Standard Three

Narrative for standard three of the CAEP self-study report

As a competitive research institution with a strong national and international reputation, Penn State continuously, purposely, and selectively recruits and admits academically qualified students. Specific attention is given to recruiting a rich and diverse student community. Penn State is represented by University Park campus, World Campus, and 24 commonwealth campuses. Approximately 50% of students who apply are admitted at University Park, with slightly more admitted at World Campus (58%) and varied percentages admitted at Commonwealth campuses. Requirements for admission include that all students have four units of English, three units in social studies, arts, or humanities, three units of science, three units of mathematics to include algebra and geometry, and two units of world languages through their secondary experiences. At University Park, the average HS grade point average of admitted students is 3.6 on a 4.0 scale. Average SAT scores and ACT scores of accepted students fall within the top 30th percentile of test takers. GPA and test scores vary some by campus location. In accord with state requirements, candidates are admitted to the University overall and are later admitted to their preparation program (University Admissions Quality Standards). Evidence indicates that candidates are representative of the students admitted to Penn State (General Education Course Grades Comparison). Generally, candidates compare favorably in their coursework with University students overall prior to entry to major.

The EPP was not immediately affected as the number of students enrolling in teacher preparation programs decreased nationally. However, by 2014 it became a priority to more closely examine recruitment at the College, versus University, level. A task force comprised of College personnel, teaching professionals, and other school community professionals from around the State was convened and charged to explore recruitment solutions. Upon recommendation, a designated recruitment and retention specialist was hired for the College in March, 2015. Among the responsibilities of the recruitment specialist is to establish a recruitment plan and benchmarks. The first emphasis is to increase enrollments overall. The second emphasis is to target recruitment of underrepresented students, of males, and of candidates interested in ELL, SPLED, and STEM future teaching appointments as areas of shortage. The EPP specifically tracks and attends to trends in shortages through a project funded by the Commonwealth awarded to faculty colleagues at Penn State (Tracking Teacher Shortages Project).

In concert with the ongoing institutional efforts, additional College recruiting initiatives were established to reach enrollment goals. Targets were established for the College overall (including for majors in Education and Public Policy and RHS) and in teacher preparation programs specifically through benchmarking with representative percentages of practitioners nationally, percentages of student enrollments at the University overall, and predictions of needed percentages in areas of shortage. The baseline year was 2015 and applications and enrollment numbers were tracked 2016-2018. At Penn State students are not admitted to major status before their junior year. Therefore, disaggregation by major at admission is not feasible. Special education (SPLED) is not a stand-alone certificate at the initial level in Pennsylvania, so although we continue to enroll undergraduate SPLED majors, we also attend to the number of SPLED master's level students as candidates for initial certification. ELL also is not a degree path for our candidates, but there is great interest in our ELL certificate programs and we aggressively prepare candidates seeking certification as an area of known shortage. To attend to shortages, STEM candidates can seek initial certification through degree paths that also include integrated undergraduate and graduate degrees (Recruitment Benchmarks).

In developing the recruitment plan, the EPP focused on College recruiting. While outside the purview of the College, Agriculture Education and HPE also have targeted mechanisms for recruiting, in addition to the extensive University efforts. As examples, these include 4-H and other outreach efforts in Agriculture Education and through enrollments in related coursework for HPE. The recruitment plan table shares benchmarks and target numbers for recruitment. These numbers are college level numbers and enrollments include those not intending teacher preparation. In fact, numbers of students in Educational Policy and RHS majors are increasing. However, numbers of those interested in teacher preparation are also increasing as noted with Entry to Major (ETM) numbers.

National data suggest that Males are underrepresented in teaching professions. NCES https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28 data indicate that 24% of P-12 teachers, overall, are Male with under-representation of males significant in classrooms with younger learners, at less than 3% of early childhood and elementary teachers being male http://www.menteach.org/resources/data_about_men_teachers. This under-representation has become focus of public attention (e.g., USA today, July 2017: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/07/22/male-teacher-shortage-affects-boys-who-need-role-models/103585138/ ). 

Within this context, we set recruiting goals of 25% male for the College overall, recognizing our largest teacher preparation major is PK-4. Three cycles of recruitment plan as well as enrollments are provided. Importantly, we are unable to track students until entry to major after their fourth semester, so it is not possible to definitively determine targets from goal setting in 2016 until Fall 2018. Nonetheless, an examination of recent trends indicates variability in male enrollment with, unfortunately, a significant drop in 2017 in the EPP relative to College male enrollments. It may be as enrollment in RHS and Education Public Policy increases some males interested in education overall may gravitate to nonteaching majors.

