Michigan Department of Education recently released its ratings of the state’s
higher education teacher preparation programs, and two of Michigan’s 31 teacher
preparation programs — Adrian and Marygrove — received the lowest possible score.
A third, Olivet, was deemed "At Risk." Rating colleges of education provides
valuable information for principals making hiring decisions and increases
accountability for these programs, provided that the rating system uses
meaningful criteria. Unfortunately, since Michigan’s rating system lacks data on
teachers’ classroom performance, the state department of education fails to make
Michigan’s rating system has a 70-point scale. Forty points are attached to
participant completion rates, the degree to which programs prepare teachers to
fill high-demand slots, the extent of minority teacher preparation, and surveys
of teacher candidates regarding their programs. The other 30 points are based on
the single category of passage rates on licensing exams.
of using certification test passage rates, a less predictive measure of
classroom success, the state should base program ratings on the actual classroom
performance of each university’s education graduates. Indeed, analyzing the
standardized test score gains of a teacher’s students is the best way to
determine his or her effectiveness, and this data should be the central criteria
for rating teacher preparation programs.
Michigan Department of Education’s report on Michigan teacher preparation
programs is required by the U.S. Higher Education Act. The federal law mandates
that all states rate their teacher preparation programs, but each state has
discretion in the rating criteria that it will use. According to the most recent
data in a U.S. Secretary of Education report, 17 programs nationally fell into
the remediation categories of "Low Performing" or "At Risk of Low Performing" in
2005. These national data on preparation programs show that 11 states had
failing programs. Three states, Illinois, Kansas and South Carolina, each had
three programs on the list. In addition, no Michigan colleges of education were
rated in either category from 2002-2005.
federal report also stated that in Michigan, at least 90 percent of public
school teachers graduate from Michigan colleges of education. If our public
schools continue to staff themselves with graduates of Michigan’s traditional
programs, it is critically important that our colleges of education prepare
teachers for success in the classroom.
worth noting that advocating that teacher licensing exam passage rates should
not be central to preparation program rating does not equate to dismissing the
tests altogether. Indeed, teacher testing may be valuable because it could
provide a safeguard to ensure that no student is assigned to a completely
incompetent teacher. Nonetheless, using results of certification exams to rate
preparation programs misses the mark. The state should be evaluating the
performance of a teaching program’s graduates in the classroom.
education department seems to acknowledge that its system can be improved, but
its plan does not go far enough. In 2008, the state will add another component
to the rating system by incorporating the number of a program’s new teachers
earning satisfactory or better ratings from supervisors. While principal
evaluations can be helpful in assessing teacher performance, they are incomplete
without actual data on student achievement.
employing a "value-added" component, the state can measure the contribution that
a teacher makes to her or his students’ academic progress. Although the results
of student standardized tests may be imperfect, the information that these data
provide is objective and protects teachers from purely subjective peer or
principal evaluations, which some consider arbitrary. The bottom line is that
good teachers motivate students to learn, to value their new knowledge and
skills, and to demonstrate that learning when tested.
colleges of education whose graduates impact student learning the most should
earn the highest ratings. By grading the quality of teacher preparation
programs, the Legislature and state education department are making limited
progress in improving accountability and raising awareness of the importance of
teacher quality. Until teacher preparation program evaluations account for
student achievement gains caused by graduates of those programs, however,
education officials will fail to capture the most important thing teachers do:
Marc Holley is a
doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform
and an adjunct fellow with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in
whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are