Teachers in New York City enter teaching through a variety of pathways, including both more traditional and alternate routes. Even within these pathways, teachers can receive quite different preparation opportunities, with this variation existing both between and within institutions of higher education (Boyd et. al.., 2008a). Do these differences in the experiences of teachers in teacher preparation programs affect the achievement of the students taught by program graduates? If so, are there aspects of programs that are associated with greater improvements in student achievement? We explore these questions employing a unique database on teachers, their preparation, and the students they teach. We combine administrative data on individual teachers and students in New York City with detailed information about the components of teacher preparation programs as identified by an analysis of over 30 programs and a survey of all first-year teachers in New York City. Taken together, these data allow us to explore how the preparation of teachers who staff a large, diverse, urban school district influences student achievement.
A large extant research literature on teacher preparation provides some useful information with which to evaluate effective preparation practices.1 However, much of the research is limited in scope, focuses on inputs to the preparation process rather than outcomes, uses data that are only loosely connected to the concepts being examined, or employs case-study methodologies from which it is difficult to determine causal relationships or generalize to other populations. As a result, there is still much to learn about effective preparation practices. In their review of the literature, Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy (2001) propose four research elements that would allow future research to address important gaps in our knowledge regarding teacher preparation.
• Studies should compare practices across institutions as a way of identifying effective practice.
• Studies should examine the relationship between specific components of teacher preparation programs and specific outcomes, such as student achievement.
• Research should include measures that are sensitive to program content and quality.
• Research should have a longitudinal component and examine impacts over time.
This study addresses each of these suggestions. First, we employ a detailed analysis of 31 elementary teacher preparation programs, each of which contributes a significant number of teachers to New York City public schools. We include both traditional pathways to teaching and alternate pathways so as to allow for comparisons within and between each of these routes. Using a survey of first-year teachers, we also compare the experiences of teachers across all routes that prepare teachers for New York City public schools, not just those routes for which we collected information from the program directly.
To address Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy’s second point, our analysis includes a detailed description of the policies and practices of teacher preparation programs. We: 1) analyze documents describing the structure and content of each preparation program, 2) interview pro