May 17, 2007  

Teacher Quality Most Important School-Based Factor In Boosting Student Achievement

Reforms to Teacher Preparation Imperative for Success in Knowledge Economy, says Carnegie Corporation Expert in Congressional Testimony

Quality teachers have a greater influence on pupil achievement than any other school-based factor. How the nation educates teachers will largely determine the degree to which the United States can participate and succeed in the emerging knowledge economy, Daniel Fallon, Carnegie Corporation of New York's Program Director, Higher Education, told the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness today.

Fallon cited Carnegie Corporation’s seven-year initiative to stimulate construction of excellent teacher education programs at selected colleges and universities as an important effort to improve the quality of teaching in the nation’s schools. The Annenberg Foundation and the Ford Foundation are also contributing to this ambitious initiative. He noted that the teacher education reform effort, called Teachers for a New Era, is organized around three principles that help schools of education prepare teachers who positively impact pupil learning:

  • A teacher education program should be guided by a respect for evidence, including attention to pupil learning gains accomplished under the tutelage of teachers who are graduates of the program.
  • Faculty in the disciplines of the arts and sciences must be fully engaged in the education of prospective teachers, especially in the areas of subject matter understanding and general and liberal education.
  • Education should be understood as an academically-taught clinical practice profession, requiring: close cooperation between colleges of education and actual practicing schools; master teachers as clinical faculty in the college of education; and residencies for beginning teachers during a two year period of induction.

The Teachers for a New Era initiative is connecting teacher education programs to working classrooms. The design principles require an ongoing professional relationship between the education school and its recent graduates, and uses pupil learning in the classrooms of those graduates as the primary means of measuring the new teachers’ quality,” Fallon told the Subcommittee.

Fallon concluded his testimony by describing three early findings emerging from Teachers for a New Era and their potential relevance to the Committee’s deliberations:

  • The first finding concerns difficulties in retrieving the data on particular teachers and particular students necessary for legitimate program improvement purposes in teacher education. Incentives to states and local school districts to construct comprehensive high-quality educational data systems, to entrust these data systems to research institutions, and to make the data available to teacher education programs for purposes of program improvement would accelerate the production of high quality teachers.
  • The second finding is the success of the implementation of academy-based induction supplemental to district-based induction programs, including reduced teacher turnover and consequent instructional improvements and cost savings. Creating incentives for institutions of higher education to engage in these academy-based induction programs will pay substantial dividends in teacher quality, teacher retention, and pupil achievement.
  • The third finding is the beneficial impact of an evidence-based continuous-improvement design for teacher education reform on the management of teacher education within a higher education institution and ultimately on the production of high quality teachers. It may be worthwhile, therefore, to consider incentive grants to partnerships between institutions of higher education and school districts that pledge to restructure teacher education in this way.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $2.52 billion on September 30, 2006. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $80 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.