August 14, 2013
City officials said they were “pleasantly surprised” by what they learned from their inaugural effort to analyze data about teachers by the programs that trained them.
Just one in five of the 10,135 recent graduates of teacher preparation programs hired by the city between 2008 and 2012 left the school system within three years. In contrast, about one in three teachers left their jobs nationally during the same period, according to city Department of Education officials.
“New York City is really bucking the trend,” Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said today during a press conference to unveil “Teacher Preparation Program Reports” for 12 colleges and universities that together supplied about half of the city’s new teachers who came through traditional training pathways.
The reports represent a new frontier in the department’s accountability efforts. They analyze the teacher preparation programs’ graduates by six characteristics, including how long they stay in the classroom, how often they receive poor evaluations, where they work, and how they have fared on measures of their students’ growth.
City officials warned against making strong conclusions about the preparation programs’ quality. Next year, after the city implements a new evaluation system, the training programs will be rated by their graduates’ scores, they said, but for now, the reports are meant to spur collaboration with local colleges and universities.
The analysis is a first for a district to have completed. But states have increasingly turned their scrutiny to teacher preparation programs, with the goal of exposing programs that produce teachers who do not perform well in the classroom and pushing programs to align what they teach with what new teachers need to know.
Much of the criticism that traditional teacher training programs have received is warranted, said Mary Brabeck, dean of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, one of the programs that the city examined.
“We need to look at what helps us produce the most effective teachers and the data can help us do it,” Brabeck said. “Teacher education programs haven’t been as informed by data as they need to be.”
But she said the city’s data are not all that NYU needs. ”We collect a lot more data than those six charts,” said Brabeck, who said some of the city’s data didn’t fairly reflect the number of students who come to Steinhardt from out of town and move away when they graduate.
Other deans whose schools were listed in the reports generally praised the city’s efforts but stopped short of endorsing the data as meaningful.
“Warning flags about using this data should be up all over the place,” said David Steiner, the dean of Hunter College’s School of Education who kicked off efforts to overhaul teacher preparation programs when he was state education commissioner several years ago.
For instance, Hunter graduates were rated ineffective 2 percent of the time on 2011-2012 growth scores compiled from that year’s state tests, among the lowest of any program. But the data were based on just 28 teachers who graduated from Hunter.
Some data points were based on larger sample sizes. The city’s reports show that programs did not send graduates to high-need schools at equal rates. Mercy College and Lehman College both sent nearly half of their new teachers to high-need schools, but that figure less than 25 percent for six universities, including just 16 percent for Queens College and 22 percent for NYU and Teachers College graduates.
The higher-than-average retention rate is also meaningful, officials said. Teachers do not reach their peak performance until they have been in the classroom for five years, research suggests, but half of all teachers leave before then.
The data did not show whether the teachers who stayed in the system were effective, which department officials cited as a major limitation. In the future, they said, the reports will be used to show whether preparation programs produce high-quality teachers who stick around.
For now, officials said they hoped the report cards would pressure the education colleges to change their approaches so that their graduates better serve the city’s public schools.
“We do think there are other ways that we can kind of work with the universities to incentivize them to implement new programs to better meet our needs,” Weiner said.
Brabeck said her school recently launched a dual-certification program for teachers to receive special education certification in order to meet a higher demand to serve students with disabilities.
Jane Ashdown, dean of the education school at Adelphi University on Long Island, said geography explains why just one out of four Adelphi graduates hired by the city worked in high-need schools.
“Teachers historically teach close to home,” said Ashdown. “We’re a regional school and we pull many of our candidates from very close by, in Nassau County and Queens and Brooklyn. So our school sites also tend to be in those areas.”
But, she added, “I think we could be improving in seeing more of our candidates prepared for and staying in high-need schools. So I think that’s something we can dig into and will be using as we go into the fall semester.”
The city will produce similar reports for alternative certification programs, including Teach for America and the city’s Teaching Fellows program, next month.