SWOT Diagnosis

1. Attracting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

The teaching profession perceived as low status and low pay compared to other professions, and there is a lack of teacher diversity compared to the student population. The system also faces challenges of high teacher attrition, especially among new teachers, and teacher shortages.

strengths
Multiple paths to enter teaching

There are multiple ways candidates can enter the teaching profession: through more traditional routes provided by higher education institutions and alternative entry points. This provides flexible and specialised training options for people to enter the profession.

weaknesses
Limited focus on broadening the appeal of teaching

Many interviewees mentioned the need to provide data for teacher candidates to choose better programmes. This may help candidates already interested in teaching to choose more wisely, but may have little effect on attracting candidates that have not previously considered teaching. While some programmes have focused on attracting a broader pool of people into teaching, there is not a coordinated emphasis on increasing the appeal of teaching, particularly in areas of high demand (e.g. STEM subjects).

Difficulties in increasing workforce diversity

Some ITE programmes have difficulties attracting more diverse candidates, i.e. teacher candidates from lower socio-economic background, candidates of colour and male candidates.

Supply and demand imbalance

There are reports of an insufficient number of teacher candidates going into ITE in certain areas (e.g. secondary math, special education). In other areas there may be too many teachers being trained (e.g. elementary).

opportunities
Comprehensive campaign to increase the attractiveness of teaching

There are a number of initiatives to increase the attractiveness of teaching but these need to be pulled into a coherent national strategy. These may include sending new teacher cohorts into struggling schools instead of single teachers, providing early career peer support, supporting loan forgiveness programmes, developing a media strategy (e.g. Best Job in the World and Teach to Lead campaigns), providing opportunities for career progression and salary structures, etc.

Learn from programmes that are succeeding in attracting people into teaching in high-needs areas

There is an opportunity to build on the lessons learned from targeted programmes which are attracting and selecting the most highly motivated and suitable people, interested and capable of making a difference in high-needs schools / subject areas. A number of these programmes have comprehensive selection processes that take into account a broad range of teacher candidate qualities.

threats
Risk of negative spiral

Historically, teaching is considered low status and uninteresting. This has led to few applicants to preparation programmes, which in turn lowered admission standards and creates a negative spiral of low quality teachers which lowers the status of the profession.

2. Selecting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

In the United States, there is a large choice of initial teacher education programmes, one third of which are “alternative programmes”. Selection into ITE varies widely according to the type of ITE programme and state.

strengths
Multiple paths to enter teaching

There are multiple ways candidates can enter the teaching profession: through more traditional routes provided by higher education institutions and alternative entry points. This provides flexible and specialised training options for people to enter the profession.

weaknesses
opportunities
threats
Issues related to tightening and loosening selection

A number of states and programmes apply tighter selection criteria policies, while others have no criteria. The former may result in better candidates in more selective programmes but some approaches may exacerbate diversity issues. Other providers my not want to “raise the entry bar” into ITE programmes if this means smaller enrolments and less tuition income.

Challenges of market-driven programme selection

The prolific number of programmes means that candidates have enormous choice. However, teaching candidates do not necessarily choose the “right” programme: they may not choose programmes in areas of demand; and they may not choose the highest quality programmes. While more data may help candidates make informed choices, demand and quality might not be the only factors that influence programme choice if there are programs of lower cost or in a more favourable location that lead to jobs.

3. Equipping teacher candidates with what they need to know and do

There is no national curriculum for initial teacher education so ITE programmes vary in their content and approach, depending on the programme and state requirements for coursework.

strengths
Examples of innovative and high quality programmes

There are examples of highly innovative and effective ITE programmes.

Recognition of the importance of clinical experience

There is a general consensus about the importance of high quality clinical experience for preparing teachers.

Abundance of research and researchers to inform initial teacher preparation

Much key research and researchers in the area of initial teacher preparation emanates from the United States.

weaknesses
Level of content knowledge of teacher candidates

Too many teacher candidates enter programmes without the requisite level of content knowledge. ITE programmes face enormous challenges to rapidly build content knowledge, especially that required for new curriculum approaches.

Variation in programmes

In a diverse and autonomous system there are inevitably widely varying programmes. Some programmes do not provide enough coverage on important areas of preparation and do not ensure teacher candidates have quality practical experiences. Increases in online providers may exacerbate these issues.

Limitations of alternative programmes

Alternative programmes serve a purpose and have innovated on clinical training but are criticised for providing less theoretical training than traditional programmes and costing more money. Some fast-track programmes only require several weeks of training before candidates become “teachers of record”. Residency models are an expensive model compared to other programmes.

opportunities
Building consensus on core practice

Providers and interest groups are trying to agree upon a prioritised set of key practices that teachers need to be able to teach regardless of context (e.g. Teaching Works’ High-Leverage Teaching Practices). More research and collaboration between providers (including between traditional and alternative providers) is needed to create consensus, and link content and practices to effective outcomes.

