This is a research report, commissioned by the Institution of Education Sciences in the United States (US). It compares the achievement of elementary (primary) school pupils in the same grade, at the same schools. For the purposes of this research, these pupils had been randomly assigned to teachers who chose to be trained through different routes to certification - broadly traditional certification (TC) and alternative certification (AC) education school routes.
The evaluation found that students of teachers who chose to enter teaching through an AC route did not statistically perform any differently from students of teachers who chose a traditional route to teaching. This finding was the same when comparing teachers on programs with high and low levels of coursework. However, in a small number of Districts there was an indication that where teachers had to complete coursework whilst teaching, their students initially performed lower than their counterparts, although this was not statistically significant.
The report compares the impact of different routes into teacher training in the US, broadly dividing them into Traditional Certification (TC) and Alternative Certification (AC) to see if there is any difference in the way pupils taught by teachers who entered the profession via the different routes performed. This research report was aimed at head teachers and policy makers in the US, as many AC routes have developed since the introduction of the No Child Left Behind policy. The research report suggests there is particular interest in North America in the impact of AC routes on pupil performance and what training requirements are really necessary for training high quality teachers. However, before the publication of this report, there had been a lack of conclusive evidence from research as to whether TC or AC influences pupil performance. This report adds to this body of evidence by suggesting that routes into teacher training do not seem to have an impact on pupil achievement one way or the other.
The aims of the resource:
In the US, about a third of teachers choose to train via AC. There is a continuing debate about whether new training routes produce qualified teachers who are as effective in the classroom as teachers who follow traditional training routes.
This study aims to examine the effect of AC trained teachers on pupil achievement compared to TC trained teachers in the same schools.
It also makes tentative suggestions about what training and pre-training characteristics might be associated with teacher effectiveness.
Key findings or focus:
This was a large scale study of 2,600 primary aged pupils in 63 schools across 20 districts. The study was constructed over two years. Only schools with one eligible novice TC and AC teacher in the same grade were used. It was also ensured that students in these teachers' classes were approximately of the same ability.
The findings from the study were based on:
- base line assessments at the beginning and end of the year
- one observation of each teacher teaching at one point during the year.
It was found that there was considerable variation across different Districts as to the number of hours of ‘instruction' (coursework) on both AC and TC programs. The main difference was that AC teachers had completed some coursework before beginning teaching, whilst TC teachers had completed all their training before beginning teaching.
However, it was not always the case that the hours of coursework on AC programs were always less than on TC programs. Thus, in addition to comparing teachers from AC and TC programs, the study was also able to compare teachers from TC and AC programs with high coursework and TC and AC programs with low coursework.
Background qualifications for teachers on either route were about the same. There were more black students taking the AC programs. There were more students with children taking the low coursework AC programs.
There was no statistically significant evidence that pupils with AC teachers did any better or worse in their maths and reading assessments. Also, observations of lessons showed no difference in the quality of maths and reading instruction between AC and TC teachers. Thus there was no evidence that AC or TC routes could be correlated with teacher effectiveness.
The study therefore could not identify if AC teachers had any benefit or harm on pupil achievement when compared with TC teachers. Whilst individual teachers might make a difference to pupil achievement, the study could not say which factors this was due to. They concluded that variation in student achievement was not due to the preparation route taken by teachers or by other measured characteristics; for example, whether a teacher was taking other course work towards certification, or was an undergraduate or had a masters degree.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
This is a qualitative study and the details of sampling, data collection and analysis are systematically detailed in the report. The findings are credible, although sample size becomes smaller when the sub groups of AC/TC and low/high coursework are compared. It could be argued that one observation of the quality of teaching is not enough to conclude that this was not an important factor in teacher effectiveness. The main focus comments are based on the ‘before and after' student grades and on the amount of coursework AC and TC teachers receive. Whilst there are parallels with the growth of teacher training routes in the US and in the UK, there is a danger in assuming that the findings could be applicable to the UK context. There is also a danger that the value and quality of teacher training programmes are measured only in terms of pupil achievement in national tests.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
Whilst the findings relate to the teacher training programs in the US, there are perhaps some interesting considerations for ITE programme leaders and tutors in the UK when planning and revalidating programmes in this country. Firstly, teacher education programmes need to be considered more than just in terms of a vehicle for ensuring newly qualified teachers are able to support pupil achievement on national tests.
Secondly, the relationship between university and school-based coursework seems to be key in supporting and enhancing the development of quality student teaching in order to maximise pupil learning.
Finally, ITE tutors need to consider a range of innovative ways to work more closely with mentors in school in order to capitalise on developing strategies of high quality teaching and learning.
The relevance to ITE students:
ITE students need to consider ways in which university- and school-based learning are linked and how this might impact on learning in the classroom.
ITE students need to be made aware that making a difference to pupil learning is more than acquiring the ‘technical' skills of teaching. In fact, the findings from this research would indicate that pupil achievement in school is due to more to the complex interplay of individual teacher characteristics and interaction with pupils rather than the particular ITE programme they have decided to follow.