Panel Paper: Seizing a Missed Opportunity: Transforming the Placement and Evaluation of Student Teachers and Implications for Teacher Hiring and Retention

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 17 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dan Goldhaber1,2, Cyrus Grout1, Kim Harmon3 and Roddy Theobald2, (1)University of Washington, (2)American Institutes for Research, (3)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. 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.

In Spokane Public Schools (SPS), where many current teachers student taught in the district prior to entering the workforce, the district has a clear interest in fostering high-quality student teaching experiences. 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 evaluates the impacts of an intervention that established a more purposeful structure around the student teaching process in SPS in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years by recruiting effective teachers to serve as mentors (“cooperating teachers”), centralizing the student teacher placement process, and using structured evaluations to provide feedback to student teachers.

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. Is there any relationship between the implementation if this intervention and student teachers’: (a) propensity to apply for a position with SPS; (b) scores on screening instruments used by SPS during the hiring process; (c) propensity of being hired by SPS; and (d) likelihood of staying in SPS (or other districts if they are hired elsewhere)?

Using the student teacher placements made in the 2015-16 school year as a baseline for comparison, we first present a descriptive comparison of the composition of the district’s mentor teachers before and after the intervention (research question #1). We find little evidence that the composition of cooperating teachers in the district changed along observable dimensions. Most surprisingly, despite the intervention being designed to recruit teachers with high performance evaluation scores to serve as cooperating teachers, we find that the relationship between a teachers’ performance evaluation scores and the probability of serving as a cooperating teacher is similar before and after the intervention.

That said, given that the potential for the quality of the SPS teacher workforce to be improved by higher-quality student teaching experiences is dependent, in part, on some proportion of the district’s student teachers applying for, being hired into, and remaining in teaching positions in SPS, we also plan present evidence about whether any of these outcomes were impacted by the intervention (research question #2). We anticipate that this analysis could have important policy implications for schools, districts and TEPs. In particular, if this intervention has benefits to student teachers and SPS that go beyond the observable characteristics of their cooperating teacher, then other districts and TEPs may also find it in their interest to create more structure around their student teacher placement procedures.