). Yet, I also think its important to point out these are the trends that policy tends to focus on. It may still be valid to treat models of effectiveness differently for policy-making, than for one-on-one reality (or at least accept that addressing trends is merely designed to help a majority of some set of students, sometimes even at the expense of a minority–we have a hard time with accepting that in our culture).

          Throw on top of that Manuel’s important point about a moving target.

          I would like to point out that just last year, the state department of education came out with a brand new tool for the community. It’s called… wait for it… the ‘school quality snapshot’. What’s on that ‘quality’ metric for schools? Mostly test results: CST (CMA, CAPA), API, CAHSEE, SAT, CELDT. So realize that the department of education–and our legislator–have defined quality for us and told us it is measured primarily by test results. My guess is they do this because its simply too difficult to really think about what ‘learning’ means (and its much easier to tell people what they want to hear). And even when someone actually tries, the result is usually a measurement of how various types of ‘learning’ impact economic output. Another one of those unbelievably deterministic fields of study.. ;-)

          Oh well.

          • Peter Jones replied

            on July 30, 2013 at 9:50 am

            Hi Navigio,

            I couldn’t address your question about the definition of ‘teacher effectiveness’ within this forum for obvious reasons but suffice it to say it is not monolithic and should not be addressed as if it is. It is a concept that has a number of major components and can be modeled and measured in its many dimensions. Unfortunately, you cannot take one measure and then say you have a measure for teacher effectiveness. That is much like saying you tested a persons blood and found their white blood cell count and now know their ‘health.’ Ridiculous on its face (face validity). Teacher effectiveness is, I would argue, a concept as general as ‘health.’

            Here is a general model of teacher effectiveness (one of many):

            ==============
            EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

            Teacher Effectiveness components:
            Teacher Qualifications == Teaching Quality == Teacher Quality

            Student Effectiveness components:
            School Environment == Family Cultural & Social Environment == Academic Support == Psychosocial Development

            Teacher and Student Effectiveness is situated within:
            Community Conditions ==> School Conditions ==> Teaching Conditions

            These lead to vectors (influence):
            School Effectiveness ==> Teacher Effectiveness ==> Instructional Effectiveness == Student Development

            Which all lead to (==>):

            EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES

            Situated within:
            Social / Community Outcomes ==> School Outcomes ==> Student Outcomes ==> Academic Measures & Social Outcome Measures
            ==============

            As you can see from this model teaching occurs within an environment and is affected by that environment. A white blood cell count occurs within an environment and cannot be disassociated from it. In the medical sense we have to take into account if the person is young or old, recently had the flu, has a particular disease, etc. while considering the cell count. We call that context. This is also true of teachers and students within their educational environments.

            As you can also see there are many components at play. Instructional Effectiveness is influenced by School Conditions because it is situated within them. A teacher’s ability to teach may be influenced by the resources available. The student within her class may be influenced by their parents resources. Maybe the child is hungry.

            We can identify many components and variables within these environments and have many ways to measure them. What is more complicated is understanding how each of these components influence each other and to what degree. By definition that is equivalent to == Teacher Effectiveness (only in part!). It is also equivalent to District, School, and Family Effectiveness (only in part!).

            I know you know this. It is obvious to all of us within the field.

            Getting back to the main issue of Ben Riley’s article: He is arguing that the teacher preparation schools within the country are ineffective. I assume he believes this because he does not think that student outcomes measured by national standardized assessments are maximized. My guess is he couldn’t explain his reasoning with previous work he has done in this area though. My guess is he is shooting from the hip – so to speak.

            Ben is arguing for the new CAEP standards to be implemented and that schools of education should be made accountable to these new standards. The implication is that if schools of education adhere to the new standards this will improve teacher effectiveness and therefor student outcomes. He does not say because then he would be in the sticky wicket of having to explain what he means by that.

            I find his argument specious. Not because he is not a smart guy. I am sure he is quite intelligent. I find his argument specious because he cannot define teacher effectiveness. He therefor cannot define how to measure the individual standards CAEP proposes. I am sure he cannot explain to any given teacher how to change their practice based on a CAEP standard in a concrete way that will improve her students’ academic achievement. My guess is he has never tried.

