Thursday, June 20, 2013

Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Prep

KSN&C Backstory:

NCTQ Method Stirs Backlash from Ed Schools 

Only a small number of teacher education programs nationally are designed so that new teachers are adequately prepared, concludes a long-awaited and deeply contested independent review.

Released today by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report, the project grades programs on up to 18 standards on a scale of zero to four stars. Just four programs, all in secondary teacher preparation, earned a four-star overall rating—Furman University, in South Carolina; Lipscomb and Vanderbilt universities, in Tennessee; and Ohio State University. Earning at least three stars were 104 programs.

About 160 programs were deemed so weak that they were put on a “consumer alert” list by the council.
Institutions received their ratings yesterday. Many schools are expected to contest the findings, and the NCTQ says it will make those documents and its own responses available to the public on its website.
Months before the release, though, education scholars had criticized the project’s standards and methodology, which rely heavily on document review.

“It’s like doing restaurant reviews by looking at the menu rather than eating there,” said Catherine Cornbleth, a professor emeritus of education at the University at Buffalo, which received no stars for its graduate elementary program and two for its secondary program. “Research-wise, [the project] flunks. Politically, it’s probably a B-plus.”

Debates about whether the ratings truly reflect good or bad teacher preparation are likely to dwell. But the project does lend credence to the notion that programs vary significantly in what they expect aspiring teachers to know and demonstrate, even within the same institution, observers said.

“I think it’s a better statement about the state of the field than it is about any one institution,” said Arthur E. Levine, the author of a critical 2006 report on teacher preparation, and now the president of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation. “We don’t agree on how we train teachers. And I don’t know any other profession that behaves this way.”

Rating Results

The massive review took more than two years to finalize and was supported by dozens of funders, including the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. (Education Week also receives funding from the Carnegie Corporation for coverage of industry and innovation.)

It is based on an analysis of syllabuses, student-teaching manuals, course textbooks, and other documents. Each institution’s programs—elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate—were rated on more than a dozen standards crafted by the council, many of which are themselves the subject of vigorous debate.
Research, in general, links broad features such as student-teaching and content knowledge to teachers’ classroom success, but there is less to connect specific coursework or practices to the production of effective teachers. The council eschewed many existing sets of standards as too vague to use as a basis for gauging program design, earning rebukes from the field.

The release includes the group’s scoring guides and several documents about the technical aspects of the report.

Resistance from the field nevertheless affected the scope of the project. Of the more than 2,400 programs the council sought to examine, it was able to issue an overall rating to only 1,200, located at 608 institutions in all. (Scores on some of the standards are available for programs at another 522 education schools, but the number of programs rated on each standard varies.) Special education programs in a subset of schools were also examined.

Many programs cooperated with the project only after receiving open-records requests. In particular, NCTQ officials said, private colleges are underrepresented in the ratings because their documents generally do not fall under states’ open-records statutes. (Nationwide, there are about 1,450 institutions that prepare teachers.)

Among the report’s findings:
• Programs that earned high marks, such as Dallas Baptist University, which received two three-star ratings, often are not located at those institutions with the most prestigious doctoral programs.
• Only about a quarter of programs in the sample admitted a sufficiently academically strong group of candidates. Pennsylvania and Washington state’s undergraduate programs were recognized because most of them had strong selection criteria.
• Just 14 institutions had more than one strong program, and only one, Hunter College in New York City, had three.
• Not a single elementary program, graduate or undergraduate, got a four-star rating. Those programs were on the whole deemed weaker than secondary programs, largely because they do not ensure candidates have sufficient content knowledge.
• Though teachers routinely cite student-teaching as the keystone of their preparation, performance on that standard fell short; candidates, the organization said, are not routinely placed with the best teachers or observed frequently enough by faculty.
• Graduate-level programs did a much poorer job of preparing elementary teachers than did undergraduate programs.
• While 81 percent of programs conduct surveys of their graduates, far fewer collect information on graduates’ classroom effectiveness, in part because most states do not yet provide that information.
In all, said NCTQ President Kate Walsh, “there is a clear disconnect between what higher ed. feels it should be doing in terms of teacher preparation and what public school educators need.”

The review does not address alternative-certification programs.

Programs had to score relatively high across multiple standards to earn high ratings, leading to instances in which a program recognized by the council for best practices on one discrete standard had a mediocre or low overall score.

For example, Arizona State University was recognized for the care with which it supervises student-teaching, but garnered only two stars overall for its elementary teacher preparation. For both its graduate and undergraduate programs, California State University’s Domiguez Hills campus earned four stars for early reading, helping struggling readers, and reaching English-language learners. But with low scores in other areas, its programs were ultimately deemed to be weak.

Deep Divisions

The report comes during a flurry of policymaking on teacher preparation, including pending federal regulations and a newly finalized set of program accreditation standards. But none of the efforts has generated the fever pitch of the NCTQ project.

Almost since the day of its January 2011 announcement, education faculty have excoriated the project’s methodology, leading to a protracted war of words between the NCTQ and college administrators as the project proceeded.

