As teacher prep debate heats up, 2 high-profile reports lack research foundation and ignore contradictory evidence
EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 29, 2014) – As policymakers debate teacher training programs at the state and federal levels, a new review warns that two high-profile reports on the issue should be treated with skepticism because they lack a research foundation and ignore contradictory evidence. As a result, the reports propose recommendations that may be ineffective or even lead to lawsuits.
Dr. William J. Mathis of the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed Time to Improve: How Federal Policy Can Promote Better Prepared Teachers and School Leaders from the New America Foundation and Fast Start: Training Better Teachers Faster, with Focus, Practice and Feedback by TNTP.
Mathis produced the review for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
"Policymakers should be wary of these two reports because they cast more smoke than light on the issue of preparing our teachers," said Mathis. He found that the authors of these two reports simply failed to support their findings.
The TNTP report uses anecdotes and vignettes to make its case that traditional teacher preparation programs are ineffective, with supervised practice being the best way to develop good teachers. Mathis also found that TNTP's report is designed to advance a formulaic 5-week program of three principles, four skills and four techniques more akin to a PowerPoint presentation than a thoughtful presentation of research evidence.
Meanwhile, the New America report's methodology is so flawed statistically and programmatically that implementation of its recommendations may result in lawsuits on due process grounds. It proposes a top-down, regulatory approach to evaluate teacher preparation programs, with K-12 student test scores being a key criterion. Poor performing programs would be subject to revocation of state approval and the withdrawal of federal funds.
With their lack of solid research evidentiary support and their disregard for the demonstrable flaws in their proposed remedies, Mathis concludes, "neither proposal provides useful guidance for teacher preparation policy."
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