The recruitment plan also specifically targeted underrepresented students. Preparing teachers from underrepresented groups is a known priority and challenge nationally and for the EPP. The Department of Education https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/highered/racial-diversity/state-racial-diversity-workforce.pdf   reports that in 2011-2012, 82% of public school teachers were white. Further, approximately 20% of students at Penn State, overall, are students from underrepresented groups. Recruitment goals were set at 20% underrepresented students for the College. This goal is lofty and not likely attainable in the near future but represents a current target toward which to strive. This goal will be examined as students admitted under the recruitment plan rise to major status, however, trends indicate that proportionally more underrepresented students are enrolled in RHS and Education Public Policy rather than teacher preparation programs.

The recruitment plan also targeted areas of known shortages. Labor statistics indicate a need for special education teachers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm NCES data indicated that in 2011-2012 approximately 7% of teachers were special education teachers at the elementary level with even fewer at the high school level https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_209.10.asp. We set recruitment target at 8% for Special Education. In PA, there is not stand alone SPLED certification. The EPP continues to enroll undergraduate special education majors but also has a SPLED 4+1 that leads to certification in PA. Both are included in the recruitment targets. Trends indicate decreases in enrollments in SPLED programs but this decrease coincides with the smaller number of students admitted in 2014 and 2015 and as admissions enrollments increase the number of SPLED candidates should follow.

Recruitment goals for ELL certificates are set at 30 per cycle. In PA there is not initial certification in ESL, but an ESL specialist certificate is available. Candidates interested in an ESL certificate can meet qualifications through two paths at the EPP, one of which includes an immersion experience in Ecuador. These programs are quite popular and the EPP is successful in preparing candidates for the certificate. Our target represents capacity in these programs. Over the 2015-2017 cycles an average of 28 candidates were enrolled. Goals for STEM candidates were set for admission at 8%. The EPP prepares candidates in 4-8 Mathematics, and 7-12 Mathematics and Science areas. NCES data suggest that less than 1% of elementary teachers represent mathematics specifically and between 6 and 7% represent mathematics and science at the secondary levels. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_209.10.asp 

The Undergraduate Admission Office (UAO) at Penn State serves as the primary recruitment officer for the University. Each College has a liaison who works closely with UAO on recruitment initiatives. The Admission Office is responsible for traveling nationally and internationally to represent all programs offered at all campuses of Penn State and for generating applications for admission. The primary responsibility of the recruiter within the College of Education is to focus on yield strategy and converting students that received an offer of admission to matriculated students. The recruitment and retention specialist developed and follows a recruitment plan (Recruitment Strategies Overview).

The University has recruitment and yield programs in place for target populations. For the Glory is an accepted-student program specifically for high academic achievers. The College of Education has 14 spaces reserved in this program each year. Achievers is an accepted student program specifically for underrepresented students. In addition, a Spend a Summer Day program and a multi-cultural resource fair for underrepresented students who are just beginning the college search process includes bus transportation from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.

In addition to these University recruitment efforts, the EPP also recruits through several initiatives. For example, The Summer College Opportunity Program in Education (SCOPE) is an academically intense summer program for students interested in studying education. SCOPE participants attend Penn State the summer prior to their junior year of high school. Preference is given to students from racially/ethnically diverse backgrounds. Over the course of 6 weeks, the students participate in a 1-credit research course and a SAT prep course. SCOPE provides a pipeline of students that may choose to enroll in the College of Education at Penn State. Over the course of three years, the SCOPE program has successfully enrolled 6 students in the College.

UAO has two satellite offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The city locations work closely with the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia, respectively. Both districts report high numbers of underrepresented/underserved students. Representatives from the College of Education, including the recruitment and retention specialist, attend School Counselor luncheons held in both regions annually to meet with counselors and students about the programs offered within the College of Education.

In accord with the land grant mission, the EPP compiled a list of schools in Pennsylvania that participate in Educators Rising and also included schools that had clubs related to the teaching field. Schools on the list received packets of information about the College and invitations for upcoming visitation programs specific to studying Education at Penn State.

