The National Council on Teacher Quality has released ratings for teacher prep programs across the US, and seven programs in Illinois and three in Maryland received grades of three stars out of four.
This news came out last week, actually, but I have delayed reporting it because it’s replete not only with bias in methodology but with actual errors in fact. The NCTQ shot off in 2000 from the conservative Thomas B Fordham Institute and is funded by organizations that promote a corporate-influenced school reform agenda.
Despite the errors, though, I’m publishing this because I agree there are teacher preparation programs in every state that are good and those that strongly need improvement. The areas NCTQ used in the ratings—selection, content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and strong connections to clinical training—are good places to start working on the quality of teacher preparation so that 22-year-olds don’t enter a new school unprepared in both content knowledge and classroom management skills.
One of the biggest problems I and many other critics find in the NCTQ methodology is that they didn’t visit campuses or talk with anyone in the schools, including professors and current or former students. Instead, ratings were based on course syllabi, lesson plans, and textbook information obtained from the programs. This has the potential to create a biased or misleading snapshot of data from the school.
Illinois State University, which produced 1,066 teachers in 2010, for example, more than any other program in the state, received a 1½ star rating for its elementary education undergraduate program, 1 star for its secondary education undergraduate program, and 2 stars for its special education undergraduate program. The dean of the ISU College of Education said the review’s findings were inaccurate: “They clearly did not get an accurate picture of what ISU does or how we go about the practice of preparing future teachers,” the State Journal-Register quoted Perry Schoon as saying. “We will be appealing the conclusions.”
In addition to complaints like the one above, many educators have also found the quality of data collection techniques used by NCTQ to be poor. A few programs listed in the report, for example, don’t even exist, and educators from Diane Ravitch, here, to Linda Darling-Hammond, here, say the techniques used to collect the data do not permit the kind of quantitative analysis reported by NCTQ.
The Illinois teacher education programs on the Honor Roll include undergraduate elementary ed programs at Aurora, Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, and Quincy universities, and Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville; and undergrad secondary ed programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. The Maryland teacher education programs on the Honor Roll were the undergrad elementary ed program at McDaniel College and the undergraduate elementary ed and secondary ed programs at the University of Maryland, College Park.