I’ve defended using student performance data to evaluate teachers, but also noted that this data has an even higher and better use: offering teachers’ feedback that can help us figure out what is and isn’t working in our classrooms.
I’ve also questioned whether our traditional teacher education model is producing teachers really prepared to succeed in the classroom.
So I was intrigued by an Education Next article showcasing a teacher education program that brings these pieces together, employing student data to teach student teachers.
The amazing—or at least attention-getting—improvement on the wheel is that New York–based Relay is linking the success of its students to the success of their students.
During their second year in Relay’s two-year masters-degree program, elementary-school teachers are asked to show that their own students averaged a full year’s reading growth during the school year. They must also set a reading goal for each child, perhaps two years’ growth for a child who is three years behind, for example. Students can earn credit toward an honors degree if 80 percent of the children they teach meet their individual reading goals.
To earn their degrees, elementary-school teachers are also asked to show that their students earned, on average, 70 percent mastery on a year’s worth of state or Common Core Standards in another subject, usually math. In other words, a math class would meet the goal if students’ individual mastery scores, when averaged, were 70 percent or better. Middle-school teachers use the same yardstick, but only in their specialized subject.
It’s worth reading the whole article for the author’s detailed description of Relay’s actual ed school classes. Note that the evening and weekend classes are designed for working teachers, and that the students enrolled have mostly followed alternative paths such as Teach for America. I can’t help but wonder if teacher training programs like this one will become, in effect, the charter schools of teacher education: promoting change by making an end run around a system that isn’t serving either teachers or students very well.
The article also suggests that teacher training is more effective when it includes “feedback loops.” While the author’s specific reference is to data on student performance, I think an even more important “feedback loop” may be the opportunity for new teachers to test what they hear in their ed school classrooms against the realities of their own classrooms . . . and to bring that classroom experience back to their fellow student teachers.