Further targeted efforts by the University and the EPP focus on increasing diversity on campus. One of the Spend a Summer Day programs is dedicated to students identifying as ethnically diverse. There are additional recruitment events during Hispanic Heritage month and Black History month. In 2017-2018, the EPP initiated a new program for potential students involved in Educators Rising in additional effort to reach greater diversity in our applicant pool.

Candidates are tracked from admission through the Quality Assurance System. Evidence supports that candidates meet quality criteria at entrance to major and at program completion as they are recommended for certification by the EPP to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Academic quality is disaggregated and monitored by preparation program and by each campus to inform continuous improvement, as well as recruiting efforts. Requirements for admission are monitored at entrance to major (ETM), which by state requirements is after 48 credit hours. State requirements include a 3.0 GPA at graduation. However, EPP programs require a 3.0 for admission to major. Occasionally a candidate is granted exception and entered into a program with a GPA close to 3.0. Average GPA for three cycles are 3.54, 3.51, 3.51 and exceeds the CAEP 3.0 requirement. Average GPA are generally consistent across campuses, males and females, and race and ethnicity status with all hovering around 3.5 for each of the three cycles of data. Reliability of GPA evidence is supported across campuses as the EPP requires 80% overlap in curriculum for any section of a given course, regardless of campus or delivery method. Assignments and grading are tracked for compliance and consistency.

Selectivity is also evident on nationally normed assessments such as the SAT. Average SAT scores exceed the CAEP requirement of the top 50th percentile. Average SAT for the three cycles of data for all ETM candidates were 1653, 1617, and 1634. These scores are equated to approximately the 65th percentile. This benchmark held for disaggregated groups overall, with one exception. Scores were expectedly higher for University Park students than for students at the Commonwealth campuses with 1676, 1643, and 1680 at UP and 1460, 1467, and 1493 at the Commonwealth campuses. Therefore, while overall the EPP programs meet CAEP selectivity standards for GPA and SAT, average SAT scores at the campuses specifically hovered right around 50% https://blog.prepscholar.com/sat-percentiles-high-precision-2016. Males’ scores were slightly higher than Females’, consistent with national trends, https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-percentile-ranks-gender-race-ethnicity.pdf and scores were largely consistent for underrepresented and international students.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education allows candidates to use the SAT, ACT, Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (Pearson PAPA) and Praxis CORE scores to fulfill this requirement. PDE allows candidates to use a combination of sub-scores from more than one assessment to meet the requirement. Please see, https://ed.psu.edu/current-students/undergrad/certification, for detailed information on PDE’s passing scores, as well as their requirements for composite and mixed scoring options. The majority of candidates (65% across programs and campuses) admitted to our EPP have utilized SAT and/or ACT scores to meet the Basic Skills Assessment requirement.

Entrance to major evidence is provided in aggregate and is also disaggregated by EPP campus and by program enrollment. While there is some variation across campuses and programs, average GPA at entrance to major greatly exceeds the 3.0 threshold (Standard 3 GPA Table).  Overall, across programs, candidates are generally in the top 50% of test takers on normed assessments. Correlations between GPA and test scores further support candidate quality.

Through the self-study, the EPP realized its use of varied PDE-approved methods to meet the PDE minimum requirement resulted in variation in expected qualifications and opens questions about consistency of requirements across candidates. Furthermore, it increases the difficulty in making comparisons upon data disaggregation. Therefore, while this remains a possibility per Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requirements, the EPP’s incoming class of Fall 2018 will be required to meet the Basic Skills Testing requirements for entrance to major by using the CAEP-approved Praxis CORE assessment only (with recognition there may be negative implications for recruiting).

The EPP recognizes that non-academic factors also play an important role in the preparation of quality candidates (e.g., Rilke, & Sharpe, 2008). In 2016-2017 PCCC discussed how and when individual programs assess dispositions. Programs use a variety of methods and tools in addition to the PDE-430. Beyond academic ability, our EPP has set specific standards at the point of entrance to major that are also monitored through program completion. Before entering the major, students are required to complete a first-year seminar (FYS) taught by faculty within the College of Education. These seminars serve to orient students to the University and the professions. Care is taken to address dispositions of the future candidates. Examination of dispositions and opportunities to evaluate students prior to entrance to major led to planned changes as in Fall 2018, ethical decision making and technology competencies will be added to the FYS curriculum. Candidates are required to complete 48 credits prior to entrance to major and to maintain a 3.0 GPA, a minimum of C in prerequisite and required courses. Students in some programs are also required to complete specified numbers of experiences or observation hours working with children and youth. Across these requirements, students’ ability to maintain professionalism is monitored and any student demonstrating significant difficulties with disposition is addressed. Students are also required to have all clearances (Child Abuse, Criminal History, FBI) to enter schools. Once a semester, the Office of Student Conduct provides information to advising and certification staff, in order to assist in monitoring student integrity and conduct violations.

