Using Data to Transform Teacher Preparation

Blog post Matthew SmithSREB Research Associate

The SREB Teacher Preparation Commission has called on state leaders to build data systems that will improve preparation programs. The commission identified three groups that would benefit from robust and accessible data:

  • Individuals choosing where to enroll
  • Preparation providers interested in improving their strategies
  • Policymakers considering changes to state requirements

View our webinar on this topic. 

Among the commission’s data recommendations:

Include data from various state and local sources

Systems with the data elements below could assess the impact of a program on a cohort of candidates.

State Data Metrics Proposed by the Commission
Program Data
  • Admissions, course and clinical practice requirements
  • Student academic qualifications
  • Student demographics
  • Evidence of high-quality clinical experiences
  • Percentage of candidates passing state-required licensure tests
  • Effectiveness data collected by districts
  • Teacher placement and retention information

Another useful metric is the satisfaction survey. Five SREB states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee — use or plan to use graduate and employer surveys as program quality measures.

Tailor data displays to specific audiences

Effective data systems display summary data for policymakers and the public. These systems also provide program and district partners with candidate-level data to inform changes in strategy and approach. While an agile, multilayered data system likely would cost more than a two-dimensional display, the investment is arguably worth the expense if programs use the data to improve practice.

Establish state benchmarks for success

State benchmarks signal what policymakers expect from preparation programs. State agency staff could empower program leaders by identifying practices that support effective redesign efforts. For instance, state leaders could establish a peer assistance strategy that allows program leaders to receive support from their colleagues at other institutions.

Here are three ways for state leaders to support preparation programs:

  1. Help program and district leaders find out what works. Sharing data is the first step in the program improvement cycle. Local leaders can use these data to implement promising practices. Most providers already collect formative data on candidate and program quality. Receiving the outcome data from the state could further improve decision-making.
  2. Encourage innovation and experimentation. Pilot programs, competitive grants and other state incentives can support innovation. State grant competitions are helpful because they require applicants to identify areas for improvement and a process for addressing challenges, even if they do not receive an award. The process itself supports continuous improvement. 
  3. Expect improvement. Not all programs will produce well-prepared graduates. But developing a fair process to address low performance could change expectations and help state policymakers ensure that candidates, students and the public are not harmed.

Next Steps

Notice that the proposed actions do not involve data systems’ design, performance measures, or online display. While these factors are important if states want to improve teacher preparation, it is even more crucial that policymakers set clear expectations, award promising practices, and support providers after they receive the performance data.

For a deeper dive into the topic, watch a recording for our September 2019 webinar.