training wheels

City crunches teacher prep data in early bid to assess programs

A slide in the city's presentation about new Teacher Preparation Program Reports shows what proportion of training programs' graduates went to work in high-need schools.
The city’s presentation about new Teacher Preparation Program Reports shows what proportion of training programs’ graduates went to work in high-need schools.

City officials said they were “pleasantly surprised” by what they learned from their inaugural effort to analyze data about teachers by the programs that trained them.

Just one in five of the 10,135 recent graduates of teacher preparation programs hired by the city between 2008 and 2012 left the school system within three years. In contrast, about one in three teachers left their jobs nationally during the same period, according to city Department of Education officials.

“New York City is really bucking the trend,” Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said today during a press conference to unveil “Teacher Preparation Program Reports” for 12 colleges and universities that together supplied about half of the city’s new teachers who came through traditional training pathways.

The reports represent a new frontier in the department’s accountability efforts. They analyze the teacher preparation programs’ graduates by six characteristics, including how long they stay in the classroom, how often they receive poor evaluations, where they work, and how they have fared on measures of their students’ growth.

City officials warned against making strong conclusions about the preparation programs’ quality. Next year, after the city implements a new evaluation system, the training programs will be rated by their graduates’ scores, they said, but for now, the reports are meant to spur collaboration with local colleges and universities.

The analysis is a first for a district to have completed. But states have increasingly turned their scrutiny to teacher preparation programs, with the goal of exposing programs that produce teachers who do not perform well in the classroom and pushing programs to align what they teach with what new teachers need to know.

Much of the criticism that traditional teacher training programs have received is warranted, said Mary Brabeck, dean of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, one of the programs that the city examined.

“We need to look at what helps us produce the most effective teachers and the data can help us do it,” Brabeck said. “Teacher education programs haven’t been as informed by data as they need to be.”

But she said the city’s data are not all that NYU needs. “We collect a lot more data than those six charts,” said Brabeck, who said some of the city’s data didn’t fairly reflect the number of students who come to Steinhardt from out of town and move away when they graduate.

Other deans whose schools were listed in the reports generally praised the city’s efforts but stopped short of endorsing the data as meaningful.

“Warning flags about using this data should be up all over the place,” said David Steiner, the dean of Hunter College’s School of Education who kicked off efforts to overhaul teacher preparation programs when he was state education commissioner several years ago.

For instance, Hunter graduates were rated ineffective 2 percent of the time on 2011-2012 growth scores compiled from that year’s state tests, among the lowest of any program. But the data were based on just 28 teachers who graduated from Hunter.

Some data points were based on larger sample sizes. The city’s reports show that programs did not send graduates to high-need schools at equal rates. Mercy College and Lehman College both sent nearly half of their new teachers to high-need schools, but that figure less than 25 percent for six universities, including just 16 percent for Queens College and 22 percent for NYU and Teachers College graduates.

The higher-than-average retention rate is also meaningful, officials said. Teachers do not reach their peak performance until they have been in the classroom for five years, research suggests, but half of all teachers leave before then.

The data did not show whether the teachers who stayed in the system were effective, which department officials cited as a major limitation. In the future, they said, the reports will be used to show whether preparation programs produce high-quality teachers who stick around.

For now, officials said they hoped the report cards would pressure the education colleges to change their approaches so that their graduates better serve the city’s public schools.

“We do think there are other ways that we can kind of work with the universities to incentivize them to implement new programs to better meet our needs,” Weiner said.

Brabeck said her school recently launched a dual-certification program for teachers to receive special education certification in order to meet a higher demand to serve students with disabilities.

Jane Ashdown, dean of the education school at Adelphi University on Long Island, said geography explains why just one out of four Adelphi graduates hired by the city worked in high-need schools.

“Teachers historically teach close to home,” said Ashdown. “We’re a regional school and we pull many of our candidates from very close by, in Nassau County and Queens and Brooklyn. So our school sites also tend to be in those areas.”

But, she added, “I think we could be improving in seeing more of our candidates prepared for and staying in high-need schools. So I think that’s something we can dig into and will be using as we go into the fall semester.”

The city will produce similar reports for alternative certification programs, including Teach for America and the city’s Teaching Fellows program, next month.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”