Data, Data Everywhere
… But not a Byte to Use
What works in teacher preparation? How well do a college of education’s graduates perform in the classroom? And do we really have a shortage of teachers?
For the most part, we don’t know.
Strong data systems are the most promising component to improve how colleges prepare teachers for their jobs, but bringing them into being hasn’t been simple, said Jim Wyckoff of the University of Virginia at the December 2016 meeting of SREB’s Teacher Preparation Commission.
Colleges of education, state departments of education and school districts collect their own information but often don’t collaborate across data silos. Teacher prep programs, for example, need access to comparable data on student achievement and teacher evaluation.
“What deans of education want more than anything else is data on the performance of their graduates once they go into the classroom,” Benjamin Riley of Deans for Impact told Commission members.
Riley and Wyckoff encouraged the group to push for state policy that helps these players share, use and safeguard information that can inform better teacher prep.
“This Commission has the real potential to have a lasting impact on teacher preparation by planting the seeds that develop into data systems designed to foster program improvement,” said Wyckoff.
Data is only the first step in solving problems, Cassandra Herring of Deans for Impact reminded the Commission. It can transform conversations, pinpoint specific needs and inspire progress, she said, but following through to take action and measure results is hard work.
In North Carolina, a data system is researching evidence to prepare better teachers. Commission members got a virtual tour of the University of North Carolina’s Educator Quality Dashboard, which tracks everything from the academic qualifications of education students to how well a college’s graduates perform on teacher evaluations once they are in the classroom.
Tennessee released its first Teacher Preparation Report card in late 2016, and SCORE (the State Collaborative on Reforming Education) published recommendations to improve teacher prep in the state. The SCORE reportrecommends, for example, better clinical experiences for student teachers, stronger collaboration between teacher colleges and school districts, and a clear process to review and approve educator preparation programs.
Texas Tech University’s U.S. PREP center brings data to the forefront of transforming university-based teacher preparation so teachers are ready for the classroom on day one. In interlocking partnerships, an education college faculty member serves as a site coordinator in the local school district, and the district becomes the classroom for prospective students. U.S. PREP helps the partners collect more actionable data, brings them together to examine it, and revises the model based on what works. The current group of partners:
- Jackson State University and Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi
- Southeastern Louisiana University and Ascension, St. Charles and Tangipahoa Parishes
- University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools in Tennessee
- Texas Tech University and Lubbock Independent School District
- University of North Texas and Dallas Independent School District
- University of Houston and Houston Independent School District