Tennessee Higher Education Commission grades teacher training programs

Tennessee Higher Education Commission grades teacher training programs

November 9th, 2012 by Rachel Bunn in Local Regional News

Training programs that produce graduates more effective than veteran teachers:

* Freed-Hardman University

* Memphis Teacher Residency

Training programs that produce graduates more effective than their peers:

* Freed-Hardman University

* Memphis Teacher Residency

* Teach for America Memphis

* Teach for America Nashville

* University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Training programs that produce graduates less effective than their peers:

* East Tennessee State University

* Lincoln Memorial University

* Middle Tennessee State University

* South College

* Tennessee Tech University

* Tennessee Wesleyan College

* TNTP Memphis Teaching Fellows

* Tusculum College

* University of Memphis

* University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

* University of Tennessee at Martin

* Victory University

Source: 2012 Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs

More than 25 percent of teacher training programs in Tennessee produce new teachers who are less effective than their peers in two or more subjects, according to a state report.

About 28 percent of standard teacher training programs -- most of which are in the state's public and private colleges and universities -- may not do as well as alternative teaching programs, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs states.

Standard teacher training programs give students a bachelor's degree in education, while alternative teaching programs offer a teaching certificate or make it possible to get a teaching license without a degree or previous training in education.

According to the THEC report, only two programs in the state produce beginning teachers whose students do better on state tests than veteran teachers who have more than three years of experience: Memphis Teacher Residency and Freed-Hardman University.

The Memphis Teacher Residency program is considered an alternative program.

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Teach for America Memphis and Teach for America Knoxville also earned high marks, outperforming their peer groups.

A Chattanooga alternative training program, Project Inspire, is under the same parent organization as the Memphis Teacher Residency program and is a three-way partnership among the Public Education Foundation, Hamilton County Department of Education and Tennessee Technological University.

Though it is too new to be featured on this year's report card, program leaders will travel to Memphis to see what the Memphis Teacher Residency is doing to produce its high results, said Mark Neal, interim director of Project Inspire.

"We want to visit and add additional layers to that data, and look at the really qualitative things," he said.

Though the report notes that the data has some limitations -- including that only 40 percent of teacher graduates from Tennessee are represented because right now THEC can only track public schools in Tennessee, not private -- it is still useful, according to David Mansouri, director of advocacy and communications at the Tennessee State Collaborative of Reforming Education.

"I would say that this report is not the only indication, but it is something to look at to produce effective teachers," he said. "What are best practices? What things are those programs doing that are really driving effective teachers?"

The report card breaks down the data by individual subject tests, giving programs an indication not only of where they need improvement, but the ways in which they are effective.

"It says to us, 'Here's what we have from last year,' and we take it back ... and share it with our faculty to see if there are things we can improve upon," said Valerie Rutledge, director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's School of Education.

The report found that UTC is one of the least effective teacher training programs, with graduates who are behind both beginning and veteran teachers. According to the report card last year, UTC's program was on par with its peers and veteran teachers.

The report provides measurable data that education programs can use to compare themselves to other programs in the state, but there are certain things about teaching that cannot be easily compared, Rutledge said.

One of the reasons alternative teaching programs may have outperformed traditional programs is that they are more selective in choosing their participants and, though they may be effective in the short-term, there is some question as to their effect on the teaching force.

"The concern we all have is: Can you sustain a long-term teaching force when you're only commitment is for two years?" Rutledge said.

The retention rate for teachers who have taught three consecutive years is about 48 percent, according to the THEC report, and the first-year retention rate for the 2010-11 graduates is about 53 percent, 7 percent less than the previous year.

"There's a dip there that I haven't quite figured out," Rutledge said.

One way to increase retention may be to continue training and professional development programs for veteran teachers. Opportunities for improvement and growth may be one way to keep teachers from experiencing burnout as they continue their careers.