Improving the quality of clinical experience

Increasingly, programmes are focusing on providing teacher candidates with high quality clinical experience, rather than just increasing the quantity of the clinical training. Some universities recognise clinical faculty, offer residency programmes and partner with schools to support this.

Create stronger links between preparation, induction and ongoing professional development

There are opportunities to better link teacher preparation, induction and ongoing professional by having schools/districts and providers working more closely together on curriculum standards, joint research projects and evaluation tools to ensure graduates are “classroom ready”.

threats
Change and co-operation at scale is difficult

It is difficult to change and spread good practice in a decentralised and highly autonomous system. There are many stakeholders involved in teacher preparation in the US, and many have varying motivations and incentives, and unclear roles and responsibilities. Not all of faculties, K-12 schools, and districts are ready to build strong partnerships with each other. There are also difficulties in thinking beyond ‘your own’ sphere of influence (e.g. own district, own institution / organisation), as there is a necessary focus on ‘how can my organisation can survive’ in the competitive higher education environment

4. Delivering ITE programmes effectively (quality assurance)

Although ITE providers and programmes are highly autonomous, which translates into a wide variation in programme quality, 27 states use the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation’s accreditation process, which is based on 5 standards, and data and outcome measures are consistently used to review and improve ITE programmes.

strengths
Growing awareness of the need for change and focus on improving programme quality

There is a national dialogue about the importance of teacher preparation and improving the quality of programmes, reflected in the introduction of new federal regulations (October 2016) that increase the focus on programme quality by requiring states to report on programme outcome measures

(e.g. graduate employment and retention in teaching, feedback from graduates and their employers, and student learning outcomes).

A national body and program standards for quality teacher preparation

There is a national body (CAEP) focused on excellence in educator preparation that provides accreditation services based on program standards to a number of states.

weaknesses
A lack of consensus on what constitutes effective teacher preparation makes evaluating programmes difficult

There are differing opinions on what is good practice and what matters most, with few validity measures.

Issues around collection and use of data

There is an abundance of data collected around initial teacher preparation. This data may not be prioritised. Users (e.g. CAEP, states, training providers, etc.) may not have the capacity or resources to analyse it. Data is not always used for continuous improvement or to build a collective evidence base: it is sometimes too focused on evaluating or ranking individual teachers, students and organisations, rather than improving the collective (e.g. use data to analyse national trends, assess macro approaches and build a consensus and more robust evidence base).

opportunities
The programme review process can actively contribute to programme improvement

Facilitate programme self-reflection and continuous improvement: help providers collect and use data to improve their programmes by providing support for formative reviews and improvement plans.

Sharing effectiveness data to build the evidence base

A number of states have developed systems where information is made available to preparation programmes so that they can review the effectiveness of their graduates. If these measures are valid, reliable and professionally accepted they will help identify which programmes are effective and build the evidence base of what works.

Continue to promote the systematic sharing of best practice

Increase the number and scope of networks across the country, with the common goal of improving teacher preparation quality and sharing effective practice, for example through forums involving core of stakeholders in education and teacher preparation: politicians, administrators and practitioners on federal, state and regional levels.

threats
It may be challenging to apply strong consequences to poor quality programmes

For example, it may be politically unviable to close poorly performing programmes; and difficult to get employers to make hiring decisions based on programme quality ratings, especially in areas of teacher shortage.

Potential resistance from teacher education institutions to implement programme reform

Obtaining the support of faculty (in some traditional ITE providers) regarding measures of quality and the need for improvement is difficult, especially when their career incentives are based on research publications not preparing practitioners. Resistance may be more pronounced in larger institutions, which are typically less flexible in their structures and have a diverse range of priorities.

Cost of implementing quality assurance measures

The cost of implementing measures and improvement initiatives, especially for small programmes and on a yearly basis, could be substantial.

5. Certifying & hiring new teachers

States are responsible for setting policies for teacher certification, and a range of certification methods are used in different states to obtain a license to teach in and be hired by a school district or school.

strengths
Learning from “new” certification methods

More “authentic” assessments – which can be more practice-based and supported – may be more predictive of a teachers’ suitability for the profession and readiness for teaching than content- and theoretical-based approaches.

Local hiring to meet local needs

Districts or schools are responsible for hiring teachers – and they have the best understanding of local needs.

weaknesses
Administrative costs of diverse certification methods

The abundance of teacher certification assessments between (and sometime within) states must incur a significant administrative cost. The lack of coherence or agreement on what should be tested – and required benchmarks – may result in large variations in what teachers know and do.

