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How well do Minnesota’s education programs prepare students to be teachers? It’s almost impossible to tell

MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Teaching is the single largest profession in the country, and there are huge gaps in how educators are recruited, trained and kept in the classroom.

In 2013, the education programs at Minnesota State University-Moorhead boasted a 100 percent employment rate for its graduates. A big, round number indeed — and only an incremental uptick from 2012 and 2011, when rates were 99 percent and 98 percent, respectively.

That’s a higher rate than the one posted by Harvard Law. It’s higher than the number of Ph.D.s from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that go straight into the workforce and the number of newly minted Carlson School MBAs with job offers.

Enviable or unbelievable? The fact that it’s impossible to say makes the claim a good starting point for a discussion of exactly how hard it is to evaluate outcomes of Minnesota’s teacher-training programs, and to probe whether they are recruiting and training the right teachers.

Teaching is the single largest profession in the country, and there are huge gaps in how educators are recruited, trained and kept in the classroom. A mountain of evidence shows that teacher quality is the single most important in-school contributor to student achievement. Yet there are no publicly available indicators showing which schools of education are training excellent teachers. Or whether those new teachers actually end up in the classroom — or stay there for any meaningful amount of time. 

State surveys show that as recently as 2013, Minnesota colleges were training twice as many teachers in some specialties as there were jobs — and far too few for positions that schools clamor to fill. There's also a gap for potential teachers of color, who make up about 10 percent of the state’s education students but just 4 percent of licensed educators, according to state figures. The diversity of Minnesota's teacher corps has actually fallen slightly in recent years. 

Nationwide, policymakers and leaders of some teacher colleges estimate that half of education students graduate, with further attrition between the diploma and the classroom. Research shows about half of new teachers leave the profession within their first three years, suggesting that far too many candidates are admitted to education schools to begin with, and that many of those who make it to the classroom aren’t prepared enough. Compounding the challenges are tough new standards that teachers are being asked to help students meet. 

A year ago, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would require teacher colleges nationwide to begin compiling report cards containing information of interest to prospective students, such as graduation and employment rates, and helpful to schools and districts, such as data showing how well graduates are prepared to be a classroom teacher of record.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has lobbied hard for the scrapping of the rule, which is due out in coming weeks. And earlier this year, representatives of its local affiliate, the Minnesota Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE), urged lawmakers here not to create a similar state reporting requirement. The desired information, they said both in testimony at the Capitol and interviews with MinnPost, is already readily available in the public domain.

Efforts to collect and share data are resisted 

Armed with that suggestion, MinnPost spent more than six months attempting to compile a basic portrait of the state’s teacher talent pipeline. But even on the cusp of the new rules, we found Minnesota’s public programs continue to resist efforts to collect and share meaningful data.

Indeed, the state’s marquee effort to track outcomes of students from preschool through college and into the work force — the multiyear, multimillion-dollar Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS) — does not track students in teacher-training programs.

And Minnesota’s new teacher evaluation law does not require school districts to report teacher-effectiveness evaluations to the state, so there is no way of determining where the most effective teachers are, much less where they were trained.

And so, for a high school graduate with dreams of working in the classroom, Minnesota State-Moorhead might be a terrific choice. It offers exceptionally reasonable tuition, small teacher-student ratios and streamlined pathways to some of the most in-demand credentials. But there’s no real way to know. 

A long list of caveats

The Moorhead employment rate — supplied by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) — comes with a list of caveats that rivals a university course catalog in terms of length and complexity.

For starters, it’s based on graduates’ voluntary reports that they have obtained “related employment” where they are “using the knowledge and skills from the program/major” or for which “the program/major was a requirement.” Which could include anything from classroom teacher to tutor or child-care provider.

Second, it only includes reports from grads who say they are “available for employment,” a much smaller number. From 2010 to 2013, Moorhead awarded 939 education degrees. Fewer than three-fourths — or 683 — recipients were reported as available for work.

And the number they report as employed is not limited to those graduates who passed state licensing exams, a smaller number still. Just 669 of total graduates passed all three basic skills tests required for licensure at the time.

So does that mean 71 percent of Moorhead grads go on to become licensed classroom teachers? Not necessarily. The numbers include 240 master’s degrees, which do not lead to licensure at Moorhead, as well as certificates that cause some grads to show up in the statistics more than once.

