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NEPC Review: Fast Start: Training Better Teachers Faster, with Focus, Practice and Feedback and Time to Improve: How Federal Policy Can Promote Better Prepared Teachers and School Leaders

This review addresses two different proposals for reforming teacher training, neither of which is grounded in research. Further, neither provides useful evidence that the proposed programs have been, or promise to be, effective. TNTP’s Fast Start initiative essentially replaces teacher preparation with a five-week pre-service program followed by a closely monitored internship. As proof that compressing teacher preparation into basic survival training is effective, the authors report three weak correlations between the performance of program participants and TNTP’s certification evaluation rubric. The report concludes with three self-evident aphorisms: practice improves teaching, teachers who master teaching skills do better, and inadequate performers should be weeded out. Unfortunately, the TNTP report fails to show its policy prescription is effective or superior to other approaches. New America Foundation’s Time to Improve proposes a federal regulatory approach, rating teacher preparation programs based primarily on the k-12 test scores of the pupils their graduates go on to teach. It doesn’t address why policymakers should favor extending the use of high-stakes student test scores to teacher preparation programs in light of the long string of uncontrolled intervening factors that invalidate this approach. In light of these weaknesses, neither proposal provides useful guidance for teacher preparation policy.

Documents Reviewed:

Time to Improve: How Federal Policy Can Promote Better Prepared Teachers and School Leaders

Melissa Tooley and Laura Bornfruend
New America Education Policy Program, New America Foundation