'Results take time': UTC ranking remains steady among lower half of state educator preparation programs

'Results take time': UTC ranking remains steady among lower half of state educator preparation programs

February 19th, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Christin Willingham talks through what students know and asks them what they want to know about landforms while student teaching in Wendy Scruggs' class at Battle Academy Wednesday, March 7, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Willingham, who is a senior in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's School of Education, is doing her student teaching residency in Scruggs' classroom.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Training programs across the state are steadily improving how they prepare would-be teachers for the classroom, despite a decline in overall enrollment, according to a new report card.

They're also doing a better job of placing teachers in high-demand, hard-to-staff areas such as secondary math and science, special education and English as a second language classes.

"Every year, we work closely with partners across the state, including districts and members of the educator preparation community, to improve the utility and scope of the report card," said Sara Morrison, executive director of the State Board of Education, in a statement. "We have seen an improvement in overall scores year after year. In particular, we have seen an increase in program completers seeking endorsements in high-demand areas, higher retention of first-year teachers and improvements in student growth."

PROGRAM RANKINGS

Programs are ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 in each of four categories, but are evaluated and compared based on their overall performance categories.

Bryan College

Overall Performance: 1

Candidate Performance: 1

Employment: 2

Provider Impact: 1

Lee University

Overall Performance: 2

Candidate Performance: 2

Employment: 2

Provider Impact: 2

Memphis Teacher Residency

Overall Performance: 4

Candidate Performance: 4

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 4

Middle Tennessee State University

Overall Performance: 3

Candidate Performance: 1

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 3

Southern Adventist University

Overall Performance: 1

Candidate Performance: 2

Employment: 1

Provider Impact: 1

Teach for America - Memphis

Overall Performance: 4

Candidate Performance: 4

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 4

Teach for America - Nashville

Overall Performance: 4

Candidate Performance: 4

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 4

University of Memphis

Overall Performance: 3

Candidate Performance: 4

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 3

University of Tennessee - Chattanooga

Overall Performance: 2

Candidate Performance: 2

Employment: 3

Provider Impact: 2

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Overall Performance: 4

Candidate Performance: 3

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 4

University of Tennessee - Martin

Overall Performance: 2

Candidate Performance: 1

Employment: 4

Provider Impact: 2

Source: 2018 Tennessee Teacher Preparation Report Card

The Educator Preparation Report Card, released last week, is an annual report by the Tennessee Board of Education.

Of the 40 state programs evaluated in the report, nine improved their overall performance scores — rated from 1 to 4 with 4 being the highest — and none of the programs saw their overall ratings decrease.

"We are excited to announce the collective improvement as a state on the latest report card," reads a statement from Katherine McEldoon, project manager for the report card. "Data from the last three report cards show a clear trend of momentum. Eighty-four percent of our educator preparation providers increased their total score since the last report card. The progress in student growth is especially heartening."

However, local universities bucked some of these trends.

Both the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Lee University, two of the largest providers of new teachers to Hamilton County and surrounding districts, maintained steady scores of a 2. Bryan College received a 1.

Renee Murley, director of UTC's School of Education, said she was disappointed by the score, saying it doesn't reflect the improvements and changes the university has put into rethinking the way it educates future teachers.

"[The report card] helps us have those difficult conversations and was helpful in increasing communication between ourselves and Hamilton County Schools," Murley said. "We know we are growing and changing and implementing research-based best practices though and results take time."

Murley took the helm of UTC's School of Education in July 2016 and has been implementing changes to boost the school's scores — and students success as teachers — in recent years.

The school has strengthened its partnership efforts with Hamilton County and Marion County school districts, remodeled its student teaching requirement into a full-year residency model and partnered with Tyner Academy to launch the UTC Teaching and Learning Institute to reach high school students interested in a career in education.

"If there is anything that has come from this it is our partnership with Hamilton County and meeting their needs," Murley said.

Across the state, teacher training programs have done a better job at meeting some of those more specific needs, such as increasing the percentage of teachers in high-demand areas, and UTC has done the same.

But like other programs, UTC is also facing decreasing enrollment.

In the fall of 2014, 743 students were enrolled in the School of Education's teacher licensing programs. In spring of 2018, it was 481.

The number of teachers graduating from all 40 programs across the state dropped to 3,312 in 2017, from 3,674 in 2015.

Murley attributed the decline to an improving economy — fewer college students chose to go into education when the economy is good, she said. The crisis point would come from the local school districts that colleges serve, she said.

Though Lee University's enrollment numbers actually trended upward, Bill Estes said the number was about on par with the 10-year average.

He also challenged the report card's ratings — Lee maintained a rating of a 2 despite overall score increases.

"The report card is a measure of state goals and not the quality of our products," Estes said.

He called the goals — which include increasing the diversity of teachers, the amount of teachers who stay in Tennessee to teach after graduation, and how long they stay in the classroom — "admirable," but said the university is focused more on local school district needs.

"We don't look at how we are serving the state or the state goals, we serve [local education agencies]," Estes said. "If they need something, we try to accommodate them."

For instance, Lee hosts a summer program for teachers who are already licensed to become certified in special education or English as a Second Language, areas that have been in high demand in some of the rural school districts the university serves.

Murley said UTC's concern was "quality over quantity" of teacher candidates.

"When school districts hire a UTC student, they want to know they are the best they can possibly get," Murley said. "We want to be committed to preparing teachers so they are getting the best teachers in the classroom."

The latest report card is the third since the rating system was revamped after a 2016 report that said most of the state's teacher training programs weren't preparing highly effective teachers for the classroom.

Lee University and UTC were among eight programs to receive a score of a 2 in the 2018 report card.

Eight programs scored a 4, the highest score: Christian Brothers University, Lipscomb University, the Memphis Teacher Residency, The New Teacher Project-Nashville Teaching Fellow, Teach for America-Memphis, Teach for America-Nashville, Union University and University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Five programs received a 1: Bryan College, South College, Southern Adventist University, Welch College and Aquinas College.

To view the full report card, visit teacherprepreportcard.tn.gov.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.


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