Graduation rate? MnSCU says that’s not a number it can calculate, because it’s not clear when students at different institutions officially begin their education studies. Moorhead’s university-wide four-year graduation rate ranges from 23 percent to 42 percent, depending on the method used to calculate it.

Nor do the numbers jibe with state employment figures, which show that two years after graduation 69 percent of all Minnesota education bachelor’s degree recipients — the point at which an initial teaching credential is often awarded — have jobs in the education sector. Another 10 percent work in social services.

So what are the chances an aspiring teacher can make an informed decision whether a given ed school is the right program to enroll in?

Data roadblocks

An organization that aims to give teachers a voice in policy issues, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) last spring released a report on teacher diversity in Minnesota. After the working group that compiled the report ran into data roadblocks, E4E asked the state Legislature to require higher ed to report how well its students fare in terms of graduation, credentialing and employment.

“Anecdotally, we heard that most teachers were not selecting their training program based on any quality criteria,” says Madaline Edison, the Minnesota group’s founding director. “Not in the same way lawyers or doctors look for the programs that are the highest quality and that give them the best chance to find satisfying work.”

Not only does the lack of data cloud the problems with diversifying the teacher corps, it makes it hard to identify promising practices, she adds.

“It deters our ability to learn from the programs that are really successful,” says Edison. “We don’t know which programs those are.”

Groups seek more reporting

Since then, both E4E and the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership) have released reports that include calls for greater reporting and transparency. (Here is E4E's report, "Accelerating the Learning Curve: Re-envisioning the Teacher Preparation Experience.")

Saying the called-for report cards would spend tax dollars preparing redundant information, MACTE representatives offered three locations where they said the information was already easily accessible. None contain the information the aforementioned groups have asked for.

One was the Educator Preparation Program Application System, the online portal through which programs apply for permission to operate from the state Board of Teaching. Although the site is password protected, some institutions have placed their approval reports on their websites. The content is highly technical and does not describe outcomes.

The second is the national education school group’s Professional Education Data System, which periodically is used to publish reports that contain bird’s eye — and not terribly critical — overviews of teacher prep nationally. A password is required to call up specific information about a program.

The third dataset is the U.S. Department of Education’s Title II clearinghouse, the online source for information collected by federal law. Its contents are extensive, but again not useful for the purposes of evaluating individual program outcomes.

Using the federal database, for example, MinnPost was able to discern that during the last four years of reports, the number of teacher candidates of color enrolled in Minnesota institutions has hovered around 10 percent, while the number of non-white teachers is less than 4 percent.

But because the data only identifies “program completers” — a definition that differs significantly from graduates because some students complete, for example, specialty training but are not in a degree track — it is impossible to use the information to learn what percentage of enrollees finish a program. And because “completers” data is not broken down by race, you can’t tell how many are not white.

The federal data does reveal that over the last five years the number of students enrolled in Minnesota teacher prep programs has dropped by 40 percent, while the number of completers has remained more or less stagnant.

Minnesota teacher education enrollees and completers, 2009–2013

There are a variety of possible explanations, ranging from the end of the last decade’s recession to the high debt, low pay and lack of prestige graduates can expect. And recent headlines have trumpeted a coming teacher shortage here and elsewhere.

But even if a prospective teacher were to crunch the numbers on the federal spreadsheet, they would still need to know to look at a teacher supply and demand report produced every two years by the Minnesota Department of Education to gauge their chances of finding work.

According to the most recent state report, in 2009-2010, Minnesota produced 1,179 elementary teachers yet had openings for only 709. Meanwhile, districts reported persistent shortages of bilingual teachers, special-ed teachers and teachers with math and science specialties.

In early August, MinnPost requested a number of datasets from MnSCU, whose seven publicly funded institutions train the largest number of new Minnesota teachers.

MnSCU said that many of the report card elements we sought, however, are not compiled. To evaluate its outcomes, we were told, the system collects data on licensure test passage and employment rates, information they indicated could be compiled easily.  A representative of MnSCU's teacher training programs inquired why we were seeking the information, repeatedly asking what “angle” a story would take and asserting doubt that the data could be interpreted accurately.

More than five weeks later, after repeated assurances that the data was forthcoming, MinnPost filed a formal request for the promised information under the Data Practices Act.  After more back and forth, we received the number of degrees and certificates granted by institution, the “related employment” numbers and a spreadsheet showing the rates at which MnSCU students pass licensure tests assessing their knowledge of their content areas.

