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    Search Report commends alternative programs

    Fast track to certification produces good teachers

    Lisa Fingeroot - The Tennessean -

    Beginning public school teachers who earn their credentials from alternative types of programs in Tennessee are as effective as veteran teachers in some subject areas and even more effective in a few areas, according to a state report released this morning.

    The alternative programs, such as Teach for America, allow college graduates from other fields to teach while participating in a fast track to certification.

    “In looking at both traditionally and alternatively licensed graduates, there are four programs that stand out,” said Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE.

    “The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the Memphis Teacher Residency, Teach for America Memphis and Teach for America Nashville produced teachers who had higher student achievement gains in two or more subject areas, when compared with veteran teachers,” Woodson said

    Lipscomb University grads also had higher student achievement gains than other beginning teachers when composite scores for grades 4-8 and high school were examined.

    “This is good news,” Woodson added.

    The 2012 Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs, released this morning by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, identified beginning teachers as those with one to three years of experience and veteran teachers as those with four or more years of experience.

    The commission does not have diagnostic information that might explain the differences in effectiveness, said Katrina Miller, director of the First to the Top program for THEC.

    “I don’t think there is a blanket statement” that can be made about how well alternative programs prepare teachers all over the state, Miller said. However, she said the Teach for America programs in Nashville and Memphis are turning out effective teachers.

    Another alternative program for teaching credentials in Nashville, the New Teacher Project, also fared well in the state report. Nashville had 64 people complete the program in 2010-11, and the report found they are as effective as veteran teachers.

    The teaching certification program is a partnership between Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and the New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit organization. Future teachers participate in six weeks of training before teaching. They then do coursework through the New Teacher Project Academy during their first year in the classroom.

    In the future, the teacher effectiveness report will be used to review the teacher licensing process in Tennessee and determine whether a program can continue to license teachers, Miller said.

    Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, who released his own department’s school report card this morning, said the teacher training report is an essential part of an overall effort to improve education.

    Teaching programs “are not the same,” said Huffman, a graduate of Teach for America. The effectiveness report can help districts make hiring decisions and also help future teachers decide where to get their training, he said.

    The commission also is studying to see if there is any link between a teacher’s ACT score and the subsequent testing scores of students, Miller said. That report is due in December.

    Today’s report uses standardized test scores to determine a teacher’s effectiveness. The scores are judged on the value-added component of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which measures students’ improvement over time.

    Only graduates of Tennessee programs who teach in Tennessee public schools are included in the report, which was created by THEC.

    “The importance of today’s report is clear: Tennesseans need to know whether our state’s teacher training programs are preparing graduates for the classroom,” Woodson said. “Because effective teaching is the No. 1 school-based factor in improving student achievement, this report is one of the most important sets of data regarding public education in our state.”

    View the report at www.tn.gov/thec/Divisions/fttt/report_card.shtml