In this section, we provide recommendations for how the effectiveness of mathematics teacher preparation programs in meeting the Program Standards from Chapter 3 might be assessed to guide efforts to improve, as outlined in Table 8.4. This table also shows that assessing the effectiveness of a program additionally requires attending to the recommendations for assessing candidate quality discussed in the previous section. In addition, the features of effective assessments outlined in the first section of this chapter guide decisions about the selection and use of assessments. The assessments used by effective programs are dominated by high-quality, valid assessments, results of which are used to spur and inform continuous program improvement.
Effective mathematics teacher preparation programs assess the degree to which a broad range of stakeholders are meaningfully engaged in the program and involved in its ongoing improvement.
Effective mathematics teacher preparation programs require the dedication and commitment of all those involved in preparing candidates. As described in Standard 3.1, although leadership for creating and sustaining the program may fall primarily to mathematics teacher educators, effective programs engage a range of other stakeholders, including colleagues in teacher preparation, Pre-K–12 educators and administrators, mathematicians, community-based organizations and community members, and state departments charged with the oversight of teacher preparation.
The diverse perspectives of all stakeholders are critical to program quality. Programs might use surveys, individual interviews, or focus groups to gather information from a range of stakeholders to answer questions such as the following:
- To what degree do the stakeholders believe that they are an important part of the mathematics teacher preparation program, that their perspectives are heard and acknowledged?
- To what degree do they perceive that the mathematics teacher preparation program is an important and meaningful part of their jobs and that their efforts contribute to the development of quality mathematics teacher candidates?
- To what degree do they feel an authentic partnership exists among the stakeholders, that they are not merely service providers to the program but are integral parts of the system?
- To what degree are the goals and values promulgated by the program shared across all those involved in the program?
- What areas of the program do they feel are functioning well? What areas need additional attention?
Stakeholders are further engaged in identifying and implementing assessments that provide information that they value and find useful in better understanding the effects of their policies and practices related to mathematics teacher preparation. The data collected are collaboratively considered to develop priorities for program improvement as well as to guide improvements in particular areas of the program.
Effective mathematics teacher preparation programs assess the effectiveness of the courses or equivalent professional-learning opportunities they offer in promoting their candidates’ progress and work to improve them.
Although the typical course-evaluation procedures used by colleges and universities can provide limited information about the effectiveness of courses included in the mathematics teacher preparation program, effective mathematics teacher preparation programs undertake deeper assessments to ensure that all such courses or equivalent professional-learning experiences—including those addressing methods, mathematics content, and educational foundations—positively contribute to the growth of their candidates.
First, all courses or equivalent professional-learning experiences in effective mathematics teacher preparation programs model effective instructional approaches aligned with the instructional practices expected of well-prepared beginning teachers of mathematics (see Candidate Standards in Chapter 2). Instructors in key courses for mathematics teacher candidates self-assess their instruction, gather formative feedback from their candidates, and collaborate with others about how instruction can be improved. Peer observations using adaptations of observation protocols designed to observe the teaching of candidates might provide a useful starting point in such deliberations. Second, the content of courses in the program is analyzed to ensure that the courses promote candidate growth on the Candidate Standards. Course objectives and assignments are examined to ensure coherence across the program. Mapping the experiences provided onto the standards in this document, particularly P.2 and P.3, may help to identify areas in which more attention is needed or areas of overlap.
Finally, as stated in Standard P.3.5, effective programs assess whether instructors of mathematics methods experiences have relevant grade-level mathematics teaching experiences needed to support their candidates’ growth. Although instructors of mathematics content courses need not have this same level of experience, the degree to which they are responsive to the content needs of mathematics teacher candidates is assessed, as outlined in Standard P.2. The awareness of instructors of other education foundational courses of how their content applies specifically to mathematics teaching and learning is also assessed.
Effective mathematics teacher preparation programs assess and work to improve the quality of the clinical experiences they provide mathematics teacher candidates.
