Panel Paper: Seizing a Missed Opportunity: Transforming the Placement and Evaluation of Student Teachers

Friday, November 3, 2017
Wrigley (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Roddy Theobald1, Dan Goldhaber1,2,3,4, Cyrus Grout2 and Mary Templeton5, (1)American Institutes for Research, (2)University of Washington, (3)Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, (4)Center for Education Data and Research, (5)Spokane Public Schools

Teachers regularly cite their student teaching experiences as being a formative part of their training as educators. Yet, little is known about what constitutes a high-quality student teaching experience and how districts can leverage the student teaching process to better prepare new teachers and improve hiring decisions. This is a missed opportunity - both school districts and teacher education programs (TEPs) stand to benefit from a better understanding of the student teaching process and the entry of new teachers into the workforce.

Many teachers in Spokane Public Schools (SPS) student taught in the district prior to entering the workforce. Yet, the student teaching process within SPS has historically been fairly ad-hoc, with placements of student teachers driven by personal relationships between teachers, administrators, and TEPs. This paper documents the impacts of an intervention that provided increased structure around the student teaching process in SPS by recruiting effective teachers to serve as mentors, centralizing the student teacher placement process, and using structured evaluations to provide feedback to student teachers.

Specifically, SPS introduced new student teacher placement procedures in March 2016 under which mentor teachers are recruited based on performance evaluation scores and principal recommendations, and all placements are arranged by Human Resources. For a subset of placements (which were randomized), mentor teachers used a modified version of the district’ performance evaluation rubric to provide structured feedback to student teachers. The first cohort of student teachers will complete their student teaching in the 2016-17 school year.

The paper addresses the following research questions:

  1. How does creating structure around the student teaching process affect the composition of the district’s mentor teachers?
  2. What is the relationship between mentor teacher characteristics and student teachers’: (a) propensity to apply for a position with SPS; (b) scores on screening instruments used by SPS during the hiring process; and (c) propensity of being hired by SPS?

Using the student teacher placements made in the 2015-16 school year as a baseline for comparison, this paper first presents a descriptive comparison of the composition of the district’s mentor teachers before and after the intervention (research question #1). We will also compare the propensity of student teachers to apply for a position at SPS, their scores on screening instruments used by SPS during the hiring process, and their propensity to be hired (research question #2). We will consider mentor teachers’ experience, degree level, licensure test scores, and performance evaluation scores as predictors of these outcomes.

This paper could have important policy implications for schools, districts and TEPs. Specifically, if the intervention implemented by SPS substantially changes the composition of mentor teachers in the district, other school districts may also find it in their interest to create more structure around their student teacher placement procedures. And the finding of any relationship between mentor teacher characteristics and student teacher outcomes could inform how to create those structures.