Tackling the Title II data

The U.S. Department of Education recently released the latest Title II report, an annual compilation of data that the country’s educator-preparation programs are required to submit under the federal Higher Education Act Title II. But should we care? Do these data tell us anything meaningful about the state of U.S. teacher preparation?

Well, let’s check out what the data tell us. 

First, the number of students enrolling in and completing U.S. educator-preparation programs continued its multi-year decline in 2014.

That decline isn’t uniform across all institutions or states. Among our member-led institutions and their states, we found that enrollment at eight of our member-led institutions actually increased from 2013 to 2014. At the state level, the most recent data documented year-over-year enrollment increases – ranging from 2.67 percent to 34.41 percent – in Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Nevada, and Texas.

Second, some of our member-led institutions and the states in which they’re located also bucked the national trend on the number of program completers. For example, Massachusetts witnessed an increase of 15.94 percent in program completers from 2013 to 2014. Additionally, roughly half of our member-led institutions saw an increase in the number of program completers from 2013 to 2014.

Finally, efforts by member-led institutions to ensure greater diversity in their programs are starting to pay off. From 2013 to 2014, half of DFI member-led institutions increased the percentage of male enrollment and two-thirds increased the percentage of non-white enrollment.

Ok, so those are some of the insights we can draw from the data. But are they telling us anything meaningful about how our programs are doing and the effectiveness of the teachers they are preparing? 

Not really.

First, the lag time in the reporting of Title II data makes it near impossible to use these data for program improvement. The latest Title II data, released in March 2016, is the 2015 report, representing data for school year 2013-2014.  Yes, that’s right: these data are already outdated on the day they are released. Two- to three-year-old data are not useful for program improvement because in most cases the programs have already undergone changes since that time.

Second, Title II date provides us with some broad headlines but not a complete picture. Here is an example of what I mean. Title II reports include the diversity (race and gender) breakdown for enrollment but not for program completers. Yes, we want to know if our teacher preparation programs are admitting more men and people of color. However, having this same breakdown for program completers would help us understand whether our programs are actually supporting diverse students through to graduation.

Finally, Title II data do not reflect how institutions operate or how they think of their programs internally.  As one of our member deans described the Title II reporting process, “it’s like forcing a round peg into a square hole.” Programs are compelled to fit their internal numbers into the Title II reporting structure in ways that aren’t necessarily aligned from institution to institution – so while the numbers may appear comparable, they actually aren’t. In fact, as noted by the Government Accountability Office, these data are not useful even to the states in carrying out the goals articulated in HEA Title II.  As such, the amount of time and effort that programs devote to meeting these mandates could be better spent gathering, reporting and using data that are more relevant and helpful to program improvement.

We here at Deans for Impact strongly believe in the need for a more coherent data strategy at the national, state and program levels. In fact, we recently released our policy agenda, From Chaos to Coherence, articulating our approach. We believe that many leaders of educator-preparation programs and teacher-educators share our perspective. We hope they will join with us at Deans for Impact to drive transformation together.

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