In the recent release of the 2016 Teacher Preparation Report Card, Union University was one of only three universities in all of Tennessee to score a four out of a possible four in teacher effectiveness, a prestigious accomplishment and honor for the program.
Since 2015, the State Board of Education, along with the Department of Education, has been held responsible for the issuance of the Teacher Preparation Report Card. This public report is released annually, and it provides consumer-friendly information regarding the effectiveness of teacher training programs in terms of the state’s educator preparation providers and their program completers.
“From this, we really see just how much we are under public microscope,” assistant dean for teacher education and accreditation Dottie Myatt, Ph.D., said. “Because our school sends so many program completers into the public school system to teach, Union University is closely considered in this 2016 Teacher Preparation Report Card.”
The 2016 Report Card details data from two cohorts of program completers. The first cohort includes those who completed the program between September 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014. The second cohort encompasses those who completed the program and were then candidates enrolled in a job embedded preparation program between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015. Additionally, three cohorts of data were used—candidate profile, employment and provider impact. Providers receive a score from one to four for each category and an overall performance score from one to four. Union was only one of three universities in the state of Tennessee to receive a four.
In domain one, candidate profile specifies three subcategories of data collected. The first metric is the percentage of program completers, or graduates, with an ACT score of at least 21. The next metric is the percentage of racially and ethnically diverse completers.
“We need more minority teachers in our school systems,” said Myatt. “Diversity among teachers needs to match the diversity already present among the students for the most excellent education. The research shows all that.”
The third metric here is percentage of high demand endorsements. These high demand endorsements refer to program completers with a specialization within education that is greatly needed and highly recommended. Some of these high demand areas include math, sciences, special education and ESL.
In the employment domain, there are two subcategories—first year placement rate and beyond year one retention rate.
“As of now, the report card only details first year placement rate within the state of Tennessee, which doesn’t give us all the information we’d like,” said Myatt. “Union University brings in so many students from out-of-state, who then move back out of Tennessee to teach after graduation, so we don’t have data for any of them. Over the next few years, I think we can expect to see an adjustment in this metric that would allow us to collect data from our program completers who start teaching outside of Tennessee.”
In the final domain, provider impact, the four subcategories look at the breakdown of observation scores and TVAAS scores, both given on a scale from one to five, five being the highest. Observation scores are from in-class evaluations of a teacher’s effectiveness, judged by the principal. The TVAAS score is a gain score, which measures teacher effectiveness through student benchmark score improvement from a test administered at the beginning and end of the school year.
“This is the sweet spot,” said Myatt. “GPA and ACT scores are good. Employment rate and retention rate are good. But are our students going out and teaching well so that students learn well? That’s the question we must ask ourselves as a program. This is most important.”
It should be noted that the excitement for this recognition is not limited to just the faculty of the school of education. This report card not only directly impacts currently enrolled students in their classwork now but also in their future careers.
“I love knowing that I can approach my professors at any time and know that they really do care about pushing me to pursue excellence,” freshman education major Ali Butler said. “They genuinely want to make an impact on my life and help mold me into a person, teacher, and Christian that looks more like Jesus. I am humbled to be in this program and excited to know that my education at Union is going to propel me into a lifetime of serving the Lord as the best teacher I can be.”
In recent years, the Union University School of Education has shifted to a yearlong internship program as opposed to a student-teaching program that only lasts half of a year. According to Dr. Myatt, students are better prepared this way. Rather than randomly assigning students in the program to any classroom at any school, the focus is intentional mentorship. Thus, principals from local schools submit applications from highly effective teachers, primarily scoring four or five in observations and TVAAS. These applicants then interview before a panel of Union University faculty, who then seek to find the best fit for each student.
“We pray over every student, and we pray over every applicant because we know only the Lord knows what’s best and who needs to go where,” said Myatt. “We surrender it to him and ask him to guide us. That’s what’s key. Our students are with the very best, seeing firsthand excellence and effectiveness in the classroom modeled for them. And they see that from the professional development days they attend with their mentor teacher in July all the way through the end of the year in May. This internship program is the best thing Union University’s School of Education has done to improve our program in the 23 years I’ve been here. And this 2016 report card includes program completers who came before the internship was implemented, so I expect to see our results in the coming years to only improve now that we have shifted to a heavy focus on mentoring our students. It’s exciting to think about all that’s ahead for the School of Education. We are so blessed.”