            He is a guy who got a law degree and experienced many interesting things. By virtue of having done those things he was invited to be a member of a group of folks who decided that they would try to define what a teacher should know and be able to do. Fair enough. I guess his background makes him uniquely qualified to define teaching and learning.

            The CAEP standards are as good as any set I have seen. Compare them to the California Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Professional Teacher Professional Programs and you can’t tell them apart. Having studied many sets of teacher preparation standards I can tell you they are very generic indeed. But more important if you take each one of the declarative statements (that is what a ‘standard’ is) you will find them to be very general in nature. So general that in many cases you cannot measure them. No one could tell you how to measure them because in many cases they are immeasurable.

            To be fair lets just take CAEP Standard 1:
            “The provider ensures that candidates develop a deep understanding of the critical concepts and principles of their discipline and, by completion, are able to use discipline‐specific practices flexibly to advance the learning of all students toward attainment of college‐ and career‐readiness standards.”

            The standard sounds great. But then you get to the outcome of the standard which is the measurable part == ‘The provider ensures… to… advance learning of all students toward attainment of college- and career-readiness standards.

            There is not a district superintendent, principal, teacher, or teacher preparation program administrator in the U.S. who would tell you that this is not the outcome objective of what they do. So the big take away here is how does this generic, general, declarative statement help improve teacher preparation programs and in the end student outcomes? In what way does this statement give me guidance to help change what we do in preparing teachers to teach? By definition programs are designed to do this so how does this move our profession forward? CAEP argues their standards are somehow better than the existing standards in use. But they do not compare their standards to any others to make that argument. They just simply say – as Ben has in his article – they are better.

            Preparation programs are left supporting their models of preparation by making declarations that they have indeed met the standard by teaching a set of classes. While this is a good and healthy accountability process no one to date has been able to demonstrate that if programs meet these very general standards then they will improve the academic, social, or psychosocial outcomes of the students of these teachers.

            I think it is up to Ben and his colleagues to make that argument. My guess is Ben won’t respond!

          • Ben Riley replied

            on July 31, 2013 at 8:55 am

            Hi Peter (and everyone else involved in this discussion),

            Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post. You should know that I’ve read some of your work with keen interest, and I appreciate that — while we disagree on some issues — you are engaged in this debate.

            So let’s start with where we agree. You are absolutely right that the CAEP standards lack specificity. I say that as a commissioner who served on the accountability subgroup and fought hard to provide greater specificity and clarity to programs as to what it is we are asking them to do. Here’s a little inside baseball: our subgroup agreed to the idea of creating a scorecard, based loosely on the LEED Green Building Certification rubric, that would have created specific categories within each standard for programs to address, with points assigned to each one. Unfortunately, this idea quietly died despite the support of some notable commissioners (e.g., Dean Julie Underwood of Univ of Wisconsin) because it was deemed too technical an exercise for the commission to undertake, and because of the variety in data collected at state level. This problem still looms large.

            Second, we agree that defining and measuring teacher effectiveness is complex and difficult. Where we part ways, I suspect, is whether that complexity is insurmountable and therefore should limit our policymaking authority. In my view, we have good research using randomized methods that indicate teachers vary in their ability to improve student scores on standardized tests, using value-added measures (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dstaiger/Papers/WP/2008/KaneStaiger%20NBER%20wp14607%202008.pdf). We have research building off this that further suggests that blended models that measure teacher effectiveness using VAM, observations, and student surveys. (http://metproject.org/downloads/MET_Ensuring_Fair_and_Reliable_Measures_Practitioner_Brief.pdf)

            Are these measures flawed? Yes. However, when it comes to crafting policy, “waiting for decades for the accumulation of research to identify key measures for instructional domain is not a viable option. Faculty administrators, state policymakers and accrediting bodies, [will have to make decisions] with the best evidence that can be obtained now, rather than the evidence we like to have had, or that will likely be available in the future.” (Applying Pyschological Science to Using Data for Continuous Teacher Preparation Program Improvement, Report of a Board of Educational Affairs Task Force, Frank Worrell, chair; page 9.)

