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Assessing Teacher Candidate Performance and Program Quality

The educator preparation profession, including JMU’s teacher preparation programs, is among the most highly regulated professions in the nation—perhaps the most highly regulated.  JMU is proud of the fact that its professional educator preparation unit has the distinction of being continuously accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)—the nation’s most rigorous and prestigious professional accrediting body—since 1954, the year NCATE first accredited professional educator preparation units in recognition of the high quality of unit operations at both the initial and advanced levels.  [NOTE: NCATE and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) are merging into one accrediting agency, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)].

CAEP helps to ensure that accredited institutions produces competent, caring, and qualified teachers and other professional school personnel who can help all students learn.  CAEP is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an accrediting body for institutions that prepare teachers and other professional personnel.  Virginia’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also recognizes CAEP. 

In addition to having achieved continuous accreditation of its professional educator preparation unit operations at the national level, JMU’s educator preparation programs are regularly assessed and evaluated by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) incorporating valid and reliable indicators of candidate and program quality.   The Commonwealth has set its own high metrics and expectations for determining whether education programs meet or exceed professional licensure and program approval standards, and it is in the best interests of the profession and of the Commonwealth that this tradition continues.  We continue to celebrate and build on successes, acknowledge areas for growth, and develop improvement and accountability strategies that are collaborative, effective, and sustainable.  Toward this end, we welcome new voices of those who would contribute to constructive discourse about genuine education renewal.

Here at JMU we maintain a steadfast commitment toward continuous improvement in the quality of our teacher and other educator preparation programs.  To determine the competencies of our candidates, we rely on more consequential indices than high school ranking, GPA, and GRE score.  Likewise, to ascertain the quality of our programs, we rely on much more than review of syllabi and course requirements or on how and by whom clinical assignments are made.  Our main concern here at JMU is on means and criteria that are related to successful teaching and learning.  First and foremost we are concerned about outcomes— evidence indicating what our candidates know, what they value as emerging professionals, how they envision themselves as professional educators, and how they are able to apply their knowledge, skills, and dispositions as effective classroom teacher-leaders.  The following assessment processes are included among the multiple and diverse indices against which the competencies of our candidates and the quality of our programs are favorably measured and held accountable:

  • As mentioned above, JMU’s educator preparation programs are nationally accredited by NCATE (now CAEP).  CAEP relies on rigorous standards, supports multiple measures of quality, and judges programs by the impact that completers have on P-12 learners and school/classroom environments.  CAEP requires programs to continuously monitor and improve performance and to collaborate with school partners to help ensure that candidates are prepared to enter the classroom ready to help all students learn.
  • With few exceptions, all teacher candidates must complete academic degrees in a subject matter content field, an interdisciplinary liberal studies area, or an approved equivalent.  In addition to demonstrating content competency, candidates must also demonstrate comprehensive understanding of content-specific pedagogical strategies.
  • Approved education programs must utilize program approval matrices to demonstrate the alignment of course and field experiences with Virginia standards and requirements for each approved endorsement program.
  • Candidates in Elementary licensure and Special Education licensure have had to pass a state-mandated assessment on the teaching of Reading.  One cannot complete a program successfully unless one has passed the Commonwealth’s cut scores for the Reading for Virginia Educators assessment.  Moreover, the state has increased the requirement for reading preparation to include successful completion of two rather than one course.
  • On the basis of engaging in early and continuous clinical experiences in multiple settings, ample opportunities exist for assessing the ability of our candidates to impact student learning.
  • Candidates are expected to be able to plan and implement lessons that engage students in meaningful learning experiences.  They are also expected to plan and incorporate effective means to assess their instruction and student learning, and to analyze assessment results to adapt their teaching to accommodate changing learners’ needs. 
  • Teacher education programs document that they assess the academic and professional competencies of education candidates at exit from all programs through multiple evaluation methods, including measures to assess each competency and specific outcomes that must be achieved for licensure.
  • JMU has moved toward accountability based on stronger evidence of outcomes including tests of basic skills, content knowledge, professional dispositions, and evidence of pedagogical effectiveness.  We also gather and analyze extensive data on candidates’ readiness, candidates’ effectiveness in clinical settings, candidates’ dispositions, and employers’ assessment of graduates’ performance in classrooms.
  • Educator preparation programs must submit biennially documentation that demonstrates achievement of seven major research-based accountability measures:
    • Eighty percent pass rate on all Virginia Board of Education prescribed licensure exams for all candidates completing and exiting the program.
    • Candidate progress and performance on assessment of basic skills as prescribed by the Board for individuals seeking admission into the program
    • Structured and integrated field experiences (minimum of 300 clock hours) with a minimum of 150 clock hours of direct instruction).
    • Opportunities for candidates to participate in diverse school settings that include racial, economic, linguistic, and ethnic diversity.
    • Evidence of candidates’ contributions to P-12 student achievement to include:
      • Evidence that candidates know about, create, and use appropriate and effective assessments that provide dependable information about student achievement;
      • Evidence that faculty have made provisions for evaluating effects that candidates have on P-12 student learning;
      • Evidence that the education program assesses candidates’ mastery of exit criteria and performance proficiencies, including ability to affect student learning.
    • Evidence of employer job satisfaction with candidates completing the program.
    • Partnerships and collaborations based on P-12 school needs.
  • Select individual programs are reviewed for national recognition by their respective  specialized professional associations (SPAs).  SPA review includes discipline-specific sets of rigorous performance standards regarding candidates’ content knowledge, content pedagogical knowledge and skills, professional knowledge and skills, impact on student learning, and standards regarding program structure & delivery, and faculty qualifications.
  • Title II (NCLB) Annual Reports
    • Detailed admission requirements for UG and G programs.
    • Enrollment by race/ethnicity
    • Number of candidates certified by subject and/or area.
    • Annual goals for critical shortage areas; description of strategies to reach goals; steps taken to reach goals; lessons learned.
    • Description of assurances that teacher preparation programs:
      • Respond to identified needs of schools
      • Are closely linked with the instructional decisions new teachers face
      • Prepare special education teachers in core academic subjects and in teaching those subjects
      • Prepare general education teachers in providing instruction to children with disabilities, limited English proficient students, children from low-income families
      • Prepare teachers to teach effectively in urban and rural schools, as applicable
    • Summary pass rates on licensure assessments
    • Description of how the program prepares teachers to integrate technology into curricula and instruction and to collect, manage, and analyze data to improve teaching and learning.
  • Institutions complete a report each year consisting of twenty-five tables for recording enrollments, degrees, program completers, by race/ethnicity and gender, at multiple levels for all preparation programs at the institution.  The reports are collected and compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE).
  • The State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) Institutional Performance Standards (IPS) requires institutions to set targets for preparing teachers in high need areas.  Institutions must report on the total number of programs reviewed under SACSCC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) assessment of student learning outcomes criteria within the institution’s assessment cycle in which continuous improvement plans addressing recommended policy and program changes were implemented.  The institution also reports on a specific set of actions with schools or school district administrations with specific goals to improve student achievement, upgrade the knowledge and skills of teachers, or strengthen the leadership skills of school administrators.
  • Institutions accredited by SACSCC must provide evidence that all programs have a clearly-defined assessment system based on rigorous candidate learning outcomes.  The institution shall identify expected outcomes, assess the extent to which it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results in educational, administrative, and support areas.

Since our start as the Normal and Industrial School for Women in 1908, JMU has been instrumental in helping to fulfill the Commonwealth’s growing demand for high quality teachers, administrators, and other school personnel.  We take great pride in upholding the founding mission of our institution, and doing so while holding ourselves accountable for meeting and exceeding the most rigorous state and national standards of professional excellence.  This legacy of excellence and of making a difference in communities throughout our country that our ancestral colleagues forged continues to this day.  Our program completers are in popular demand by education administrators throughout the region, and from their employers they routinely receive high compliments for their preparedness, skill, and dedication.  Each year in the Commonwealth and surrounding region, scores of Madison-prepared educators are recognized by their schools and school divisions as teachers/administrators-of-the-year.

Over the past several years, JMU’s professional education unit has engaged in a years-long state and national accreditation and strategic planning process that focused in large measure on the development and assessment of a vision and set of goals which our professional education unit aspires to exceed.  At the heart of this important exercise in self-reflection and analysis is the conviction that our programs should resonate in a distinctly civil and humane way; that we should dedicate ourselves to advancing a compassionate concept of schooling and of society.  In our educator and leadership preparation programs here at JMU, the belief prevails that American education should concern itself with the processes of acquiring, valuing, and transferring knowledge as well as with matters of conscience—ideas and beliefs that we value most deeply that bind us with other members of the human community and with the earth that sustains us.  It is devotion to these ideals which animates our work here at JMU, not pursuit of select rankings.  This is our professional address: not our zip code, but our professional code; not where we reside, but where we stand.

Phil Wishon, Dean

JMU College of Education