Data didn't include certain passage rates

Missing were passage rates for the tests students most often fail, those assessing basic skills in math, reading and writing. During the 2014 legislative session, the teacher prep community successfully lobbied for the repeal of these tests, which were created by the state Board of Teaching in response to fears that a prior set of assessments was not rigorous enough.

The programs told lawmakers the exams were a barrier to licensing teachers of color, and released pass rates by race. However, MinnPost obtained a portion of the same report that had not been released publicly that showed that at more than half of Minnesota programs fewer than three in four graduates passed the tests on three or more tries.

During the same three-year window we use to report the employment data at the start of this story, at least 10,690 teacher candidates took at least one of the exams and — at most — 8,190 passed all three. Several institutions, including the relatively selective University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, had very high passage rates.

In addition to the sources of data the colleges pointed to in their testimony to lawmakers, several public and private entities track education data. The National Student Clearinghouse, for example, is a commercial service that crunches higher-ed datasets that include student identification numbers for colleges’ internal use.

DEED's numbers

Meanwhile, using student IDs and unemployment records, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has its own numbers regarding outcomes. The department doesn’t compile the numbers by institution, a move its data staff say MnSCU has argued against.

According to DEED, within two years of graduation, 69 percent of students who earned undergraduate credentials in the 2010-2011 academic year (the most recent year for which the entire cycle has been reported) found work in the education sector, also broadly defined. Another 10 percent end up in health care or social services.

The education employment rate increases to 89 percent for holders of graduate credentials.

Median pay for the 2,491 bachelors recipients starts just above $16 an hour and inches up to slightly more than $23 for special-ed teachers. The 3,829 graduate degree earners had median hourly wages ranging from $22 to $37.

A little back-of-the-envelope math suggests that this means those new elementary teachers who find jobs might command a princely average of $33,000 a year to start.

National Council on Teacher Quality efforts

Others have also attempted to assess quality indicators for Minnesota's teacher prep programs. In 2011, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a 15-year-old nonprofit that routinely raises hackles in the teacher prep community by using alternate data sets to produce report cards, asked MnSCU and the University of Minnesota system programs for materials such as course syllabi, which are among the materials the Board of Teaching uses to evaluate candidates for teaching licenses.

Arguing among other things that the materials constituted faculty intellectual property, the public programs refused to provide the information. With the exception of St. Cloud State University, MnSCU held out longer than the U of M schools.

In the fall of 2012, the national group sued in Ramsey County District Court and won. MnSCU appealed and lost. The resulting ratings were ultimately published in US News and World Report in 2013.

Most recently, the organization launched Path to Teach, a searchable database that uses the same information plus tuition rates and other indicators to produce letter grades for 1,100 programs.

A U of M administrator called the council’s first report “grossly incomplete” — which probably still sums up education colleges’ attitudes toward the outside evaluation effort.

MPS reports back to training programs

The National Council on Teacher Quality is not the only entity beginning to trace its own data back to teachers’ training programs. For instance, Minneapolis Public Schools has begun delivering reports to teacher training programs on how well prepared their graduates are during their first three years in the classroom.

The district graphs each program’s grads’ outcomes from student surveys, student “value-added” academic scores and observations performed as part of its teacher evaluation system.

Minneapolis made the data available to MinnPost for the nine programs where it has compiled information on 10 or more new teachers. So far there isn’t enough data to make even crude generalizations about individual training programs’ effectiveness, but with the district hiring several hundred new teachers a year, that will change soon.

And the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation is halfway into a decade-long, $40 million effort to help 14 teacher prep programs in Minnesota and the Dakotas use data to identify and build on strengths. Participating institutions have built a “Common Metrics” platform but phased out an effort to collect “value added” measurements on program graduates.

(Full disclosure: The Bush Foundation supports MinnPost’s education coverage, but plays no role in planning or generating news stories.)

State and federal efforts

Finally, there are the ongoing state and federal efforts to compel further disclosure. The U.S. rules expected in December would go into effect July 1, 2016, and could determine eligibility for federal grants for teacher candidates who plan to work in high-needs schools.

Minnesota’s new law requires the Board of Teaching and the state Board of School Administrators to publish graduation rates, the average length of time it takes a student to graduate, licensure rates and the rates at which grads are hired to teach in their licensure fields in classrooms by June 1.

It can be done, says Sandi Jacobs, senior vice president for state and district policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality. Maryland issues a report every other year that tracks graduates into the work force, for example. Delaware is set to release program report cards, she adds, and Tennessee and Ohio also are making increasing amounts of data available. And some programs publicize their results.

But big gaps remain. There is no national data, Jacobs says, showing where candidates of color leave the pipeline. And there’s a paucity of information about promising teacher training strategies.

“I think teacher preparation programs haven’t really bought into the notion that there is data that can measure how they are doing,” says Jacobs. “If we don’t have good data about who’s going in and who’s coming out, we don’t know if we are targeting our strategies to the roots of the problem.”

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/23/2015 - 11:27 am.

    Self selection

    I’m not sure what the current numbers, but a half dozen years ago when I was on the faculty (Psychology) at MSU Mankato and served on the college curriculum committee, most elementary education students were in the bottom half of their high school graduating classes — many in the bottom quarter.
    Elementary education was the major of last resort.
    This is not surprising given what teachers are paid. We get what we pay for.
    The bottom line is: there are limits on how much you can prepare unprepared students. We won’t see any major change until we change the value our society puts on education.

    • Submitted by Jessica Askew on 10/23/2015 - 02:53 pm.

      I would love to see the data that backs your assertion about elementary ed. majors mostly being from the bottom half or quarter of their graduating classes. This means that MSU Mankato was accepting many kids who must not have had the academic credentials to get in to any other college? I’m a high school teacher, and most of the kids in the “bottom of the class” don’t go on to four year colleges, something that we in K-12 education get roundly criticized for– “every student college-ready” is a mantra these days in the public schools. So which is it? Should all kids go to college or should the bottom of the academic pile be directed into less academic pursuits? You can’t have it both ways.

      • Submitted by Jessica Askew on 10/23/2015 - 03:48 pm.

        Just a minor correction

        I know that data is plural and therefore the sentence should read, “the data that back your assertion.” I’m writing at the end of a long week of teaching 160 high school students every day. My job is complex and exhausting, and my class sizes have consistently been in the upper 30s to low 40s. I’m just so tired of the constant bashing of the profession and the people who are tough enough to do the job.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/23/2015 - 07:14 pm.


        I don’t have hard data, just 45 years on the job.
        And I don’t believe that most MnSCU students are in the upper halves of their high school classes — as I recall most of them were in the second and third quadrilles.
        MSU was functionally an open admission school (technically, students had to be in the upper 2/3 of their graduating classes), but after three years out of college they become ‘nontraditional’ students and all limits were off. A lot of students required either formal remedial math and English, or a lot of informal remediation.
        And I don’t believe that MSU’s admissions requirements were significantly different from other third tier colleges.
        Also, until the technical colleges were split from the public school systems and made part of MnSCU, schools like MSU offered two year (Associate) degrees.
        As for Ed Schools, I remember when I was on the college curriculum committee a Dean of the College of Education asking that Ed majors be excused from meeting MSU’s General Education math requirement.

        On your last point–
        American institutions of higher education have changed over the past few generations.
        After WWII about a tenth of all high school graduates went on to some form of college education; now the percentage of high school graduates getting some form of post secondary education is closer to 90%.
        So the college student population has changed from the elite top 10% to most of the population, and colleges have changed with it. Most college students now attend institutions that did not exist (at least in their present form and size) 50 years ago.
        So maybe we should restrict the use of ‘college’ to elite schools, and coin some other term for mass post secondary education. However, that horse is long out of the barn, and we must live with the fact that ‘college’ has become a category so broad as to be useless without some sort of qualifier.

        Bottom line — most high school students should go on to some form of post secondary education, but not necessarily college in the traditional sense.

        • Submitted by Jessica Askew on 10/24/2015 - 10:15 am.

