Each new year brings media attention to the issue of the quality of entrants to the teaching profession, with repeated citing of ‘poor’ ATAR scores as the sole source of evidence. I want to debunk some of the commonly held myths about standards of entry to the profession, including that it is all about entry!
ATAR is only one source of data accessed for entry into teacher education (ITE) programs, and then only for school leavers, who represent a small proportion of entrants to programs. Fewer than one-third of students in Queensland accredited ITE programs have domestic secondary education as the basis of their admission, and an even smaller proportion have an ATAR score (AITSL, 2018). It is also worth noting that the 2018 ITE Data Report shows a steady rise over the past decade in the number of teachers who hold a post-graduate ITE qualification. ATAR is not used for entry to postgraduate programs. There is no evidence that a particular ATAR contributes to a better teacher.
In addition to academic entry requirements, entrants to teacher education programs are assessed on non-academic selection criteria (a standardised tool – a 1000-word essay – was established in Queensland in 2018), personal literacy and numeracy within the top 30 per cent of the population (the national Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education students – LANTITE) , English language proficiency (for many international students), and discipline-specific requirements (e.g., all primary teachers from 2019 will have an additional area of specialisation within their expertise). Queensland entrants completing Year 12 studies also require minimum achievement levels for English and Mathematics, and applicants to an undergraduate primary or early childhood program require a minimum achievement level for a Science subject.
It needs to be reiterated that entry into the teacher education program is far from being the whole story. Entrants complete teacher education programs which have been subjected to strict requirements for accreditation, and preservice teachers must complete exit requirements prior to graduation. Each of these needs to be considered in the overall discussion about teacher quality.
First, in addition to the changes in entry requirements, the reforms which have emanated from the TEMAG (2014) review have included an increased rigour for accreditation processes for initial teacher education programs. Teacher education programs have been redesigned to meet strict new program standards, and these programs are regularly monitored and updated based on evidence.
Students only graduate from their teaching course if strict standards have been met. All teacher education providers have been required to develop robust assessment of graduates to ensure classroom readiness. A teaching performance assessment tool (TPA) has been developed to assess preservice teachers against the Graduate Teacher Standards in the final year of their programs.
The implementation of TEMAG recommendations has also seen the development of higher quality university-school partnerships to provide deeper professional experience for preservice teachers. In Queensland, the Queensland Professional Experience Reporting Framework guides the supervision and assessment of preservice teacher placements in schools. The final professional experience must be successfully completed, as testified by a Final Professional Experience Report, in order for students to graduate.
There are many measures which assess the suitability of students entering a teacher education program. Additional measures need to be completed to a satisfactory level prior to graduation and provisional registration. These need to stand front and centre of any discussions about entry standards and teacher quality – they tell a more complete story than an ATAR number.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2018). Initial teacher education: Data report 2018. Melbourne: AITSL.
Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG). (2014). Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education.