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Some Tennessee alternative training programs outperform traditional programs, study finds

Tennessee teachers who came to the classroom through some non-traditional routes regularly outperformed teachers from traditional training programs, according to a report on teacher education programs released Friday by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

A crop of alternative certification programs such as Teach for America grant teacher licenses to candidates who haven’t completed a traditional teacher education program, and often involve candidates taking education classes while teaching full-time. Currently, 20 percent of the state’s teachers received alternative licenses.

The 2013 Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs is an annual report required by a 2007 state law that analyzes the 42 teacher-training programs in the state, including the alternative programs.

It reports on teacher placement and retention; on teachers’ Praxis results; and on teachers’ “effect data”, as determined by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS, which uses students’ test scores over time to evaluate teachers’ performance. Traditionally and alternatively licensed teachers are compared to veteran teachers and beginning teachers.

Using primarily student test scores, the report found that some of these alternative training programs are outperforming traditional programs. Three of the six programs singled out in the report for being consistently high-performing were alternative: Memphis Teacher Residency, Teach for America Memphis, and Teach for America Nashville. Lipscomb University, Union University, and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, were also ranked as consistently producing teachers with high effectiveness scores.

But not all alternate certification programs performed. TNTP’s Memphis Teaching Fellows was one of several programs that regularly produced underperforming teachers. The others included Middle Tennessee State University, South College, Tennessee State University, Trevecca Nazarene University, University of Memphis, and the University of TN, Martin.

Heraldo Richards, the associate dean at the college of education at Tennessee State University, said that the data in the current reports “are not based on the present transformation that is taking place in traditional programs,” he said. “We’re looking at an older model and comparing that to alternate systems.”

Tennessee State University and other education schools regulated by the Tennessee Board of Regents have recently switched to a system where teachers-in-training spend a full year as student teachers, rather than just a semester, Richards said. The programs also now use a co-teaching model.

Richards said that he anticipated that the programs would improve due to the changes, which were based on 2010 recommendations for improving teacher education from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Here’s last year’s state report card. Next year’s report is slated to include information from the Teacher Educator Acceleration Model, or TEAM.

The 2013 report provides a profile of the 4,900 graduates of teacher-training programs. Other interesting findings in the report:

  • Teach for America in Nashville and in Memphis are responsible for training almost 30 percent of the state’s middle grades teachers.
  • Teachers in alternative certification programs had slightly higher GPAs than teachers in regular programs.
  • 34 percent of all teacher training candidates got endorsed in elementary education.
  • Eighty-six percent of Tennessee teachers are white and 77 percent are female.