          I know that because I am a teacher, few readers will be at all interested in what I have to say on the subject, but here I go anyway. I became a full time high school social studies teacher when I was 32 and the mother of a toddler. I have a B.A. in Political Science from Carleton and I did my liscensure through St. Thomas. The only thing that can possibly prepare people to teach is actually teaching. The first years are so incredibly difficult–it’s a very complex and demanding job (much more exhausting and rewarding than my previous stints in the private and government sectors). Great teaching is a magical elixir of mastery of content AND the ability to relate to and connect with students. The reality is that very few adults have these abilities, and it has surprisingly little to do with previous academic success. Other qualities, like warmth, perseverance and empathy are far more critical to great teaching than simply the mastery of content, although having a passion for the subject one teaches goes a long way toward inspiring teenagers to take an interest in it. If we really cared about the quality of our teacher corps, we would make a massive investment in training that put candidates into the classroom immediately, working directly with a mentor, and pay them while they did it, as opposed to the current system that requires student teachers to pay to teach and then offers starting salaries that do not make it possible to live independent and pay off student loan debt.

          • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/25/2015 - 09:45 am.


            …for so nicely summarizing the qualities that make a good teacher. I’ve often referred to it as an art rather than a science, and I still think that’s a characterization that’s not far off the mark. Being able to connect with kids, while not the be-all and end-all of being a teacher, seems to me a crucial, essential, prerequisite, and is at least as important as mastery of one’s subject area.

            I should add, since the purported topic of Beth’s piece is the effectiveness of teacher-training programs, that most of my teacher-prep courses in college (keeping in mind that I was in college during the paleolithic, 1962-1966, and that world is not today’s world, in or out of the classroom) were taught by gray eminences who had not been in an elementary or secondary classroom – as teachers – in decades. Their world was not mine, nor is mine the world of someone just starting in the field in their early 20s now. If they’re anything like the professors of education under whom I trained, many of those purportedly teaching classroom techniques haven’t reviewed their notes since they got their tenured position at Whatever University, and much (not all, but much) of what they have to say may well be irrelevant in the classroom of 2015 and beyond.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/23/2015 - 12:56 pm.

    Teacher prep programs

    Whew! Plenty to think about in this piece, and my teaching preparation and career were in another state, so my experience is unlikely to be totally in line with someone whose preparation and career are/were Minnesota-based. Still, with those caveats in mind:

    Obfuscation (known as self-preservation in some circles) looks like the go-to strategy of various institutions in Minnesota that purport to train teachers. Making data unavailable, or not collecting it at all, is an excellent method for keeping journalists, the general public, and prospective teaching candidates in the dark about the relative merits of teacher prep programs in a specific institution. Informed choices by prospective teaching candidates can’t be made without such data, nor can informed conclusions be drawn by the public when that data simply doesn’t exist.

    This presupposes, however, that prospective teachers make their choices of programs and institutions based primarily on the relative effectiveness of those programs and institutions at creating “good” teachers, and also at positioning those teachers to find employment. I’m somewhat skeptical of that as an overall rule of thumb.

    While I don’t believe my experience was necessarily the norm, I also don’t believe my experience was so far out of the mainstream as to be irrelevant. I became a teacher more or less by accident born of necessity. I had to borrow money to attend college, so my primary criteria for selecting a college was simple and straightforward:


    I borrowed money through a federal government program that no longer exists. That program forgave 10% of the amount borrowed for each year I spent in the classroom, up to a maximum of 5 years or 50% of the debt. I’m not aware of any programs currently that offer that kind of deal to prospective teachers. Especially in recent years, cost seems to me very likely to be – if not the only measure – a primary factor in the choice of college or university that many students make. Not many people will take on, say, $100,000+ in student debt from a private institution for a Bachelor’s degree in education to secure a position that pays just over $30,000 annually. It will take decades, literally, to pay off that debt, and reasonable people will be reluctant to take on that financial burden.

    Many of the economic woes of teaching as a profession fall back on the society. My own bias is that Americans in general do not regard teaching as a genuine “profession” – an attitude that goes back to teaching’s 19th-century roots in this country as a sort of temp job for unmarried women until they found a husband. Except in certain still-fairly-isolated sectors, “pay equity” still doesn’t exist in this country, so, while it grated on my last nerve every year I taught, I understood intellectually that teaching was still regarded by many in the society as a “woman’s job,” not worthy of a level of compensation that would match that of an engineer, biologist, etc. That still seems to me to be the case.

    Another factor is that most other professions employ their practitioners predominantly in the private sector, where customers are not entitled to know what’s regarded as “proprietary” information regarding costs and salaries. Teachers are, for the most part, public employees, whose pay and benefits come from tax dollars that many decades of propaganda have taught us are onerous to pay. If teachers want a raise, they have to convince their school board and district voters to do so, usually through a tax increase. If the engineer or biologist want a raise, the audience they need to persuade is much smaller, perhaps only the head of HR or, if it’s a small company, the CEO.

    Finally – at least for this go-round – I’m inclined to argue that, even with all the data that Minnesota’s various institutions are (perhaps with good reason) reluctant to provide, the article’s title would still be spot-on. Teaching, if done well, is very difficult and challenging work, a factor that sizable numbers of people who’ve never done it simply ignore or dismiss. If we’re looking at “good” teachers, as opposed, say, to “mediocre” or “ineffective” teachers, it’s worth asking how much of the good teacher’s classroom effectiveness is due specifically to her/his institutional teacher training, and how much is due to personality and intellectual background – things over which a college or university may have only limited influence.

    The fact that these and other related questions are still without widely-accepted answers more than 150 years after public schools appeared on our cultural scene suggests to me that those answers are difficult to find. Not everything connected with what’s effective in teacher preparation and/or performance can be quantified, but it seems equally true to me that implementing a coherent policy to develop the kinds of teachers we all wanted as kids, and that we want our own kids to have, requires hard data as a minimum starting point.

  3. Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 10/23/2015 - 01:34 pm.

    Elementary or Secondary History

    When I graduated, with honors, in secondary education I could have taught history, political science, sociology, psychology anthropology and other social science classes. I triple majored. To get a secondary education degree I had to met all the requirements of a BA, plus the additional education courses. I really wanted to teach. Sadly, every single open position I saw, in a multi-state search, required football coaching! I’d still love to teach, but 30 years later I can’t manage the massive pay cut.

    Anyway, when I was in college it was history that was the last resort major for guys who wanted to coach football.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/24/2015 - 06:32 pm.

      At Michigan

      it was a Geology course referred to as
      ‘Rocks for Jocks’.

      More seriously, I always had problems with the fact that one could be licensed to teach high school ‘psychology’ courses on the basis of having taken one or two courses in Psychology. That is not adequate, and I doubt that it’s any better in the other social sciences. We have people teaching a subject matter with far less background than that required of a minor in the field.

      • Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 10/28/2015 - 04:44 pm.


        I had to take more than one or two classes for my major in broad-field social studies. I finished college with way over the minimum credits to graduate since I was triple majoring and in secondary education. I did have enough credits to minor in some of the subjects I could potentially teach, I just wasn’t allowed to have any “minors” with 3 majors. Most high schools are too small to have full-time teachers in psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography and so on. It is also a degree that would allow you to teach fusion courses, like current events and such.

        I just looked up the requirements for Wisconsin, where I went to school. I would be grandfathered in, but new graduates can only teach fusion courses and can never teach AP or IB courses with the broadfield license.

        I always found my requirements in the early 80s to be rather “more” than what you see today. I went to UW-Eau Claire and all the UW schools except Madison and Milwaukee were long time “teacher colleges.” I had to take way more classes than are required today in Minnesota to get a secondary education degree.

  4. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 10/23/2015 - 05:36 pm.

    Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

    Those from college education departments are very fond of criticizing the performance of students who come out of the Teach for America model – generally top students from top schools who complete college and are teaching in their major area of study, where they have had very strong grades for classroom performance. As TFA is getting more and more selective, given the interest of student in giving back in this way, including providing more preparation, college education programs resist evaluation. How interesting?

    Apparently, they are not getting its own students through to graduation, not preparing them in high demand majors, not attracting diverse students and counting as “success stories” those who don’t actually end up in teaching jobs. On top of that, many people who go through these programs opt out of teaching in the first 1-3 years, wasting all the special preparation they have received (they criticism TFA for this same thing, although TFA is a two year program after which teachers either stay in the profession or move on,.

    A TFA teacher has an easy time finding alternative employment, because their degree from a high prestige college or university as well as their high grades prepares them well for post graduate education as a lawyer, healthcare provider, or business manager. Even if they take on more debt, they pay it off – and employers are impressed with those who made the TFA commitment to teach in underresourced schools.

    Maybe those education departments should stop with the criticism of TFA and other alternative licensing process and go about clean up their own acts. How can public education succeed if the way we prepare teachers isn’t working.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/24/2015 - 09:43 am.

