Outcome Measures Are What You Get When You Don’t Have Best Practices

286709039_105881e4b9Stephen Sawchuk reports that everybody involved – including the unions – is ready to sign off on the inclusion of student learning outcome measures (e.g., VAM) in new accreditation standards for teacher preparation programs.

The language itself is a little squishy about exactly which measures should be used, but it’s not surprising that this is the direction we’re heading.

Ideally, if we wanted to improve teacher preparation we’d do that by setting out standards that clearly articulate best practices for the profession. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, though, this isn’t really feasible at the moment in education because – embarrassingly enough – the field doesn’t have a robust consensus about many of the field’s practical problems.

So while teacher preparation programs are already subject to fairly elaborate standards – this 45-page document is but one part of California’s existing minimum program requirements – those standards often provide very minimal guidance. California, for example, requires that teacher candidates know how to “apply appropriate pedagogical practices that…lead to high achievement for all students”, but does not articulate what such practices might be.

The result is substantial variation between programs in terms of what is emphasized (or omitted) in teacher preparation. You could conceivably tighten the standards by making them more specific, but that first requires consensus about the details. Absent such agreement the standards themselves are a low-leverage way to evaluate and influence credentialing programs.

In light of that, outcome-based measures of program effectiveness start to look more appealing to a lot of people. They’ve been growing in importance for teacher and school evaluation, and they will probably become more important in teacher preparation.

This is less-than-ideal for teacher preparation for many of the same reasons that it’s less-than-ideal for teacher evaluation: it’s hard to adequately measure the breadth of outcome measures you care about and they’re poor incentives for individuals and institutions that don’t have a clear idea for how to improve them.

Still, it’s important to understand how we got here. And a large part of the story has to do with a collective lack of clarity about good teaching.

This entry was posted in Teacher Training and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply