Connecting the Dots: Teacher Prep Programs, Teacher Support, and Big Data

The Rhode Island Board of Education has adopted new standards for teacher preparation programs that both raise the bar for admissions and hold new graduates accountable for improving student performance. This is the first time that the standards have been revised since 2001. (These are standards, not regulations. If a college or university school of education does not meet these standards, they run the risk of losing state approval.) The new standards require that each cohort or class of teacher candidates score in the top 50 percent of college entrance exams such as the SAT starting in 2016-2017. The cohort must score in the top third on these assessments by 2020. (Read more at The Providence Journal)

One of the biggest challenges facing education today is how to tie all of the data that teachers provide into useful tools that allow principals, teachers, and families to work together to improve student achievement. One of the more innovative ways that data is helping inform instruction is through the use of tracking Teacher Prep program graduates and their impact on the students they serve. Rhode Island has just adopted far higher standards for their teacher prep programs and will be one of 8 states that tie teacher effectiveness to license renewal. They key to this particular system is the support that new teachers receive from both their school district and the other teachers in the building; at the beginning of their careers, aspiring teachers will be assigned to high achieving veteran teachers as a source of support.

All of this begs the question: How can we use data to not just hold teachers and prep programs accountable, but make sure teachers feel supported when the data shows they need to improve? Our current system in Nevada doesn’t give teacher’s enough quality feedback, and when it does give them feedback, fails to support them. All too often in conversations with our friends in the teaching community we hear a common refrain: Teachers are isolated, teachers are undervalued, and they are consistently being attacked.

We need to create a system that:

  • Uses data to provide feedback to the programs that are pumping out our newest teachers, so those programs can  improve and innovate

  • Removes the stigma that data is some kind of yoke that unduly burdens teachers

  • Promotes the effective use of data as an empowerment tool for teachers

  • Allows the effective use of data to be a part of each school’s in-building support structure

Luckily, constructive conversations are being had all over our state on how to accomplish these goals. So long as a system guides  teachers with high quality, useful feedback data, we’ll support it.