    A note on graduation percentages

    In traditional elite schools, most students entered intending to (and financed to) study full time and graduate in four years.
    In public state universities, on the other hand, many students work their way through and study part time, so four year graduation numbers are a lot less meaningful.
    In addition, many students who are already employed take specific courses related to their jobs (often encouraged and financed by their employers), with no intention of completing a degree. I remember teaching a behavior management course at the 3M plant in New Ulm under those circumstances. They were good students, but saw no need for a degree. Admittedly things may be different now, but I don’t think that we can assume that graduation rate is a measure of a college’s success.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Carlson on 10/23/2015 - 10:29 pm.

    Still grieving your loss

    Beth, I really wonder who will write these important in-depth articles when you move to Chicago.

    This is really becoming a critical issue as Minnesota gets more diverse (and poorer) and the stakes to become the World’s Best Work Force just get higher and higher.

    I would love to see some sort of apprenticeship program in the education field, the forgiveness of college loans for teachers, and a comprehensive effort to get teachers of color into our schools.

    With students of color now making up one-third of our student body and our teachers of color still numbering below 5% I fear our efforts at closing the achievement gap will not be realized.

    Beth, please keep your eye on the educational system back here in Minnesota and throw an occasional crumb our way. Thanks for making this important issue public – despite the attempts of others to not make it easy for you to do.

  7. Submitted by Michael Hess on 10/26/2015 - 10:36 am.

    Lots to digest

    Lots of interesting perspective here both on the data and the attitudes of the data. For me it reinforces the absurdity of the current debate around out of state teaching issues. When people promote ways to get qualifies teachers who were taught out of state into Minnesota and licensed, a shrill faction from the sidelines rises and with cries of “quality! quality!” tries to defend the Minnesota system no matter how archaic or indefensible it may be. It becomes a black or white issue – you either care about the quality of your child’s teacher in which case you want every hurdle possible to keep out of state teachers from getting licensed here, or you don’t care about quality at all and would be happy with high school dropouts educating your kids.

    Maybe, just maybe, the Minnesota education system produces talented and committed teachers like those who commented on this article above, but they would have been just as talented and committed had they been educated in a different state!

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/26/2015 - 11:05 am.

    Just a note

    Data is not the plural of anecdote.

  9. Submitted by Clete Erickson on 10/26/2015 - 01:29 pm.


    “Research shows about half of new teachers leave the profession within their first three years, suggesting that far too many candidates are admitted to education schools to begin with, and that many of those who make it to the classroom aren’t prepared enough. Compounding the challenges are tough new standards that teachers are being asked to help students meet.”

    Being an entry level teacher is just not a great job; so much to learn on the business of education let along dealing with students and parents during those first few years. .

    The stress level is just so high it is easier to move on to a different occupation. I think the biggest reason teachers leave is they figure out teaching is not what they expected and they are still young enough to find something else to do. .

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/28/2015 - 11:21 am.


    When I went to University back in the early 80s, it was well known that if the majors with the least academic rigor were the social sciences and education. Now that doesn’t smart and capable people don’t pursue those majors, but it may mean that people looking for easier academic land there.

    The education thing has always been kind of goofy. Back in the 80s I knew several education-elementary ed majors who claimed they were going to step into jobs because of the baby-boom. I always said: “What baby boom? The baby boom is over?” None of the education majors I knew ended up teaching, for one thing, there really wasn’t a baby -boom happening. Whatever.

    Now it’s nice to talk about “connecting” with students but that can be a necessary but insufficient quality or skill. You need to understand subject matter in order to teach it well and that’s where some testing might be required. The problem with education is in addition to learning the subject matter would-be teachers need to know how to “teach” the subject matter and that a whole different animal. Not only that, but when you teachers who know the subject and how to teach it, if you plug them into a dysfunctional school system the talent can diluted or even irrelevant.

    The problem is we here in America still haven’t decided what our education system actually is, so it’s dysfunctional. You can’t deal with instruction problems until you decide what you want to teach and we in curriculum battles all over the country.

    Ideally you could recruit math, science, psychology, English, etc. majors into the teaching profession. Education itself could be a minor for instance, and those seeking teaching professions would be required to pass a licensing exam. You could tailor the license to the subject matter maybe.

    The problem is that people majoring in these other subjects aren’t looking for entry level jobs that start at $30k a year and require ten hour days. The job security and benefits that used to be attractive are constantly under attack, and people in these majors are smart enough to know that the education system is dysfunctional… so why seek a profession there?