Candidates that are accepted into the major are required to participate in field experiences (e.g. CI 295, SPLED 395W, WF ED 101) and student teaching placements in addition to program specific coursework. Prior to admission to clinical experiences, candidates must submit application for clinical experience two semesters prior to the experience. Further, candidates must maintain a 3.0 GPA, must have completed prerequisite coursework, must maintain a clear background check, and some programs require demonstrated membership in professional organizations. Candidates are also interviewed prior to clinical experiences. Throughout these placements, professionalism is monitored as part of all midterm and final evaluations of performance. Candidates are also held to the minimum standard of the Pennsylvania Code of Conduct (see ‘Practices’, Section 235.4, of PA Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators) and the National Education Association Code of Ethics for the Education Profession (NEA, 1975; amended 2010.)

This EPP offers a variety of student teaching placements and field experiences, including urban student teaching offerings in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, placements in areas with a high concentration of students who are English Language Learners. Additionally, 36, 37, and 24 candidates in the respective cohorts studied abroad during their academic programs. These experiences serve to enrich candidates’ overall character and further expand their interactions with diverse populations. Further consideration of candidates’ dispositions occurs when supervisors evaluate performance. All candidates are monitored midway through and at the end their student teaching experiences, using evaluation forms that include ratings on professionalism and personal conduct. Supervisors from the EPP also complete the state level rating form PDE-430, where, specifically in Category IV, candidates are rated on behaviors which characterize professionalism (e.g. integrity, ethics, communication). Training at supervisor meetings assures reliability in these assessments.

Candidates’ academic progress is monitored in a variety of ways. In addition to close student contact with program faculty, supervisors, and mentors, academic advising also plays an integral role in candidates’ advancement and success from admission through completion. All candidates have an assigned academic advisor who tracks candidate progress through their program. Tracking occurs in four distinct ways. First, each candidate is encouraged to meet with their academic advisor at least once a semester. While this is not mandatory, it ensures that candidates are ‘checking in’ with EPP staff on a regular basis regarding their program requirements, as well as unique requirements for Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Instructional I certification. Second, an annual academic review is conducted (during the summer months) of each candidate’s record by academic advisors, using the EPP’s student information system (LionPATH). This review examines the candidate’s progress in the program and provides advisors with the opportunity to systematically address deficiencies. Third, the EPP’s student support and analytics software (Starfish Solutions) allows advisors to see mid-term reports from faculty. This type of intervention allows academic advisors to be proactive and provide support to candidates demonstrating academic risk prior to the end of an academic term. Starfish is also used to enter advising notes, so that academic advisors can see previous topics/issues that have been discussed with a particular candidate. Fourth, academic advisors hold group advising sessions for candidates at various points/benchmarks as they progress through their program. Topics include, but are not limited to: Certification testing requirements, field placement opportunities, career/job search strategies, and standards of professional conduct.

In addition to monitoring progression through their programs, candidates are monitored by faculty and staff from admission to completion to assure that they develop content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, pedagogical skills and the integration of technology within each. Benchmarks and measures are tracked as candidates acquire critical content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, which the EPP measures in several ways including GPA, coursework grades, and PRAXIS Subject Area Tests. In terms of GPA, candidates must meet and subsequently maintain the minimum GPA requirement (3.0) to enter and remain in the program. In addition to monitoring GPA, we also examine coursework grades. This allows us to determine if candidates have learned and mastered critical content in their coursework directly in their program. Candidates must  earn a final letter grade of ‘C’ or better across all program/major coursework, including teaching methods, special education, and ELL courses. Finally, candidates must take and pass the PRAXIS subject tests relevant to their program. Candidates must meet the minimum standard for each subject area. Evidence of test scores indicate that our candidates perform well on these exams.