            With this in mind, I can now answer your question regarding teacher effectiveness. I am keenly interested in Doug Harris’s suggestion that we use VAM measures in combination with classroom observation as an initial screen for teacher effectiveness. (http://shankerblog.org/?p=7242) (Aside: I think we should develop assessments for most major subjects — and we should invest significant resources in improving the quality of all assessments. Harris and I likely disagree on this point.) If a teacher was flagged by the screen, school principals (or superintendents) could then use additional measures to evaluate effectiveness, perhaps including student surveys, peer review, or other methods.

            Then, this information would be aggregated at the program level. Programs would be held accountable for producing teachers that were effective as determined by this process (which is based on effectiveness in the classroom, NOT on some assessment given before prospective teachers have set foot in the classroom). The challenges of using VAM at the individual teacher level become much less concerning at the program level (larger n size), so programs that consistently produced teachers that districts determined to be ineffective would be shut down. This, more than anything, would drive the improvement in teacher preparation so desperately needed.

            On that last point, while I think test scores are indicative of the deficiencies in teacher-prep, they are hardly the sole indicator. In my role at NewSchools, I’ve seen more and more schools start to develop their own teacher training programs due to frustration with the quality produced by local colleges of education (see, e.g., Relay Graduate School of Education, High Tech High, the recent Newark teachers’ contract authorizing $20,000 bonus to teacher trained in programs approved by newly created council). As one Canadian teacher bluntly stated, it’s hard to get into a Canadian teachers’ college, but “everyone knew there was a loophole–you could always cross the border into the United States. Anyone can get credentialed there.” (Surpassing Shangai, Marc Tucker ed., p. 148.)

            My final comment is that your previous statement that “the mere suggestion that a University teaching program is going to follow their graduates into the teaching field and gather data about private citizens working in the public arena is manifestly ignorant” unintentionally illustrates exactly what is wrong with the prevailing wisdom that many professors of college of education hold today. Of course such programs should be tracking what’s happening in the field. To the extent there are laws that prevent us from gathering data on programs that prepare teachers and teacher effectiveness, we should repeal those laws. To suggest we should keep our data systems disconnected, and perpetuate the disconnect between our higher education and K12 systems — well, I’ll let others judge who is promoting ignorance.

  7. Peter Jones said

    on July 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Ben,

    Glad you responded…

    First I would like you (and the other readers of this post) to know that accountability should never be an issue. All professions should be held accountable as much as one might be able to do that in an intelligent way using methodology that is rational and makes sense.

    I am in the business of managing accountability for teacher preparation programs so I know a lot about standards and how they are used in the industry. They have not matured to the point where anyone can actually measure their programs using them effectively.

    Couple reflections:

    1) You never addressed the issue that I raised about CAEP standards being justified based on other standards being used in the field currently. The CAEP standards are not significantly different from the California standards so why should we change. It is up to CAEP to make the argument that their particular standards are going to make a change in teacher performance. Just simply saying you have a group of experts who have gotten together in groups/subgroups to hash out some language does not mean anything. Where is the research that EACH standard is based on? There isn’t any.

    2) You never addressed the issue I raised about Standard 1 (I could make cogent arguments about each standard but to be fair I started with #1). If all programs everywhere meet the standard what is it measuring? It is measuring that a program exists. Nothing more.

    3) The typical laymen in this field will tell you that the scores that students make on assessments are a reflection of the ‘teacher effectiveness.’ If we look at this on a broad scale you can identify the schools in ‘program improvement’ in our state which suggests that year-over-year the teachers in these schools are failing AND the programs that produced them are poor training schools. Fair enough. What you CANNOT do is explain why it is when a teacher moves from one of these ‘failing’ schools into a non-failing school why she suddenly becomes an ‘effective teacher’ and the program that trained that teacher suddenly becomes an effective training program.