    Essentially if you want to recruit talented people you have to square the education system and get behind it as a community. Then you have to pay teachers attractive salaries.

    • Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 10/28/2015 - 04:51 pm.


      “When I went to University back in the early 80s, it was well known that if the majors with the least academic rigor were the social sciences and education.”

      Funny, as a history, political science and secondary education major I always saw the business and PE students as the lightweights 😉 They never had to write a single paper or research a single topic to graduate. Just a bunch of true false and multiple guess tests to pass!

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/29/2015 - 09:16 am.

        It might be funny

        But he’s got a point. Even if the best and the brightest were attracted to education as a major, why would they major in it when the teaching profession is so hard and pays so little? Especially since teachers are the equivalent of the Anti-Christ in some (influential) peoples’ eyes. At this point in time, the only reason we have good teachers is that the unions manage to make sure there are SOME benefits (of course, that comes at the price of keeping bad teachers). But, at some point, it will be pure luck if kids ever see a good teacher because the unions appear to be not long for this world if the Republicans have any say…and quite frankly the Democrats, too, if the unions don’t also figure out how to concede that we live in a new world.

        All this boils down to the results of a system that doesn’t value teachers. Even if the teaching colleges were transparent with the outcomes of their programs, it might not reflect the quality of the college, but the quality of their trainees. It might be impossible to evaluate the quality without taking into account lots of other factors, which rely on lots of other data sources, which might further make it impossible to calculate true outcomes. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of super smart and talented teacher candidates, but I also suspect that there are lots of not so smart and/or not so talented teacher candidates that would bring down the average. And how do you factor in that hardships to new teachers are probably not limited to poor teachers? I’m no dummy (though I couldn’t claim any talent for teaching), but if I had to deal with low pay, low respect, and long hours, I’d find something else to pay the bills no matter how good I was at it.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/30/2015 - 08:25 am.


          Actually I do not know anyone who sees Teachers as the anti-Christ. However I do know many who see the Public Education system as a significant problem, especially for the unlucky kids who need the best Teachers they can get.

          As we have read and discussed here over and over. The Union / Bureaucrat supported programs:
          – allows highest paid Teachers to avoid schools with the most unlucky kids
          – distribute wages and benefits based on years/degrees instead of responsibility level, performance, difficulty of position, etc
          – delay wage increases and job security for young energetic gifted teachers
          – sustain the high wages even if an older Teacher begins to burn out
          – works hard to delay allowing new Teachers in from out of State

          I mean why would a young gifted hard working person ever become a Teacher? I mean no matter how hard you are willing to work for the kids who need you, you are paid according to some steps/lanes based schedule and you have little job security for at least 3 years. And you may spend years working for half the pay of a low energy Teacher in the next classroom just because they have been there for 15 years.

          I will never understand how caring Liberals are continually willing to sacrifice the unlucky poverty stricken kids so that older Teachers make more whether they are worth it or not.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/29/2015 - 10:47 am.


        I obviously wasn’t an English major eh? My comment is missing a lot of words, sorry for that. I’d go back and edit it but I’m afraid that might wipe out the responses.

        I was a psych major by the way.

        I’m pretty sure the poli-sci and history majors at the U of M had to write some papers, especially the history students, but I see your point.

        I’m actually not trying to disparage anyone’s major, I’m just noting that some require more rigor than others on the four year level. We teach almost all of these subjects in the public schools so it makes sense to me that we’d recruit majors from these subjects to teach those subjects. I wonder if our notion of elementary teachers that teach everything isn’t problematic? Perhaps once we get past a certain grade level and introductory instruction we should break out into classes taught by specialists?

        The other thing we have to decide is what education actually is? In my opinion the function of public education isn’t to teach students WHAT to think but rather HOW to think, it’s about training intellects rather than memorizing facts. Obviously kids need some basic skills but in order to build intellect but do we want generalists or specialists teaching those skills?

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/30/2015 - 09:29 am.

    Don’t get me wrong…

    I don’t think our educational system is a complete disaster. by and large I think our public education system is doing well. When I describe it as “dysfunctional” I’m referring to the persistent problems i.e. the various gaps. And I do think we need to make critical thinking a concrete curriculum objective rather than assume students will acquire it as a matter of course.

    Furthermore, when we talk about measuring qualifications we shouldn’t omit the the fact that the same problem seems to afflict superintendents, school boards, and principles.

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