Most of Missouri’s educator preparation programs are adequately preparing teachers for the classroom, according to a new ratings system released by the state’s education department Tuesday.
The first-ever ratings are designed to place added scrutiny on the education of future teachers, using an approach similar to the one used to grade the effectiveness of public elementary and high schools.
“Everyone’s being held accountable,” said David Hough, dean of the Missouri State University College of Education. “We just live in an age of accountability.”
In grading various certification programs offered by Missouri colleges and universities, the state ranked each program it scored into four tiers. The first tier is the best, and the fourth is the worst.
No teaching college in the state had a program that ranked in the worst tier. Only five institutions — Southeast Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, William Woods University, College of the Ozarks and Missouri Western State University — had one certification program that was ranked in the second to last tier. Even so, most of those institutions had many other high-ranking programs.
Generally, the universities that produce the most teachers had the bulk of their programs ranking in the top tier.
The Missouri Board of Education will discuss the scores at its monthly meeting next Tuesday.
Missouri’s educator prep annual performance reports are based on two things: the program participants’ academic performance and how well graduates did in their first year of teaching.
The score for the former is based on program participants’ average grade-point average and what percentage of students passed certification exams within two attempts.
Scores for the latter are based on surveys of first-year educators and their principals or supervisors. The surveys ask whether educators were adequately prepared to work in schools and whether educators were satisfied with their preparation programs. More weight is given to the academic performance of program participants than the surveys.
As it is, the grading system leaves out any measure of the academic performance of teachers’ students.
It also only focuses on first-year teachers and doesn’t consider whether teachers leave the profession soon after becoming a teacher, a problem that is especially apparent in struggling schools.
About 46 percent of teachers who started teaching in 2011 left the classroom before finishing five years on the job, according to a 2016 state report on teacher recruitment and retention.
There are no consequences this year for programs that score in a low tier, said Gale Hairston, director of educator preparation with the state education department. The department will decide what those consequences would be for next year’s annual performance reports.
This new annual performance report system for Missouri has been in the works for five years. An updated grading system is expected to roll out in 2019.
The effort is a rare moment of collaboration between higher education institutions and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The department said it worked with a group of about 10 educator program providers to build this grading system.
“They have been bold enough to think really hard and engage the universities along the way,” said Mary-Dean Barringer, strategic initiative director for education workforce at the national Council of Chief State School Officers, of Missouri. The council is leading the new accountability push for teaching programs.
“They have really been one of the few states to get out early with an accountability system, not because it was required by the federal government,” she said. “They did it because it’s the right thing to do for teachers.”
Higher education institutions generally enjoy more independence and less public scrutiny than elementary and secondary public schools. When schools and their teachers are blamed for poor performance, the preparation programs that produced those teachers typically are not.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of accountability other than the requirements by the federal government, because public institutions get federal dollars,” Barringer said.
But now, states are increasingly scrutinizing how teachers are being prepared because the needs of public education have changed dramatically, Barringer said.
Not only have states adopted more rigorous academic standards — whether they are Common Core or variations — but the kinds of students that fill most public schools have changed. More public students are minorities, live in poverty and speak English as a second language. Many have special needs.
“Not only has the content changed. The diversity of students that teachers need to be expected to work with fundamentally changed,” Barringer said.
Missouri created performance standards for educator preparation programs in 2012. This annual performance report system is the accountability tool that will allow the state to enforce those standards.
Missouri is one of the first states to publicly release a grading system like this one. In the past few years, it has started requiring teaching candidates to pass a performance test, not just content tests, for certification, unlike other states.
Officials at some Missouri teaching programs are also working to increase their rigor by making sure students know how to teach, not just what to teach.
For example, at Missouri State University, a relatively new teacher internship program has students complete a yearlong clinical experience of teaching in schools, not just the state-required minimum of 12 weeks. The program also has competitive admissions standards to attract highly motivated teaching candidates.
“The No. 1 criticism of higher education programs is it takes teachers a year or two to be competent on the job,” said Hough, who is a member of the Missouri Advisory Board on Educator Preparation. “And people want them competent on Day 1.”
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