July 14, 2014

APA Task Force Report Recommends Processes for Evaluating Teacher Preparation Programs

Use complementary data from student tests, classroom observation, stakeholder surveys, report says

WASHINGTON — Teacher preparation is fundamental to student learning, which is why the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and governments at every level should require that teacher training programs demonstrate empirical evidence that their graduates are having a positive impact on student learning, according to a report issued by the American Psychological Association.

“Evaluating the effectiveness of teacher education programs ought to be informed by well-established scientific methods that have evolved within the science of psychology, which at its core addresses the measurement of behavior,” said Frank C. Worrell, PhD, chair of an APA task force that produced the report “Assessing and Evaluating Teacher Preparation Programs” (PDF, 319KB). “Pre-K to 12 student learning is the central element of effective teaching and should be the focus of assessing the quality of teacher preparation programs.”

Effective teaching has long been a national concern, but in recent years, the focus on the effectiveness of teacher training programs has sharpened, the report notes. American students’ performance is disappointing on both the National Assessment of Student Progress and international tests taken by peers in other developed nations. These and other factors have resulted in the creation of new accreditation standards for teacher education programs and a press by policymakers for accountability and improvement of these programs.

Nevertheless, there is little uniformity among state licensing agencies regarding the standards for program approval, the report notes. Likewise, there are no clear requirements for the quality of data demonstrating that teacher preparation programs are effective. To address such issues, the report examines three sources of data that, if used with consideration of validity, reliability and fairness, can serve as a gauge: the results of standardized tests administered to students; teacher performance as measured by standardized observation instruments; and surveys of graduates, their employers (e.g., principals and school district personnel) and the students of graduates.

Among the report’s other recommendations:

  • Evaluation decisions should be made with the best evidence available now, rather than evidence that might be optimal to have and available in the future. 
  • States should work with teacher preparation programs to develop valid measures of student learning outcomes for all subjects and grades.
  • States should work with teacher preparation programs to design systems that collect data throughout the teacher training process, including post-graduation.
  • States, the federal government and teacher preparation programs should promote research that tracks candidates’ involvement in various preparation experiences to identify factors that predict a positive contribution to pre-K to 12 student learning.

“Some of these recommendations can be implemented right away, whereas others will require a longer time frame to bring to fruition,” said Worrell, who is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “Teacher preparation programs can begin immediately to partner with schools, districts, and state education departments to develop plans for implementing these recommendations for self-improvement and accountability purposes.” 

Other members of the task force were: 

  • Mary M. Brabeck, PhD, New York University.
  • Carol Anne Dwyer, PhD, emerita, Educational Testing Service.
  • Kurt F. Geisinger, PhD, Buros Center for Testing, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  • Ronald W. Marx, PhD, University of Arizona.
  • George H. Noell, PhD, Louisiana State University.
  • Robert C. Pianta, PhD, University of Virginia.

Frank C. Worrell, PhD, can be contacted by email or by phone at (510) 541-2266.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.