Tennessee Makes the Grade With Teacher Prep Program Report Card

Tennessee Makes the Grade With Teacher Prep Program Report Card
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Report Card Day.

If you're like me, just hearing the name brings back memories of grade school and the carbon copy sheets of paper that would be handed out at the end of each marking period.

While these report cards might not have always had the "A" that I wanted, they helped me, and my parents, better understand where I was doing well and where I needed a bit more help.

Of course report cards aren't only for students; schools, districts and states all receive annual reports detailing their performance. And now in Tennessee, future educators are excited to see a new kind of report card -- one that rates the very teacher preparation programs that will prepare them for the classroom.

Back in December, the Tennessee State Board of Education, with support from Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen, debuted their newly redesigned 2016 Teacher Preparation Report Card. Having served as the dean of the college of education at Lipscomb University, Commissioner McQueen knows firsthand that to improve student outcomes, the state needs to get better at preparing the state's educators. Supporting the new Teacher Preparation Report Card is part of that effort.

In March, the Department will follow-up the release of the Teacher Preparation Report Card with its own Annual Report that will allow preparation providers to focus on effective interventions to drive improved outcomes. These Annual Reports will also be used to determine ongoing approval for all providers. The Teacher Preparation Report Card and the forthcoming Annual Report are two steps Tennessee has taken to accomplish better transparency and focus on continuous improvement for educators. As a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)'s Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP), Tennessee has committed to strengthening educator preparation through specific policy levers, including how teachers are prepared, licensed and equipped to help kids on day one. Now in its fourth year of existence, NTEP currently connects 13 states and experts from over 20 national education organizations to elevate best practices in transforming educator preparation.

Tennessee's new Teacher Preparation Report Card is one of the innovative ways the state is using data to guide improvements to teacher preparation across the state. The report measures how each teacher preparation provider -- whether a college or university or an alternative route -- is meeting the needs of future teachers and classrooms. This includes how well a program is able to prepare a more diverse pool of educators and meet district staffing needs in high-demand subject areas.

The report card also measures a provider's impact by tracking whether graduates secure jobs in Tennessee public schools. Most importantly, the report cards highlight how well graduates positively impact student achievement during their early careers.

With this information, aspiring teachers can determine which preparation program and partner district would best support their pathway to enter the profession and better serve all students. Preparation programs and local school districts can also use the information in the report card to identify what is working well and what they need to do differently to better prepare teachers for the experiences they'll face in the classroom.

Tennessee's stakeholders agree with this approach. Across the state, educators, teacher preparation programs and stakeholders, like the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), have helped to build momentum for these changes. SCORE's recent report, Prepared For Day One: Improving the Effectiveness of Early-Career Teaching, uses current research to outline specific recommendations for the future of Tennessee's educator preparation system. These recommendations align closely with Commissioner McQueen's vision and echo the goals laid out by state education leads in CCSSO's task force report, Our Responsibility, Our Promise, which provided the foundation for our NTEP work.

Tennessee is truly at the forefront of using data responsibly and effectively to drive improvement within its teacher preparation programs. The Tennessee Department of Education and State Board of Education provide a strong model for other states looking to incorporate similar changes by not only showcasing effective use of data-driven improvements, but also through highlighting the importance of buy-in and collaboration among stakeholders.

Just like I used my own report card to inform my studies, states, like Tennessee, can use the data from their teacher preparation report cards to better equip teachers with the knowledge and skills they'll need to be successful on the job.

I look forward to hearing more from states about how these data-driven approaches are driving improvements in preparation.

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