This report recommends specific ways for legislators to hold schools of education accountable and make sure teachers are getting the training they need in order to succeed in the classroom.
Good teachers and quality schools change lives, but only if the teachers themselves have had the benefit of the same. In Wisconsin and much of the rest of America, that is too rarely the case.
Wisconsin should lead the nation in getting the best and brightest into teaching and making sure they are as effective as possible, something we are not now doing.
New teachers often feel poorly prepared, and school principals often have little confidence in their classroom readiness, according to national studies.
Wisconsin schools of education generally receive poor reviews from the National Council of Teacher Quality. According to NCTQ’s recent Teacher Prep Review, which evaluated programs in elementary, secondary and, in some cases, special education at 1,130 colleges and universities:
- No Wisconsin institution earned a top rating of four stars.
- The only Wisconsin institution to be highly ranked was the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which earned three stars.
- Most Wisconsin programs earned fewer than two stars.
- Both UW-Milwaukee’s undergraduate secondary program and UW-Stevens Point’s undergraduate secondary program received no stars and a consumer warning.
The poor reviews are largely the result of the widespread use of input measures to determine quality rather than outcome measures. For example, we know that schools of education have lower admission standards than many other Wisconsin professional schools. But there are no formal measures that link training in Wisconsin schools of education to the performance of their graduates once they enter the classroom.
Fortunately, the time is ripe for change. Roughly one-third of Wisconsin’s aging teaching force will turn over in the next 10 years. The aging of Wisconsin’s teacher corps, combined with the wave of retirements, presents a staffing challenge for some school districts but also an opportunity to reinvigorate Wisconsin’s teaching profession.
At the same time, new and veteran teachers will soon be facing a new Wisconsin teacher evaluation system. For the first time, our teachers will be evaluated, in part, on their students’ performance — a development that also provides an opportunity to measure the success of schools of education.
The same law creating the new teacher evaluation system, Act 166, included a provision directing the Department of Public Instruction to spearhead development of an evaluation system for schools of education by 2013-’14. DPI reports that its first education preparatory program report card is on track to be released in the spring.
Under the law, DPI must include the passage rate on the teacher licensure exam (Praxis) by the college or university in this report card. While this marks a step in the right direction, it is not enough. Passing the Praxis exam does not necessarily mean a teacher will succeed in the classroom.
For reasons set forth in this paper, we recommend that Wisconsin go further.
Legislators should direct the DPI to determine where successful teachers who are new to the profession — as defined by the new evaluation system — attended school, and the state should make that information public. The DPI should publicize which schools of education do a better job of preparing teachers as evidenced by their students’ performance on standardized tests.
Such information could serve as a basis for extending the concept of accountability in public education to schools of education. Schools turning out high-performing graduates should be rewarded. Schools with underperforming graduates should face consequences. The Board of Regents should shift resources from less successful programs to more successful ones.
A new linkage between teacher effectiveness and schools of education would enable the market to reward or penalize schools of education as well. These recommendations will allow prospective teachers to know which schools will best prepare them for successful careers and where to apply and invest their tuition dollars. Principals will know where to look for the best teaching candidates.
Other recommendations for Wisconsin include:
- Raise the minimum GPA requirements for entry into a state school of education to 3.0. Minimum GPAs for Wisconsin schools of education hover in the 2.5 to 2.75 range — below those of most other professional schools. However, if a school of education is demonstrating measurable success in training successful teachers as evidenced by student achievement, it should be given discretion to set its entry requirements.
- Place more emphasis on classroom management.
- Establish an admission system that ensures that those who are admitted to teacher preparation programs are selected from the top half of their college class.
- The National Council on Teacher Quality recommends, and we agree, that Wisconsin require candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs as opposed to at the point of program completion.
Can teacher preparation be improved in Wisconsin and updated for the challenges teachers now face? Yes. Consider Finland. It ranks well above the United States (and most other developed countries) in reading, math and science performance. Admission requirements for teacher preparation programs are high. Academic requirements are rigorous. Finnish teachers are trained with an emphasis on specific subject matter over general education. Teachers are highly autonomous after they enter the profession. Finland shows it can be done.
It can be done in Wisconsin as well.