    This is the issue! Until you can explain why, by simply moving from one school to another, a teacher can go from a failing teacher to an effective teacher you cannot make your case that VAM’s are measuring what you purport them to be measuring – teacher effectiveness.

    VAM are measuring the academic progress a student has made over time mastering the concepts they were designed to measure. They reflect the amount of attention and time a student was able to focus on the concepts. This is influenced by the district, school, home, and teaching conditions the student finds themselves within. It is heavily influenced by the psychosocial stability of the student. Yes, is is also influenced by the ‘instructional effectiveness’ of the teacher. But by how much? We do not know. And we believe that by different degrees depending on the varying climate a student/teacher find themselves within.

    4) It is a specious argument that “waiting for decades for the accumulation of research to identify key measures for instructional domain is not a viable option.” Really? You are basically suggesting that we simply move forward even though we cannot show with any degree of validity that we can measure the phenomenon of ‘learning’ nor can we measure to what degree a teacher impacts ‘learning’ in any given individual. You cannot even give me a definition of ‘learning’ and yet you want to hold teachers responsible for it! It is reckless to go about making policy for teachers that you admit you cannot “identify key measures for instructional domain.”

    5) In my suggestion that it is currently illegal for Universities to collect the public school and private teacher data you would need to meet your overarching goals I was pointing out that there are significant legislative challenges that would need to be tackled for your overarching goals to be met. Yet, you are pushing standards that would require them.

    Look, I am a pragmatic guy. I know how much it costs to run a research project where you have to follow subjects across years (a longitudinal study). It is the most expensive type of research you can conduct. This is what makes those of us in this business crazy. People like yourself who never consider the logistical costs of your ideas. Without ever having made a single contribution to the advancement of the quality of teacher preparation or training you argue for imposing huge costs on our programs based on what – your belief that you have figured out what will work to improve teacher preparation. Your ideas that were not formed in the cauldrons of work within the field. I appreciate your enthusiasm. It is not founded on the hard cognitive work that is required to solve difficult problems.

    Final Comments

    If you would like to move your organization toward processes that will improve teacher preparation here are a few ideas you might consider pursuing that will make a real difference (put your entrepreneurs to work on these – by the way I spent 20 years managing my own business):

    1) We know that programs that use training models where pre-service teachers are paired with mentor teachers as supervisors are more effective.
    2) We know that the more time a pre-service teacher has in the classroom practicing under the guidance of a mentor teacher the more effective they are in their individual practice.
    3) We know that the more mentoring support new teachers receive after becoming the teacher of record the more effective they are.
    4) We know that after school academic support for all students improves their academic outcomes.
    5) We know that good lunch programs support better academic outcomes for students.
    6) We know that targeted professional development in specific content areas improve teacher effectiveness.

    I could go on but those are the big ones. They cost money. Teacher preparation programs are designed with costs in mind and the more supervison for pre-service teachers the higher the costs. We know that one of the biggest barriers to entry into our profession is the cost of teacher preparation schools so as you improve the models (add supervision costs) the more candidates are barred from getting the training.

    But hey… these are not the sexy solutions. Maybe if we just test all the kids we can magically tell if the teacher did a good job and then we can fire them because they are bad people. We won’t know if they were bad teachers or not because you can’t tell me how to measure ‘learning’ much less ‘effective teaching.’

    Have you talked to a principal lately? They don’t need a test or a VAM to tell you whether their teachers are effective. They can tell you who are effective and who aren’t. They also know why. They don’t need a VAM to tell them. They also know that some of their ineffective teachers are dealing with situations in the classroom that PREVENT them from being effective. You will not find any principals or teachers who will agree that if you write some standards they will improve what is happening in the teacher preparation schools or in their classrooms. They will tell you some variation of the 6 points I made above.

    This is what I do know… It doesn’t matter how many standards you write or how many VAMs you track it will not improve teachers effectiveness or teacher preparation. It will raise the cost of administering programs though and that will hinder good solid progress toward better teacher preparation and good academic outcomes for kids.

    Good discussion. I hope I did not hurt your feelings. I am passionate about these issues. Maybe some day we can pursue these issues in person.

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