UPDATED: Will future teachers make the cut?

This post was originally published on May 24, 2016.

Recent efforts to transform the teacher workforce have included a focus on increasing the selectivity for entry into teacher preparation programs. While this approach to improving P-12 student outcomes may be good for the teaching profession in the long run, increasing selectivity in a field that is currently struggling to recruit candidates will likely decrease the number of admitted students in many teacher preparation programs. In the short-term, these efforts will have consequences for both preparation programs and the school districts they serve.

Standard 3.2 of the Council for Educator Preparation (CAEP)’s new standards explicitly defines admissions requirements in two ways:

  1. A provider must ensure “that the average grade point average of its accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds the CAEP minimum of 3.0.”
  2. A provider must ensure that “the group average performance on nationally normed ability/ achievement assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE is in the top 50 percent from 2016-2017,” the top 40% in 2017-2018, and the top 33% by 2020.

Just over half (51%) of more than 2,100 teacher preparation providers in the United States are CAEP accredited, and these providers enroll about 65% of all teacher preparation candidates. To get a better sense of how CAEP’s selectivity standards might impact the teacher preparation market, we examined current GPA standards across providers and the potential effect of the nationally normed achievement test requirement on the field.

According to Title II data, most programs have a median entry GPA at or above 3.0. While the CAEP standard requires a minimum mean of 3.0 (not a median), most schools’ reported median is most likely lower than their mean, as those reporting GPAs have a minimum acceptable threshold of 2.0 or above. Despite the fact that many programs have minimum entry requirements below 3.0, most teacher preparation programs will not be dramatically affected by the average GPA requirement in the CAEP standard.

Programs with accepted cohort medianGPA at or above 3.0
Source: Title II, HEA, 2015; CAEP, 2015.

When it comes to test scores and meeting the second requirement of CAEP Standard 3.2, however, it’s more complicated. Again, the CAEP standard requires an average cohort score in the top 50% in 2016-17, the top 40% in 2017-2018, and the top 33% by 2020. This standard will affect many institutions as they work to increase the overall academic ability of their candidate pool or implement a CAEP-approved alternative.

Assuming all schools were able and willing to use the ACT or SAT as a requirement, let’s look at the scores for these tests. According to the College Board’s 2014 Total Group Profile Report for the SAT, 4% of test takers intend to major in education. Among these students, the average combined reading and math score is 964, just below the 50th percentile. Intended education majors score lower than students interested in the seven other more popular majors and lower than undecided students.

Results from over 18,000 students in Eduventures’ 2016 Prospective Student Surveymirror this data; 4% of respondents expressed an interest in studying education. In the survey, we asked students to provide their SAT or ACT scores, and, because this disclosure was optional, reported scores are skewed towards the top third. Although 60% of those reported scores are in the top third, this bias applies equally across all majors.

In our results, only 3% of students are both interested in education and high-scoring. This is far less than other more popular majors that have similar educational requirements. For example, health programs have three times the level of interest and twice as many students scoring in the top third as education. With so few high-scoring students interested in education, complying with the CAEP standard would dramatically limit the pool of qualified applicants and force teacher preparation programs to compete for enrollments.

Student Interest and SAT or ACT Scores by Intended Major
Source: Eduventures, Prospective Student Survey, 2016.

What does this mean for teacher preparation programs?

The new CAEP standard will certainly require admissions standards to change, but what will the consequences of these changes be? The current pool of interested students may not have high enough scores to enter a teacher preparation program under these requirements. If they want to refute the CAEP requirements’ underlying logic, the onus will be on teacher preparation programs to collect data on lower achieving admitted students to demonstrate their success in the program and positive impact on P-12 student outcomes.

Teacher preparation programs may find that recruiting high-achieving students will be easier in some teaching fields than in others. Students interested in certain types of education roles tended to have higher or lower standardized test scores. For example, those interested in becoming high school teachers were far more likely to score in the top 33% than those interested in teaching elementary school. This likelihood will especially benefit alternative preparation programs that have had success attracting high school educators.

Should the standard be adjusted?

Ultimately, CAEP Standard 3 is an attempt to transform the teacher workforce through requirements. Standard 3.2 seeks to increase the academic abilities of prospective teachers. In the abstract, it’s a goal worth pursuing. Who doesn’t want the smartest teacher possible working with their child? On a more practical level, increasing entry requirements means smaller pools of prospective students and higher recruitment costs for both teacher preparation programs and school districts.

The average cohort GPA requirement will likely impact no more than 14% of programs, which seems reasonable. It moves the needle on teacher candidates’ academic ability while acknowledging the lack of incentives to enter the teaching profession. The nationally normed test requirement, however, will impact nearly every provider. Concurrent efforts to meet local district hiring needs and satisfy requirements to diversify the teacher workforce also present unintentional barriers to meeting the 3.2 requirements.

This challenging standard has caused a stir among teacher preparation programs, and CAEP is now re-evaluating its requirements. It has commissioned further research and plans to discuss Standard 3.2 during its May board meeting. We strongly suggest that the nationally normed achievement test requirement be revised so that its projected impact mirrors that of the GPA requirement, impacting between 10-15% of providers. If it remains the same, we anticipate that CAEP’s membership will decline as programs reject this requirement.

UPDATE Jun 22, 2016:

The CAEP June board meeting has come and gone, and the official decision is in line with our recommendation above. You can see the updated standard right here.

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Never Miss Your Wake-Up Call


Learn more about our team of expert research analysts here.