Evaluating and Improving Teacher Preparation Programs


Consensus Report:

Evaluating and Improving Teacher Preparation Programs

Evaluating and Improving Teacher Preparation Programs:

A Commissioned Paper Series

2013 NAEd Report Re-Published:

Evaluation of Teacher Preparation Programs

Interactive website with research-driven tools and information for key stakeholders




The National Academy of Education (NAEd) has undertaken a three-year study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation focused on the evaluation and improvement of teacher preparation programs. The project aims to identify best practices among existing models of evaluation tools and provide recommendations for the development of new models. Under the direction of an interdisciplinary steering committee of researchers and practitioners in teacher education, the project outcomes will be made applicable and accessible to different stakeholders, including state and federal agencies, teacher preparation programs, practitioners, and researchers.

As the first step, this initiative has re-published the 2013 NAEd report on teacher education as a website that provides research-driven tools and information for stakeholders interested in evaluating and improving teacher preparation programs. The website provides interactive tools and features as well as highlights key information for stakeholder groups including the federal government, state governments, national accreditation agencies, media and other independent organizations, and teacher preparation programs.

As part of the project outcomes, the writing team is currently in the process of finalizing a commissioned paper series on key aspects of teacher preparation and evaluation methods that support high-quality preparation and continuous program improvement. The commissioned paper series will examine the following eight areas:

Links Among Teacher Preparation, Retention, and Teacher Effectiveness (Matthew Ronfeldt)
This paper is the first review of large-scale, quantitative research linking specific features of teacher preparation to teaching effectiveness and retention. At the most general level, it finds that large-scale, quantitative studies suggest that the quality, more than the quantity, of preparation makes a difference. Though candidates who complete more courses and more weeks of student teaching often feel better prepared to teach and may be more likely to stay in teaching, there is little evidence that they are more instructionally effective. On the other hand, better quality clinical experiences are consistently associated with stronger feelings of preparedness, teaching effectiveness, and retention. What makes for “better quality” clinical experiences? The literature suggests clinical experiences that (1) are aligned with other program dimensions including coursework (program coherence); (2) occur in field placement schools with strong professional learning environments and that match employment schools on student demographics, school, and grade levels; and (3) include instructionally effective cooperating teachers who also provide high-quality coaching. Additionally, emerging evidence suggests coursework quality likely matters: practice-based courses including carefully-designed simulations that pair opportunities to rehearse teaching with individualized coaching have potential to improve teaching effectiveness.
Landscape of Teacher Preparation Program Evaluation Policies and Progress (Stafford Hood, Mary Dilworth, & Constance A. Lindsay)

This paper begins with an introduction that provides a review of the teacher preparation program (TPP) evaluation environment during the period of 2013-2020 that has impacted the nation’s view and support for educator preparation programs. It draws attention to public policies, professional and non-profit groups and organizations that frame TPP approaches to teaching and learning. The paper is focused on four key areas primed to leverage equitable TPP evaluation for future program improvement. First, the paper discusses the national and state policy authorities that establish large scale TPP goals and incentives with the power to drive TPP designs and agenda. Second, the paper turns to prominent professional standards setting organizations as well as other groups and individuals that are participants in the TPP evaluation sector with significant influence on framing, creating metrics, and prioritizing what is deemed as fruitful areas for inquiry. Third, the paper discusses the impact of rapidly emerging models that require TPP evaluation criteria tailored for various approaches and standards to be useful to TPPs in their day-to-day work. Lastly, the paper discusses the critical need to re-examine all areas of TPP evaluation so that they capture and employ effective strategies addressing equity and social justice. The paper concludes with recommendations for improved alignment and consistency, timeliness and access, and equity, that may influence TPP evaluation in the future as well as promising strategies for consideration.

Evaluation of Clinical Component of Teacher Education Programs (Etta Hollins & Connor Warner)
Typically, the clinical component of teacher preparation is included with the evaluation of the teacher preparation program (TPP). This paper presents a perspective on the clinical component as a pivotal aspect of trustworthy teacher preparation, requiring focused evaluation for continuous improvement of program outcomes and impact. Different formats for clinical experiences are described including student teaching, internships, special purpose practicums, and residencies with explanations of purpose and examples. Particular attention is given to statewide teacher residencies as an approach to preparing teachers for hard to staff schools, shortages in particular licensure areas, and transforming teacher preparation. Universities, school districts, schools, community agencies, and community organizations are discussed as sites that provide the context for clinical experiences. The paper calls for a more strategic and systematic approach to evaluate clinical experience by bringing attention to specific characteristics or attributes in different types of clinical experiences, the identification of quality indicators, and sources of evidence. The paper also discusses the identification of high value quality indicators for knowledge input, developmental progression, and outcomes and impact that will improve practices in the clinical component of TPPs and enable candidates to better facilitate student learning and development.
The Evolution of Accreditation as Professional Quality Assurance in Teacher Preparation (Steven K. Wojcikiewicz & Susan Kemper Patrick)

In this paper, the authors trace the historical development of professional standards setting and quality assurance processes in teacher preparation. They then examine in depth a set of performance- and outcomes-based measures that have emerged in the past few decades as potential ways to assess TPP effectiveness and to support program improvement. Informed by both lessons learned and an awareness of the evolving contexts related to TPP performance, the authors provide recommendations for how TPP accreditors might more effectively incentivize, support, and provide assurance of teacher preparedness and program effectiveness.

