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Teacher Preparation and Professional Development: 2000
NCES: 2001088
June 2001

Executive Summary

Concerns about the quality of the nation's public education system have increased attention to key elements of teacher effectiveness within recent years (Darling-Hammond 2000; Lewis et al. 1999; Mayer, Mullens, and Moore 2001; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future 1996). While there is little consensus on what constitutes high-quality teachers, past research has emphasized two broad dimensions of teacher effectiveness: (1) the level of knowledge and skills that teachers bring to the classroom, as measured by teacher preparation and qualifications, and (2) classroom practices. In 1998, NCES conducted a survey through its Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) to provide a national profile on the first dimension of teacher quality-teacher preparation and qualifications (Lewis et al. 1999).

In 2000, NCES conducted a second FRSS survey to revisit the issue of teacher preparation and qualifications and measure change since 1998. The sample for the 2000 survey consisted of 5,253 full- and part-time teachers in regular elementary, middle, and high schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey repeated some of the indicators of teacher quality examined in the 1998 survey, in addition to exploring issues such as follow up to professional development. Specifically, this survey provides a national profile on (1) teacher education, (2) teacher participation in formal professional development and collaborative activities related to teaching, and (3) teachers' feelings of preparedness for various classroom demands. This report summarizes key findings from the 2000 survey and also makes comparisons with the 1998 data.


Key Findings

Teacher Education

One measure of teacher education is the type of degree held, including advanced degrees. Findings from the 2000 survey indicate that:

  • Virtually all public school teachers had a bachelor's degree, and 45 percent held a master's degree (table 1). One percent held either a doctorate or some other degree, and 18 percent reported having other certificates.
  • Newer teachers were less likely than more experienced teachers to report having a master's degree, ranging from 20 percent of teachers with 3 or fewer years of teaching experience to 54 percent of teachers with 10 or more years of teaching experience (table 1).



Teacher Professional Development

Formal professional development and collaboration with other teachers are key mechanisms for providing teachers with ongoing training opportunities (Henke, Chen, and Geis 2000; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future 1996; Sprinthall, Reiman, and Theis-Sprinthall 1996).

Formal professional development as commonly practiced, typically consisting of school and district staff development programs, however, has been criticized for being short term and lacking in continuity and adequate follow up (Fullan with Stiegelbauer 1991; Lewis et al. 1999; Mullens et al. 1996). Results of the 2000 survey indicate that during the 12 months preceding the survey:

  • Public school teachers were most likely to have participated in professional development that focused on state or district curriculum and performance standards (80 percent; table 2). More than one-half participated in professional development programs focused on the integration of educational technology into the grade or subject taught (74 percent), in-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment (72 percent), implementing new methods of teaching (72 percent), and student performance assessment (62 percent). Teachers were less likely to have participated in professional development that focused on addressing the needs of students with disabilities (49 percent), encouraging parent and community involvement (46 percent), classroom management, including student discipline (45 percent), and addressing the needs of students from diverse cultural backgrounds (41 percent). The professional development area in which teachers were least likely to participate was addressing the needs of students with limited English proficiency (26 percent).1
  • For all but one content area of professional development, teachers typically reported that they had spent 1 to 8 hours or the equivalent of 1 day or less on the activity during the 12 months preceding the survey (table 2). In-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment was the only area of professional development in which participation typically lasted more than 8 hours.
  • The number of hours teachers spent in professional development activities was related to the extent to which they believed that participation improved their teaching (table 6). For every content area examined in the survey, teachers who participated for more than 8 hours were more likely than those who spent 1 to 8 hours to report that participation improved their teaching a lot.