Cost of certification for teachers

Obtaining one certification is already expensive for teacher candidates. Although inter-state agreements recognising teaching certification exist, teachers must often sit and pay for additional certification exam(s).

Local hiring of local teacher candidates may hinder diversity

Districts or schools are responsible for hiring teachers, which may result in hiring local teacher candidates exclusively, which might hinder diversity in the teaching profession.

Timing of hiring

Because of budgets and teachers retiring during summer break, new teachers are hired very close to the beginning of school year (because the budget is not ready), leading to the hiring of weaker candidates with less time to prepare for job.

opportunities
Continue to use certification data to strengthen the evidence base on effectiveness teacher preparation

Relevant data using certification tools should continue to be collected (e.g. motivation to teach, leadership and collaborative skills), with a view to giving programmes feedback information and improving the evidence base on effective teacher preparation.

Hiring is an underused lever to improve teacher quality

States could give stronger support for districts in hiring of teachers (e.g. establish selection requirements; push for budgets to be ready earlier; address retirement timing issues). Similarly, districts could more systematically link hiring decisions to programme quality, using their hiring power to influence ITE providers to better prepare teacher candidates.

Increasing recognition of teaching licenses between states

States are relaxing requirements to allow recognition of teaching licenses from other states. This allows for greater teacher mobility and may address issues of teacher shortages in some areas.

Closer collaboration between schools, teacher education institutions and districts to better understand teacher supply-demand issues and development needs

Encouraging districts to work proactively with ITE providers and schools could help ensure that the teachers are trained and selected to best meet local needs, present and future (e.g. more secondary math teachers, practicum in local school), especially in areas where distances between partners (i.e. in rural areas) create challenges. ITE providers could also share candidate information with districts to create a development continuum from preparation to induction (e.g. share candidate strengths and areas for development before practical training and during selection / recruitment).

threats
Licensure exams may measure only narrow, “measurable” set of teaching skills

Teacher education institutions design programmes content in light of the state licensure exam, meaning that licensure exams may focus on measurable parts of teaching skills and adopt narrow definition of “good” initial teacher education, for example evaluating teacher candidates’ use of teaching practices using avatar technology in a simulated classroom setting.

Complex partnership arrangements

Many districts work with numerous ITE providers, and vice versa, which may make partnership arrangements time-consuming.

Undesirable effect of traditional certification methods on the diversity of the teaching profession

Many theory-based assessments (e.g. PRAXIS) may unintentionally exclude teachers of colour, who may not have received the same educational opportunities as other candidates.

Possible detachment of hiring from other quality measures

The process of hiring by districts can be detached from the work of states around improving the quality and diversity of teachers, for example, a state’s success in improving the quality of teacher training in most IHEs could be without effect if a district hires teachers from the local IHE where teacher training is of lesser quality.

6. Supporting new teachers

Although states mandate induction and induction programmes for new teachers are organised by school districts in 29 states, states do no necessarily fund induction programmes. More than half of states have policies that describe the qualities of an acceptable mentor teacher.

strengths
Recognition of the importance of first years in the profession

There is a growing awareness of the importance of providing teacher support from pre-service to in-service. Research shows positive correlations between early support for teachers and teacher self-efficacy, motivation and retention.

Some exemplary approaches to supporting new teachers

A number of effective models exist that seek to build professional learning communities and peer-support, with experienced teachers giving regular feedback to new teachers.

Some agreement on competencies of a mentor teacher

Some states offer guidance on the competencies of a mentor teacher, selection of which is often based on seniority.

weaknesses
Perceived expense of teacher induction programmes

Teacher induction programmes are perceived as a large expense, rather than a long-term investment.

Lack of certification, training and recognition of mentor teachers

Few states offer formal certification, training or time release for mentor teachers, and there are few formal rewards and recognition for being a mentor teacher. This potentially limits its desirability and potential as a career pathway.

opportunities
Towards a comprehensive approach to supporting new teachers

A comprehensive approach to induction across states could improve new teacher effectiveness and retention. Opportunities include setting standards for mentor teachers, recommending key competencies to master during induction, and providing guidance on effective induction training, teaching workload and new teacher performance. There are many opportunities to forge stronger partnerships between teacher education institutions, schools and districts. For example, there may be opportunities for providers to provide support to their graduates through ongoing mentoring and school-based research projects.

threats
Current discourse emphasises accountability of teachers, rather than support and continuous development

While data reporting systems may improve programme and teacher accountability, the discourse around them needs to better promote an improvement agenda that evaluates, addresses and supports new teachers’ needs.

More support needed for new teachers in schools serving disadvantaged students

New teachers may leave the profession if they don’t receive the support they need, particularly in schools serving disadvantaged students.