Landscape of Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Candidates (Suzanne Wilson & Shannon Kelley)

This paper describes the contemporary teacher preparation landscape and the teacher candidates attending those programs. It begins with a brief overview of the teacher workforce before describing the contemporary landscape of teacher preparation programs (TPPs). The paper then describes what is known about the teacher candidates who attend those programs, including their demographics, academic ability, and motivations to teach. The paper also describes both recent programmatic and policy approaches to recruiting new teacher candidates. Understanding the characteristics of those enrolling in TPPs is essential to program development, evaluation, and improvement. A thorough mapping of the pathways into teaching and the leaky pipeline of those who exit the profession during and after preparation provides researchers and policymakers critical insights into the gaps and opportunities in the TPP landscape. Increasing and diversifying the teacher workforce so that it reflects the diversity of the communities whose children attend school will require attending to local and regional contexts and the needs of specific populations, and conceptualizing teacher candidate recruitment as a process that begins well before individuals pursue teaching as a career and extends into the schools and communities in which they eventually teach. Based on lessons learned from research and program innovations, both recent and historical, the paper provides possible recommendations for attracting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce as well as investing in research on innovations through a pluralistic approach to scholarship.

"Best Practices" for Evaluating Teacher Preparation Programs (Marilyn Cochran-Smith & Emilie M. Reagan)
Over the last decade, there have been multiple reports and other documents that propose recommendations about how to evaluate, assess, or hold teacher preparation accountable and/or about how to use evaluation information to improve teacher preparation. This paper presents an analysis of recent work regarding “best practices for evaluating teacher preparation programs” by synthesizing and critiquing 19 major reports explicitly focused on teacher preparation evaluation, assessment, or accountability, published between 2010 and 2020. The analysis revealed that the primary goal of the majority of existing reports was identifying the strengths and weaknesses of evaluation metrics based on rigorous criteria for accuracy and utility. The analysis also revealed that the majority of reports did not position equity as a central goal of evaluation and actually said very little about equity explicitly, although some assumed that equity was a by-product of rigorous evaluation systems. The paper calls for a new equity-centered approach to teacher preparation evaluation that acknowledges the serious inequities in educational opportunity and attainment across groups in the United States as well as the important role teacher preparation evaluation can play as part of larger efforts to overcome disparities in opportunity and attainment. Rejecting the idea of “best practices,” which are by definition decontextualized and inattentive to local contexts, the paper offers guiding principles, intended for policymakers and practitioners, for making strong equity the center of teacher preparation evaluation systems.
Teacher Performance Assessments (Charles Peck, Maia Goodman Young, & Wenqi Zhang)
This paper provides a review of the research literature related to the uses of teaching performance assessments (TPAs) as resources for learning, program evaluation, and improvement in teacher education. The paper begins by outlining a conceptual framing and set of research questions which focus on both the psychometric properties of these instruments and the organizational conditions under which TPAs become useful and used as tools for the improvement of policy and practice in teacher preparation programs. The paper then describes some of the defining features and affordances of TPAs, as well as a brief history of teaching portfolios, locally developed performance assessments, and standardized measures of teaching performance while considering how the purposes of these assessments have been shaped by the shifting emphasis on accountability in public policy over recent decades. Using this historical account as context, the main body of the review focuses on the contemporary research literature related to the uses of standardized TPAs in preservice teacher education. The paper concludes with a set of recommendations for policy, practice, and research aimed at evaluating and improving the uses of TPAs as resources for the improvement of teacher education. State-level recommendations include increasing program accountability for the quality of TPA implementation while also increasing state-level supports for cross-program learning and improvement. Program-level recommendations include developing strategic leadership plans for TPA implementation and strengthening organizational structures within teacher preparation programs that support and incentivize working with TPA data for program improvement. The authors conclude that TPAs are tools that can be used powerfully for program improvement when they are implemented in ways that are designed to support individual and organizational learning within teacher education programs.
International Insights on Evaluating Teacher Preparation Programs (Mistilina Sato & Jane Abbiss)

This paper provides some international perspectives on quality assurance of teacher education programs through a review of published work and jurisdictional website information. The paper summarizes prior research syntheses on major international comparative studies in teacher education, reviews quality assurance for both accreditation of new programs and ongoing evaluation of existing programs, and reports on common practices that are used across jurisdictions. From these reviews, the paper concludes that teacher education program evaluation is not common practice internationally, but rather is typically taken up through the higher education quality assurance frameworks and practices within jurisdictions. Where there is a specific focus on teacher education program evaluation, there is an increasing emphasis on the use of professional teaching standards and teacher education program review guidelines. Four illustrations of teacher education-specific quality assurance systems (Singapore, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Finland) demonstrate how the governance of teacher education gives shape to program evaluation policies and practices in context. The paper concludes with four issues for further consideration in global conversations about teacher education evaluation: (1) resources, regulation, and multiple accountabilities; (2) bureaucratization, quality assurance, and continuous improvement; (3) external measures of teacher effectiveness and teacher education program evaluation; and (4) globalization, standardization, and local practice. The summary recommendation is that a critical element in quality improvement is the engagement of teachers and teacher educators in policy formation and evaluation processes.

Finally, the eight commissioned papers will culminate in a peer-reviewed consensus study that identifies best practices and provides recommendations for developing new models of teacher preparation evaluation and improvement.


  • Linda Darling-Hammond (Co-Chair)
    Learning Policy Institute 
  • Kenneth Zeichner (Co-Chair)
    University of Washington
  • Shari Albright
    Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation
  • Eva Baker
    University of California, Los Angeles
  • Deborah Ball
    University of Michigan
  • Eric Brown
    National Education Association
  • Robert Floden
    Michigan State University
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings
    University of Wisconsin
  • John Papay
    Brown University
  • Mary Sandy
    California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
  • Marla Ucelli-Kashyap
    American Federation of Teachers


Amy Berman, Deputy Director

Dian Dong, Senior Program Officer, Research

Greg White, Executive Director

The project and research is supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The opinions expressed are those of the NAEd and authors and do not represent views of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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