Teacher Collaboration

Collaboration with other teachers may revolve around joint work (e.g., team teaching and mentoring) and teacher networks (e.g., school-to-school and school-university partnerships). The 2000 survey findings indicate that:

  • The most frequently attended collaborative activity among public school teachers was collaboration with other teachers (69 percent; table 8). This activity was followed by networking with teachers outside their school (62 percent), a common planning period for team teachers (53 percent), and individual or collaborative research on a topic of professional interest (52 percent). Teachers were least likely to mentor another teacher in a formal relationship (26 percent) or to be mentored by another teacher (23 percent).
  • Frequency of participation in a collaborative activity was generally positively related to teachers' beliefs about the extent to which the activity improved their classroom teaching (table 10). For example, teachers who engaged in regularly scheduled collaboration with other teachers at least once a week were more likely to believe that participation had improved their teaching a lot (45 percent), compared with teachers who participated two to three times a month (23 percent), once a month (15 percent), or a few times a year (7 percent).

Teachers' Feelings of Preparedness

Teachers in the 2000 survey reported the extent to which they felt prepared for the overall demands of their teaching assignments and for eight specific classroom activities. The survey data indicate that:

  • Sixty-one percent of public school teachers felt very well prepared to meet the overall demands of their teaching assignments (table 11). Thirty-five percent felt moderately well prepared, and 4 percent felt somewhat well prepared.
     
  • Teachers most often reported feeling very well prepared to maintain order and discipline in the classroom (71 percent; table 11). They were less likely to report feeling very well prepared to implement new methods of teaching (45 percent), implement state or district curriculum (44 percent), use student performance assessment (37 percent), address the needs of students from diverse cultural backgrounds (32 percent), and integrate educational technology into the grade or subject taught (27 percent).
     
  • Among teachers who taught students with special needs, relatively few felt very well prepared to address those students' needs (table 11). Twenty-seven percent of teachers indicated that they felt very well prepared to address the needs of students with limited English proficiency, and 32 percent of the teachers who taught students with disabilities felt very well prepared to address those students' needs.
     
  • The extent to which teachers felt very well prepared for most classroom activities varied with the amount of time spent in recent professional development in those activities (table 13). With two exceptions (classroom management and state or district curriculum and performance standards), teachers who spent over 8 hours in professional development on the activity were more likely than those who spent 1 to 8 hours or those who did not participate at all to indicate that they felt very well prepared for that activity.
     
  • For three collaborative activities related to teaching-regularly scheduled collaboration with other teachers, networking with teachers outside the school, and mentoring another teacher in a formal relationship-teachers who participated in the activity were more likely than those who did not participate to report feeling very well prepared for the overall demands of their classroom assignments (table 15).

Selected Comparisons With the 1998 Survey

The 2000 survey was designed to provide trend data that would allow an examination of change since 1998 along two key dimensions-teacher participation in professional development and collaborative activities, and teachers' feelings of preparedness. For these analyses, a subset of teachers was selected from the 2000 survey that was similar to the teachers sampled for the 1998 survey-that is, regular full-time public school teachers in grades 1 through 12 whose main teaching assignment was in English, mathematics, social studies, foreign languages, or science, or who taught in a self-contained classroom. Findings from the 1998 and 2000 surveys indicate that:

  • The proportion of regular full-time teachers indicating that they participated in professional development was lower in 2000 than in 1998 for three of the seven content areas that were comparable across years-new methods of teaching (73 versus 77 percent), student performance assessment (62 versus 67 percent), and classroom management, including student discipline (43 versus 49 percent; table 16).
  • In 1998 and 2000, participation of regular full-time public school teachers in professional development was likely to be short term, typically lasting for 1 to 8 hours (table 16). This pattern held for every content area of professional development examined in the surveys except for programs on in-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment, where participation typically lasted more than 8 hours.
  • In 1998 and 2000, regular full-time public school teachers most often reported that they felt very well prepared to maintain order and discipline in the classroom (71 and 72 percent, respectively; table 18). In both years, teachers were least likely to report feeling very well prepared to integrate educational technology into the grade or subject taught (20 and 27 percent, respectively) and address the needs of students with disabilities (21 and 29 percent, respectively).
  • For all but one classroom activity examined in the surveys, regular full-time public school teachers in 2000 were more likely than those in 1998 to report that they felt very well prepared (table 18). The exception was maintaining order and discipline in the classroom.


1The estimate for teacher participation in professional development on addressing the needs of students with limited English proficiency was based on all public teachers rather than teachers who taught students with those needs.

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