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Build Back Better Provides Opportunities for Improving Teacher Preparation

December 2, 2021

The Biden Administration has proposed funding to improve teacher preparation and develop more teachers of color, including $112 million set aside for teacher residencies and $112 million for Grow Your Own programs. Although the evidence on programs to improve teacher effectiveness is relatively sparse, a study of the Boston Teacher Residency program found that program graduates  outperformed more experienced teachers by their fifth year, were more racially diverse than other new teachers in the district, and were more likely to remain teaching in the district. The rationale for Grow Your Own programs stems in part from evidence that teachers who begin as teaching assistants are more effective, more racially diverse, and more likely to remain as classroom teachers.

One way that residencies and Grow Your Own programs can improve teacher preparation is by enhancing the quality of practical experiences in classrooms. A recent summary of evidence finds that teacher candidates benefit from being assigned to classrooms with instructionally effective cooperating teachers, and by completing their student teaching in schools with strong professional learning environments. A study Abt Global conducted for the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education found that practice in creating a productive learning environment, observing other teachers, and feedback from program staff or cooperating teachers were all related to improved teaching effectiveness.

Additionally, a growing body of evidence points to the importance of diversifying the teacher workforce. For example, a study using data from Tennessee and North Carolinaand another using data from Texasfound that students are significantly more likely to complete high school and enroll in college when they have had a teacher of the same race. Evidence from Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee indicates that students score higher on standardized math and reading assessments when they have a teacher of the same race. Race match effects have also been found for other outcomes, such as disciplinary incidents, absences and suspensions, students’ academic perceptions and attitudes, and parent-teacher conference attendance. A study using New York City data found that student-teacher race match decreases the likelihood of suspension for Black, Latinx, and Asian American students.

Under the Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act’s evidence tiers, the existing body of research could be considered a rationale for investing in efforts to improve and diversify the teacher workforce. The question then becomes, are teacher residencies and Grow Your Own programs succeeding in terms of producing a more effective and diverse workforce? The administration’s Build Back Better agenda presents an opportunity to examine the efficacy of these and other approaches to building a more effective and diverse teacher workforce. Examining program adaptations and implementation can promote continuous improvements to these approaches over time and support thoughtful application of evidence to local contexts.

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