On the Path to Becoming a Teacher: The Landscape of Student Teaching in Chicago Public Schools

August, 2018
Molly F. Gordon, Jennie Y. Jiang, Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Matthew Ronfeldt, Hillary Greene Nolan, and Michelle Reininger

This is UChicago Consortium's first comprehensive brief on student teachers and the student teaching experience in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the nation’s third-largest school district. This brief, synthesizes findings from research done in partnership with researchers from National Louis University, University of Michigan, and Stanford University, which uses CPS teacher data, along with surveys of student teachers and their mentor teachers (2015 & 2016) to understand: Where student teachers were placed, who serves as mentor teachers, and what factors were good indicators of first-year teacher performance.

Key findings teacher preparation programs may be interested in:

  • Student teachers’ self-reports of their own level of preparation at the end of student teaching were not related to their performance in their first year of teaching.
  • Mentor teachers’ instructional support and guidance mattered more than their own qualifications (years of experience or status as National Board Certification). What mattered most was mentor teachers' modeling effective teaching practices, and coaching with constructive feedback in a safe learning environment.

Key findings districts and principals may be interested in:

  • Student teachers were placed unevenly in schools across the district. Student teachers were less likely to be placed in low-performing schools and more likely to train in schools that served fewer low-income students.
  • Student teachers were more effective in their first year if their mentor teachers had strong performance ratings (REACH observation ratings). However, other mentor characteristics such as National Board Certification status, tenure, and prior mentor experience showed no relationship to student teachers’ subsequent performance.
  • Mentor teachers' assessments of their student teachers’ instructional practices were good indicators of student teachers’ performance in their first year of teaching.

The policy brief includes more details on the findings above, and also explores differences in common pathways into teaching in Chicago (traditional, alternative, and residency programs).

Since data for this study was collected, CPS has developed programs and policies aimed at increasing student teacher placements in higher-need schools, improving the student teaching experience through partnerships with teacher preparation programs and supporting mentor teachers in coaching. Researchers and districts can continue to partner to understand key levers to help the student teaching landscape evolve.

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