To determine if candidates have acquired the necessary pedagogical skills, we monitor progress in multiple ways including field experiences, portfolios, and the Pennsylvania Statewide Evaluation Form for Student Professional Knowledge and Practice also known as the PDE-430. The PDE-430 is a performance evaluation measure required by the Commonwealth. All candidates who are recommended for certification in the Commonwealth must exit the program with a passing score in the following categories: Planning and Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instructional Delivery, and Professionalism. In a variety of field experiences, candidates are required to address diverse learners and apply the content they learned via their coursework. While supervisors visit candidates frequently to observe pedagogical skills, supervisors also use both mid-term and final evaluations to document progress. Additionally, candidates create a portfolio which includes analysis of student work to inform instruction and teaching artifacts from field experiences.

The field supervisor must examine a variety of sources of evidence, which may include but are not limited to observations, assessment materials, interviews, and analysis of student work. All of our candidates meet these requirements and often surpass the minimum standard.

 Use of educational technology is supported and highly encouraged for this EPP’s candidates. This can include voluntary coursework (e.g. LDT 100 or 101) or required coursework (e.g. SPLED 419) depending on individual focus. Technology tools further support monitoring development of pedagogical skills through the use of video-analysis, electronic portfolios, and other tools. Additionally, all teacher candidates are evaluated using Category I of the PDE-430 (Planning and Preparation) which includes the consideration of use of materials and technology in the classroom. Finally, candidates in EPP programs (Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Secondary Education – English, World Languages Education, and Special Education) participate in the EDUCATE initiative. This requires that candidates have a portable device (PC or Mac laptop) that is used in all teacher preparation coursework. The goal of EDUCATE is to introduce candidates, preservice, to salient and innovative technologies that are, and will be, used in K-12 settings.

Candidates’ high levels of content knowledge is evident through three distinct artifacts. All candidates must pass all EPP major coursework with a final grade of ‘C’ or better. On a 4.0 scale (with a 4.0 representing a final grade of ‘A’, 3.0 ‘B’, and 2.0 ‘C’), evidence supports our candidates are successful in their major coursework as explicated in Standard 1 for disaggregated data in each major/option and for each cohort.

Candidates must also pass the relevant/applicable content knowledge assessment for their certification area, as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). For many of our EPP areas, this requirement is met through the Praxis II assessment. Candidates in the Elementary and Early Childhood Education program take Pearson’s PECT PreK-4 assessment, and candidates seeking eligibility for certification in Special Education must pass Pearson’s Special Education PECT PreK-8 assessment or Pearson’s Special Education PECT 7-12 assessment (in Pennsylvania, a Special Education candidate who passes one of these assessments can apply for certification in both grade level bands). The average scores in each cohort for both the Praxis II assessments and those required that are offered by Pearson are listed in the evidence table titled, (Certification Pass Rates and GPA Disaggregated by Year and Program).

Candidates must also demonstrate content knowledge through their final student teaching experience. Evidence of this is documented on PDE’s Pennsylvania Statewide Evaluation Form for Student Professional Knowledge and Practice, commonly known in Pennsylvania by its form designation, the PDE-430. Category III of the PDE-430 specifically addresses the exposition of content knowledge in the candidate’s practicum. Candidates receive a rating of Exemplary, Superior, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory in this Category. Evidence to justify this rating is comprised of classroom observations by University supervisors, assessment of daily materials such as lesson plans, reflective interviews of student teachers regarding their teaching, and a portfolio of work assembled by the student teachers themselves.

Our EPP ensures that all completing candidates are aware of their professional obligations and standards of practice as educators. The PDE-430 assessment tool addresses candidates’ professional dispositions and knowledge of ethical and legal considerations. The tool addresses knowledge of school and district attendance procedures, requirements for communications and record keeping, professional development opportunities, professional relationships with school colleagues and knowledge of licensure requirements. All candidates completing their program must be rated “Satisfactory” or higher in order to be recommended for certification by the EPP.

Additional mechanisms assure candidates possess dispositions and understand expectations of the profession, ethics and professional standards as well as laws and policies. For example, many participate in Alumni Student Teaching Network (ASTN) meetings (ASTN Schedule of Student Teacher Activities) during their student teaching experience. These events are organized by alumni who are former teachers and school administrators. The purpose of the ASTN is to supplement the learning and development occurring in the concurrent student teaching practicum. Representative topics from the ASTNs include: Career services for candidates, school law, special education regulations in PA, Pennsylvania teacher certification processes and requirements, working with parents and families in schools, and teacher tenure.

The Evidence Table for Standard Three complete with components and documents referenced in parentheses above can be found at http://sites.psu.edu/caepreview/2018/08/24/caep-standard-three-evidence-table/