Effective assessment of the quality of the clinical experiences provided to mathematics teacher candidates requires consideration of the following, drawn from Standard P.4:
- Engagement of mentor teachers in enacting a shared vision of quality mathematics instruction. Effective programs need to assess what mechanisms are in place for ensuring bidirectional discussions with mentor teachers about mathematics teaching and learning. They need to engage mentor teachers in discussions about how clinical experiences can be better organized to drive continued improvement of the experiences offered.
- Effective sequencing of experiences. This sequencing might include examining requirements for experiences to ensure that they are coherently organized to respect the candidates’ development and to become increasingly comprehensive in scope.
- Range of experiences. Records of the experiences candidates have should be analyzed to ensure experiences in a range of grade levels that reflect their certification levels as well as with students of varied backgrounds.
- Qualifications of mentors. Programs need to ensure that the Pre-K–12 mentor teachers and university supervisors reflect program values, demonstrate effective teaching, and have effective mentoring skills. University supervisors need to have relevant grade-level mathematics teaching experiences.
The assessments of effective programs also address the overall effectiveness of clinical experiences. This evidence might be gathered through specific, field-based assessments for individual candidates or across all candidates. For example, candidates’ reflections on the effects of feedback on their professional growth provide insights into candidates’ knowledge and skills, while also providing insights into the focus of the mentoring. If these collective data indicate little attention to particular areas (e.g., supporting and challenging each and every student), changes can be made to increase attention to those areas. Additionally, summative program data inform the quality of clinical experiences. These data might include reports of candidates’ overall success in the program, surveys of both students and mentor teachers, and ratings of candidates on observation protocols. These analyses lead to discussions among university or program faculty and school personnel about areas in which clinical experiences support candidate growth and those in which adjustments may be needed.
Effective mathematics teacher preparation programs assess and work to improve their success in recruiting prospective teachers, in retaining candidates in the program, and in supporting beginning teachers’ continued professional growth, with a focus on developing a mathematics teacher workforce that reflects the diversity of the student population in the region.
The assessment systems of effective mathematics teacher preparation programs include expectations with measurable outcomes tied to effective recruitment and retention efforts, consistent with Standard 5 of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP, 2013b). Effective programs assess the quality of their outcomes by setting goals for recruiting new mathematics teacher candidates and systematically gathering data and analyzing recruitment practices (e.g., effect on admissions from recruiting at high schools, community colleges, or other STEM majors.) Effective programs gather and review data on whether entrance requirements, which may include Praxis or other required candidate-assessment tests and GPA, are related to success in the program or whether other measures, such as flexibility in thinking and ability to relate to others unlike oneself, may, in fact, better predict a prospective teacher’s potential to become a teacher of mathematics.
Effective programs assess factors that may influence program completion resulting in a well-prepared beginning teacher—for example, surveying candidates about the effectiveness of program supports while they progress through the program or conducting case studies of both successful and unsuccessful candidates. Effective programs monitor the early career progress of their graduates to improve programs as well as to contribute to the retention of teachers. Using social media might be one route through which programs maintain contact with graduates both to garner useful feedback and to create communities that provide peer and institutional support after program completion. Effective programs also assess practices for retaining beginning teachers in the profession, either those organized by the program or by the graduate’s employer, to determine how those practices affect success of the beginning teacher. The program maintains data and examines results from other state or national teacher performance-assessment systems to ensure validity and examine how the data support or affect recruitment and retention as well as how results of the data analysis might inform program-improvement efforts.
Effective programs integrate attention to the diversity of their candidates in their assessments, with the goal of ensuring that the demographics of candidates completing their program are reflective of the student population of the region. For example, they might consider the following questions:
- Are current recruitment practices effective in reaching a diverse population of prospective teachers of mathematics?
- How might requirements for entry into the program be reconsidered to support increased diversity of mathematics teacher candidates accepted into the program?
- What support systems might be productive in ensuring that a diverse pool of candidates continue to make progress toward successful completion of the program and entry into the field as well-prepared beginning teachers of mathematics?
- What support systems could be useful in ensuring that program completers make progress as well-prepared beginning teachers of mathematics?