I was trained in one of the many teacher preparation programs that got hammered last month in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 Teacher Prep Ratings. Take a look at California State University – Chico is right there on the top of page 3 (http://www.usnews.com/education/nctq?sort_dir=ASC&page=3). I’m not surprised. I had a few good instructors in that they were spirited about learning and students. I was instructed on how to find bound collections of lesson plans on the 4th floor of our university library, but chastised for using the AskERIC lesson database online. As far as meat and potatoes day to day classroom teaching skills and strategies, let alone any sense of education technology or curriculum standards or data-informed instruction or any number of things that were expected of me as a beginning teacher…no.
In the last few months a grumbling has been growing nationally in regards to the state of our teacher preparation programs that work to train and eventually credential our nation’s teachers for classroom service. This comes on the heels of two decades of feverish focus on the condition of K-12 education and the often maligned effectiveness of schools to manage the diverse obstacles facing students, and ultimately, the skill of the educators that make up our single most prominent public instrument to affect change in challenged communities. And many would ask, why wouldn’t we scrutinize the mechanism that presumes to adequately train and prepare these teachers as part of a comprehensive approach to improving our classrooms?
As I said above, a few months ago as hired by U.S. News & World Report, the National Council on Teacher Quality released a report (http://www.nctq.org/teacherPrep/findings/index.jsp) summarizing information from 2, 240 teacher preparation programs nationally that contained a series of sobering take-aways such as:
- Almost all programs (93 percent) fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, where candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and must receive frequent concrete feedback.
- Only 23 percent of rated programs are doing enough to provide teacher candidates with concrete classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior problems.
- Only 11 percent of elementary programs and 47 percent of secondary programs are providing adequate content preparation for teachers in the subjects they will teach.
Most in the post-secondary ranks of academia torpedoed the report as an incomplete, and flawed body of information solicited through questionable methodology. Rebuttals resulted such as Dr. Linda Darling Hammond’s (Professor of Education at Standford University) response to the report conveyed as part of a June 18th Washington Post article.
Why the NCTQ teacher prep ratings are nonsense
Admittedly, the type of information gathered as part of their process was limited at best, however it is important to note that almost all of the universities refused to provide the information about their programs as requested by NCTQ. A group representing many university teacher prep programs initially asked the US News and World Report to allow them to select their own methods to conduct the analysis of their own programs. US News and World Report did not acquiesce to this logic however, leaving NCTQ to work with what president Kate Walsh deemed a “tremendously uncooperative” group.
In the end, what struck me was the number of prominent education leaders and designers of some of the nation’s largest teacher education programs that rushed to debunk any and all information published in this report. I’d hoped to hear something more akin to “We are not clear on the methodology used and see the data as very limited, however we are in the business of education and find all data relevant at least for initial or partial consideration in improving our services to public education and its educators.”
This week a national panel finalized a new set of standards (CAEP Standards) for teacher preparation programs to achieve as part of the accreditation process. They are considerably tougher than accreditation standards to date and include critical performance measures that include interviewing former graduates years into their assignments, monitoring some of the academic achievement of students being taught by graduates of the programs, increasing the academic expectations of students being given access to teaching programs as undergraduates, and trying to increase amount of time on content expertise, pedagogical skills, and assure better access to more skilled teachers as mentors during the student-teaching phase of preparation. You can read more about these standards in the following article from Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk.
Tougher Requirements Ahead for Teacher Prep
I hope that in this instance, the programs that largely inform the expertise and initial talents and skills of our teacher workforce consider how they might use this effort to strengthen their programs and the hopes of students and families in getting a “good” teacher each and every year.