SRI Studies of Teacher Preparation Reform Efforts Support Innovation

Teacher writing in front of blackboard

Teacher quality is the greatest school-based predictor of student achievement.[i] However, teachers have historically been under-prepared for this skill-based profession, contributing to high turnover rates in the first 5 years.[ii] Turnover is highest at schools serving low-income students and Black, Latinx, and indigenous students; consequently, the nation’s most underserved students are taught by its most inexperienced teachers.[iii]

SRI Education leads rigorous evaluations of programs that aim to improve preservice supports for teachers and disseminate lessons learned to the field. The goal of these programs is to prepare teachers who are ready to teach diverse students to master rigorous standards on day 1.

Chris nervously looks at the 30 faces before him. During his student teacher placement, he observed his host teacher for 5 weeks and taught independently for 1 week. His host teacher said he did a great job, but he still feels like he is making this up as he goes along. Andrea directs her new 9th graders to their seats and instructs them to write a day 1 reflection – an activity that she practiced during her co-teaching year and modified based on feedback from her co-teacher. Andrea watches the students get to work, feeling confident in her co-teacher’s suggestions and ready for her first day of teaching.

Chris’s first day represents a common experience among teachers prepared by traditional university teacher preparation programs (TPPs), in which preservice teachers complete coursework and a student teaching placement.[iv] The placement typically includes a short independent practice component, sometimes a single day or week of instruction. Andrea’s experience is reflective of teachers graduating from more clinically oriented TPPs; that is, programs that have expanded opportunities to practice concrete teaching skills in classrooms and receive ongoing feedback on those skills from trained mentor teachers and clinical supervisors.[v] Over the past couple of decades, clinically oriented programs, including teacher residencies, have gained popularity. As a result, federal and state funds have been allocated to test whether clinically oriented programs effectively address common challenges in traditional teacher preparation and improve student outcomes.

SRI Education works as an evaluation partner with diverse clients to 1) understand what works in teacher preparation, 2) provide technical assistance as partners implement their programs, and 3) disseminate lessons learned. One example was the 5-year, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation-funded New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI), a $20 million effort to reform teacher preparation at 11 California State University (CSU) TPPs. NGEI TPPs focused on reforming their programs by 1) forming deep partnerships with their partner school districts, 2) collaborating with partner districts to define a set of prioritized skills that teachers must master, 3) ensuring that clinical preparation was practice-based and supported by high-quality mentors, 4) creating a culture of formative feedback for preservice teachers centered around prioritized skills, and 5) using data to drive continuous improvement. SRI and our partners at WestEd supported program improvement by sharing formative feedback after site visits and providing ongoing continuous improvement coaching to NGEI TPPs. Learn more about the initiative and evaluation findings here.

SRI Education has also served as the evaluation partner for several Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants, including two recent studies with the California State University at Chico (CSU, Chico). CSU, Chico established the PRISMS Project (Promoting Rural Improvement in Secondary Mathematics and Science) to address the shortage of teachers prepared to teach science, math, and special education in high-need rural schools. PRISMS included two programs: Residency in Secondary Education (RiSE), a 1-year residency program for secondary education teacher candidates, and Next Generation Mathematics Teachers (NGMT), an alternate pathway for math and science majors to earn their teaching credential.

SRI’s evaluation of PRISMS, which focused primarily on RiSE, leveraged student surveys and graduate and principal interviews to identify key findings and inform program improvement. In partnership with SRI, CSU, Chico won a subsequent TQP grant to develop its Computational Literacy Across Secondary Settings (CLASS) program, a year-long residency program focused on preparing secondary teachers to teach computational thinking across all subject areas using argument-driven inquiry methods.

Most recently, SRI partnered with the Alder Graduate School of Education (Alder GSE) on a TQP grant to evaluate their residency program. Alder GSE aims to build deep partnerships with public K12 school systems and provide residents with rigorous research-based coursework that is integrated with a year-long clinical experience with a mentor educator. Residents are prepared for available positions at the school systems in which they will work. SRI is working with Alder to define high-quality implementation, provide formative feedback, and measure teacher retention and student outcomes after graduates’ first year in the profession.

Finally, since 2013, SRI has partnered with the New Teacher Center (NTC), a national leader in coaching and professional development for teachers, particularly those in their early-career (induction) years. In 2019, with support from a Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant, NTC expanded their coaching supports to preservice teachers in two large urban districts. SRI is evaluating the impact of NTC’s support on teacher retention, teaching practices, and student learning for preservice teachers hired into the districts. SRI’s previous evaluation of NTC’s Investing in Innovation (i3) validation grant showed positive and significant impacts of NTC’s induction coaching model on student’s English/language arts and mathematics achievement.[vi]

[i] Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., & Rockoff, J. E. (2014). Measuring the impacts of teachers II: Teacher value-added and student outcomes in adulthood. American Economic Review, 104(9), 2633–2679.
[ii] Ingersoll, R., Merrill, L., & May, H. (2014). What are the effects of teacher education and preparation on beginning teacher attrition? Research Report (#RR-82). Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania. View more.
[iii] Behrstock, E., & Clifford, M. (2010). Ensuring the equitable distribution of teachers: Strategies for school, district, and state leaders. National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. View more.
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. (2016, June 7). 2013–14 civil rights data collection a first look: Key data highlights on equity and opportunity gaps in our nation’s public schools, Washington, D.C. View more.
[iv] Forzani, F. M. (2011). The work of reform in teacher education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. View more.
[v] Torre Gibney, D., Rutherford-Quach, S., Hirschboeck, K., & White, M. E. (2020). Strengthening the clinical orientation of teacher preparation programs. WestEd. View more.
[vi] Schmidt, R. A., Wang, H., Cassidy, L., & Laguarda, K. (2017). A comprehensive model of teacher induction: Implementation and impact on teachers and students evaluation of the New Teacher Center’s i3 validation grant, final report. SRI International. View more.

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