Does Pre-service Preparation Matter? Examining an Old Question in New Ways
by Matthew Ronfeldt, Nathaniel Schwartz & Brian A. Jacob - 2014
Background: Over the past decade, most of the quantitative studies on teacher preparation have focused on comparisons between alternative and traditional routes. There has been relatively little quantitative research on specific features of teacher education that might cause certain pathways into teaching to be more effective than others. The vast majority of evidence on features of preservice preparation comes from qualitative case studies of single institutions that prepare teachers. Among the few large-scale cross-institution studies that exist, most provide only descriptive trends that fail to account for teacher and school characteristics that might explain apparent relationships in the data. Additionally, these studies typically look at state- or district-level data, providing little information on national trends.
Purpose: Focusing on two features of preparation commonly targeted by certification policies, this study asks: Does completing more practice teaching and methods-related coursework predict teachers’ retention and perceived instructional preparedness? Do the results vary for different kinds of teachers and schools?
Research Design: This is a secondary analysis of data from the two most recent administrations of the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), a nationally representative survey of teachers that includes information about preservice preparation, retention, and perceptions of preparedness. We link surveyed teachers to Common Core of Data on their schools and to Barron’s ratings of college competitiveness.
Data Analysis: We use linear and logistic regression with state and district fixed effects, as well as comprehensive controls for school and teacher characteristics, to estimate whether completing more practice teaching and methods-related coursework predicts teachers’ self-perceived instructional preparedness and persistence in the profession.
Findings: We find that teachers who completed more methods-related coursework and practice teaching felt better prepared and were more likely to stay in teaching. These positive relationships were similar across alternative and traditional routes and tended to be greater among graduates from competitive colleges, males, and mathematics and science teachers, as well as teachers in urban, rural, and secondary schools.
Conclusions: Our study provides some of the best suggestive evidence to date that teacher education programs, and certification policies that influence them, can improve teachers’ preparedness and persistence by increasing requirements for practice teaching and methods-related coursework. Policy makers often consider reducing preparation requirements to increase the supply of academically talented and underrepresented teacher groups. Finding these groups to be at least as, and usually more, responsive to additional preparation raises some concern that reducing requirements could have negative consequences for their preparedness and retention.
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