Teacher Education and Student Performance Subject of Longitudinal Study
Date: Jan. 18, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photo by Dottie Stover
Archive: General News
"If teachers touch the future, so do the colleges and universities that educate teachers. The key to improving the nation's schools is to improve the competency of teachers, and this challenge lies directly with the higher education institutions."
Daniel Fallon, chair of the education division of the Carnegie Corporation in New York, unfolded that challenge as he delivered the keynote address for a working conference aimed at the development of a longitudinal study. The study on teacher colleges in Ohio would focus on the impact of teacher education graduates on the achievement of the students they teach. The working conference, coordinated by the University of Cincinnati College of Education, was held Jan. 16 and 17 at Kingsgate Conference Center.
Educators from across 11 states met at Kingsgate to compare notes on teacher education reforms that have led to student success in their own states. The conference was co-sponsored by Procter & Gamble, the North Central Region Education Lab, and the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving teacher quality. In addition to the Carnegie Corporation, representatives from the Fordham Foundation, Knowledgeworks, The Martha Holdings Jennings Foundation and the Procter & Gamble Foundation were in attendance.
All 50 Ohio institutions that have teacher education programs are participating in the five-year study, entitled Partnerships for Accountability. A statewide research team has been established to conduct the study, examining how teacher preparation affects student achievement in the schools. Lawrence J. Johnson, dean of the UC College of Education, is co-chair of this effort. The UC College of Education is serving as the coordination center for data collection, with early results expected sometime this summer.
Johnson asserted that "it is imperative that teacher educators clearly demonstrate how our graduates impact the students they teach. Children are our most precious resource, and we must know what works."
Project team director Martha Hendricks, research associate for the College of Education, adds that conference attendees from Georgia and Maryland are interested in launching similar studies in their own states. Other educators were from Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia and North Carolina. Ohio attendees included representatives from the governor's office, the Ohio Board of Regents, Ohio teacher education programs, other major educational organizations in Ohio and the Ohio Department of Education.
Fallon said widespread testing shows teacher quality is the most important variable in student achievement gain. He recalled calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, whose story was detailed in the book, Stand and Deliver. Fallon once watched Escalante at work in the classroom, at that time in one of Los Angeles' lowest performing schools, teaching students from the harshest of socioeconomic backgrounds.
Fallon remembered Escalante's lesson was rich in beach and basketball, the common language of Los Angeles youth. Escalante described an arc throw in hoops that students instantly compared to a parabola. "All of the learning was occurring visually and explained in the language we know as calculus. He developed a confidence with the students where it was not possible to discern if he was leading them, or of they were leading him." The students scored among the highest in the nation when they took the Advanced Placement calculus exam.
"He was not deterred by the external socioeconomic conditions in which the students found themselves. He found positive features in their lives and used them as instruments in learning."
Fallon added studies out of Tennessee, Dallas and Boston also linked teacher quality to student achievement, and called the accountability standards a "promising, hopeful and welcome instrument of improvement."
Fallon said the Carnegie Corporation is working to develop a culture of respect for the evidence, recognizing teaching as a clinical profession. The next step for educators at this conference is to refine how to collect and compare the evidence, as well as for the colleges to follow the performance of new teachers, and measure their impact on student achievement.