Imagine if a higher education institution, to maintain its accreditation, had to measure the performance of its graduates during their first three years in the workforce. How would the institution do this? Would it try to find where its students work? If so, what would be the best source of feedback? Supervisors? Job performance ratings? If finding employers proved too difficult, would case studies or surveys of graduates suffice?

Today, the teaching profession is grappling with these very questions. To maintain their accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), educator preparation providers (EPPs) must demonstrate the effectiveness of their graduates by linking student outcomes data, teacher performance data, and the preparation program in a continuous improvement feedback loop (Figure 1). To achieve this, each EPP must develop its own tracking methods to both follow graduates into the workplace and objectively assess their effectiveness in improving P-12 students’ academic outcomes—a task that is easier said than done.

Feedback Loop Connecting StudentAchievement to Educator Preparation
Figure 1

The Challenge

Why is this a challenge? To start this feedback loop, institutions would need a way to link teachers to EPPs so that they could establish which graduates are teaching which P-12 students (Step B). At first glance, this seems as if it would be straightforward. Both EPPs and P-12 systems collect data—teacher social security numbers, for example—that could be used to establish this link. Given how P-12 systems collect student data, however, this is not straightforward at all. For example, many systems store social security numbers in one system (licensure data systems) and teacher-student associations in another (district student information systems).

In addition, much of the current work around teacher-student data links (TSDL), while helpful for matching student performance to classroom teachers, does not always include identifier data to link those teachers to EPPs. As a result, despite significant investments in statewide longitudinal databases (SLDS), less than half of states are prepared to provide EPPs with even a portion of the program impact data CAEP seeks. (Notably, just a few weeks ago CAEP provided guidance to EPPs in states that provide limited data.)

Tackling the Challenge in Rhode Island

We recently talked with representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to learn more about its efforts to overcome the challenge of linking teachers to EPPs. To link its data, RIDE devoted a great deal of time and effort to leverage its licensing database, which contains both social security numbers and license identification numbers, as a crosswalk between EPPs and local P-12 systems. This allowed RIDE to create an EPP-teacher-student link, connecting EPP data with P-12 systems and identifying which EPP graduates are working in which schools.

This link also enabled RIDE to work with its EPPs to provide a rich set of data they can use to view their teachers’ performance and outcomes, made available through a public-facing index. RIDE also continues to work with its EPPs to determine what other data should be collected to allow EPPs to develop a complete view of its teachers’ credentialing, current location, and placements.

Our Suggestion

Given our research into this topic, we believe that other states can learn from the efforts of Rhode Island and others. We propose that states take the following steps:

  • Involve state licensing databases to establish crosswalks between EPP data and P-12 data. While there has been a great deal of understandable focus on the validity of student performance to determine the accreditation of EPPs, there still needs to be an effective way to connect this student performance to EPPs through a EPP-teacher-student link. We suggest states follow the lead of Rhode Island and undertake the hard work to establish these links by leveraging their existing licensing databases.
  • Invite EPPs to the data table. In reality, following and assessing graduates requires a system larger than an individual EPP. While measures of EPP effectiveness are open to debate, developing a system that enables EPPs to work with state departments of education will more readily facilitate the feedback loop and accountability measures required by CAEP and federal regulations. The federal Department of Education has funded state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) to help with these efforts, but EPPs in most states still are not part of these systems. CAEP, too, recognizes the need for state support and encourages states to share data with EPPs. Still, without state cooperation, the work is difficult.

Are you aware of other states tackling this challenge? If so, we want to hear from you! Continue this conversation in the comments section below or by contacting Eduventures analysts Karen Svarczkopf or James Wiley, the authors of this Wake-Up Call.