The Minneapolis School District is starting to use testing data, student surveys and teacher evaluations to help determine which universities are turning out the best teachers.
School officials are sending universities and other teacher preparation programs, like Teach for America, reports on how well their graduates performed in the classroom. The initial data is incomplete, but universities say they welcome the feedback and hope to use it to shape instruction.
The collection and sharing of the information with universities is part of a national movement to improve the quality of teacher preparation programs so that teachers leave higher education better prepared for the classroom. Representatives from the participating universities say Minneapolis has the most robust data sharing program in the state.
“Eventually the data will tell us where are teachers struggling, where are they doing really well and what does that tell us about preparation,” said Maggie Sullivan, the district’s head of human resources.
Each year, Minneapolis teachers go through a three-part evaluation. They get peer-reviewed by another teacher and an administrator who sits in on their classroom instruction. Students fill out a survey on the teacher. There is also an evaluation based on students’ math and reading scores for some teachers.
Until now, that data had primarily been gathered to get a better sense of teacher performance and pinpoint educators who were struggling.
The data collected through that system is now compiled for universities and preparation programs, where the district will rank how well its graduates performed compared to the district average. This year, the district was only able to collect data on teachers who responded to a survey asking them what college or university they attended. But beginning next school year, the district is asking all its new teachers to tell them what preparation program they attended.
The district is not using this year’s data to evaluate programs because many teachers did not respond to the survey. Take Hamline University, where only 12 second-year teachers who graduated the university responded to the survey. The results on the observation component of the evaluation of those 12 Hamline graduates appears as if they scored below the district average.
Sullivan said she cannot reliably evaluate Hamline’s program on those scores because if one or two graduates did extremely well or extremely poorly, the data would be skewed.
Still, Marcia Rockwood, an assistant professor and curriculum specialist at Hamline University, said they are already using the data.
“Even though the [sample] size was small, we need to start somewhere and focus on the results we have,” she said.
She said the data will be shared with the school’s assessment team and with faculty who teach students who are about to go into a classroom.
Kathryn Phillips, a spokeswoman with Teach for America, which sends new teachers to struggling schools, said they are “cautiously optimistic” about the results of their program.
She said Teach for America coaches will now be evaluating student teachers using the same assessment as the district so that these new teachers know what to expect if they become full-time employees.
Besides informing universities how their graduates performed, district officials say they eventually hope to use the data to make hiring decisions. Sullivan said if the data reveals that a particular institution is producing the highest quality teachers, the district would focus its recruitment efforts on that program.
“The data doesn’t tell that story yet,” Sullivan said.