Teacher Quality Initiatives Should Not Ignore Additional Factors Impacting Educational Equity

As part of the path to improving America’s schools, many policy initiatives emphasize improving teacher quality through better preparation programs.  A new brief from the National Education Policy Center examines components of four initiatives and their shared belief in holding teacher prep programs accountable for the outcomes of teachers in the classroom. Focusing on two key areas – the theory of change behind the initiative and the program’s ability to actually meet its aims – the authors conclude that none of them will do much to impact teacher quality.

Key findings

  1. Three of the programs assume that there is a direct relationship between the implementation of public evaluations and the improvement of teacher preparation program quality. However, the authors believe these types of evaluations generally do not provide information useful for program improvement.
  2. All of the programs operate on the questionable premise that teachers are the major source of educational inequity in today’s classrooms. The authors cite several other factors that influence student achievement and access to a first class learning experience.

In the brief, the authors explain that “policymakers must acknowledge and address the multiple factors—in addition to teacher quality—that influence student outcomes, including in particular the impact of poverty, family and community resources, school organization and support, and policies that govern housing, health care, jobs, and early childhood services.”

Recommendations include:

  • Policymakers acknowledging and addressing the multiple factors—in addition to teacher quality—that influence student outcomes.
  • Systems evaluating teacher preparation producing results that preparation programs can use to change and improve curricula, practice-based experiences, and assessments—not results that simply grade programs without information about why or how particular results occurred or what might improve them.
  • A conceptual shift away from teacher education accountability that is primarily bureaucratic or market-based and toward teacher education that is primarily professional and that acknowledges the shared responsibility of teacher education programs, schools, and policymakers to prepare and support teachers.

Read “Holding Teacher Preparation Accountable,” National Education Policy Center (March 2016)


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