Most Tennessee teacher preparation programs aren’t equipping new teachers to be highly effective in their classrooms, according to a new report from a Nashville-based think tank.
The report, released Tuesday by the State Collaborative of Reforming Education (SCORE), says only a handful of Tennessee’s 40 programs are consistently preparing teachers to improve student achievement based on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS, used to measure and evaluate teachers.
The report recommends improvement in areas including stronger classroom-based experiences for teacher candidates, greater diversity within the teaching ranks, and closer partnerships between teacher prep programs and the school districts that hire their graduates.
The recommendations were presented Tuesday in SCORE’s Nashville offices, where a panel featuring K-12 educators and representatives from teacher preparation programs spoke about the challenges they face. The report builds off changes to teacher preparation already in the works by the Tennessee Department of Education and State Board of Education, both of which regularly collaborate with SCORE, which was founded in 2009 by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
“We want Tennessee students to climb to the top half of the nation for academic achievement,” said SCORE Executive Chairman and CEO Jamie Woodson. “Students need the best teachers we can provide to get there, and new teachers deserve to enter the classroom fully prepared to serve our students well.”
Woodson said Tennessee is in a unique position to get teacher preparation right under the leadership of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, a leader in that arena when she was dean of Lipscomb University’s College of Education.
A key recommendation from SCORE focuses on bettering student-teaching experiences before teachers take the full reins of a classroom. Partnerships between programs and districts are important for mentoring both before graduating and after, so that new career teachers have continued support.
“The brain of a first-year teacher is a wild place,” said Randall Lahann, director of the Nashville Teacher Residency, one of Tennessee’s newest alternative teaching programs. “It’s our job as teacher educators to slow things down and give them a clear vision of what it means to be more successful.”
Overall, the report recommends eight ways to improve teacher preparation programs, including better processes for admitting students and reviewing and approving programs, as well as more transparency about data on the programs.
In 2014, the State Board of Education passed a new teacher preparation policy that touches on many of SCORE’s recommendations, like the use of the edTPA licensure test, which is supposed to more rigorously assess whether a candidate is ready to teach full time.
Read SCORE’s full report here.