In a handful of states, the NCTQ took legal action after faculty members at public institutions claimed that syllabuses were proprietary and exempt from disclosure under open-records laws. A court ruling, now under appeal, demanded that Minnesota colleges release their documents. The NCTQ also reached a settlement with Wisconsin institutions, but is scheduled to go to trial this week over the records in Missouri.

The NCTQ also tapped college students to help it collect documents when institutions wouldn’t willingly turn them over.

The 800-member American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, meanwhile, discouraged its institutions from participating. In communiques to members, the Washington-based organization deemed the review an “outrage,” a “Swiss cheese-style project,” and “fundamentally flawed.”

The group couldn’t comment for this article at press time because it had not seen a full copy of the report. It was, however, preparing an “institutional response kit” for its members.

Among other things, critics played up the NCTQ’s early financial support from the conservative-learning Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a think tank; its origins in the now-defunct Education Leaders Council, a conservative advocacy group; and its role as incubator of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, an assessment-based certification program with no formal coursework. (The council has not been affiliated with ABCTE since 2004.)

“The NCTQ report is intended to support a specific political agenda that seeks to label teacher preparation and the teaching profession as failed enterprises that should be taken over by the corporate, for-profit sector of our society,” three faculty members from Wisconsin universities wrote in an op-ed that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel shortly before the report was released.

But Ms. Walsh, a Democrat, defended the project, noting that her position on teacher preparation has evolved and that she no longer views such fast-track preparation programs as a long-term strategy for improving teacher capacity. Teachers, she said, do need specialized training, particularly in how to teach reading and mathematics.

Eight years of conducting pilot studies for the report, she said, caused her to realize that “it wasn’t teacher education I didn’t believe in, it was teacher education the way it’s preponderantly done I didn’t believe in,” she said.

No Common Thread

Inevitable controversy over ratings aside, the review appears to bolster other studies indicating that there is wide variation in what teacher-candidates are expected to learn.

The review found, for instance, that elementary programs used 866 different textbooks in reading fundamentals, compared with a more manageable 17 in math. For a secondary science education degree program, Alabama State University required nearly 56 credit hours in a number of science disciplines, whereas at York College of Pennsylvania, an identically named degree required only 29 hours of science. Such variations appear to be particularly deep at the elementary level, where, the council noted, “teacher-preparation programs frequently do not identify which courses elementary candidates should take” to ensure general knowledge across the curriculum.

Some of the variation also seems to reflect state rules. For example, Virginia programs got generally good marks on the secondary-preparation standard because that state requires coursework across a number of social-science areas. And programs in the three states that currently require teacher-performance assessments had higher scores on the lesson-planning standard.

For all the controversy kicked up by the review, several of its tenets have gained currency among policymakers, even in the field.

A panel appointed by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the successor to two former accreditors, last week finalized new standards that include, among other things, a higher minimum-admissions standard and one on whether program graduates can boost K-12 student achievement.

Ms. Cornbleth of the University at Buffalo, meanwhile, said she hopes the report might help faculty members take better stock of their programs.

“I would like to think that all the brouhaha might just spur some looking at what we do, and why, and what can we justify,” she said. “And if we can’t justify it, then maybe we ought to rethink it.”

This from AACTE:

NCTQ Review of Nation’s Education Schools Deceives, Misinforms Public
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a review of the nation's education schools today, making the anticipated splash and garnering heavy media attention with its shock factor. While the results are generating headlines, this review – like most of NCTQ's work – is misleading, unreliable and an effort to promote an ideological agenda rather than a genuine effort to inform the public and improve teacher preparation.
The report raises many questions and fails to provide useful information to drive meaningful improvement. The following points summarize the chief concerns of AACTE and its member institutions:
  • This review delivers a predictable slam from NCTQ, an organization that constantly seeks to undermine higher education-based teacher preparation.
    • NCTQ's claims of objectivity are false. As Diane Ravitch revealed last year, NCTQ was started by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation "as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools," although NCTQ claims it is no longer affiliated with its founders. Despite the facts showing otherwise, NCTQ believes competition is the best bet for improving teacher preparation.
    • Consistent with its stance on similar professional issues, NCTQ supports the Growing Education Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals (GREAT) Act. Although research and effective practices show that comprehensive preparation in content-specific pedagogical strategies, teaching diverse learners, and rigorous clinical experiences are essential to developing effective new teachers, the GREAT Act would require none of these features and, in fact, would lower standards for funded providers.
  • This review is based on a review of documents with such inconsistent participation and fragmented inputs that it would not be published by a credible, professional research organization.
    • While NCTQ evaluated 1,130 institutions on various configurations of its standards, the report states that only 10 percent of institutions fully participated.
    • The fine print in the report's Program Ratings section (p. 13) states that elementary program ratings were based on five key "standards," and secondary program ratings were based on three key "areas." NCTQ does not explain how these standards were selected or how heavily each weighed in the review. Yet NCTQ went as far as to label 163 programs with a "Consumer Alert" as a warning to parents, prospective teacher candidates and school districts.
    • On that same Program Ratings page, a graph shows that NCTQ was only able to obtain enough information on classroom management to evaluate 36 percent of the 1,130 programs. Despite this low number and the unclear nature of how standards were applied and weighted, NCTQ concludes that the teacher preparation profession is becoming "an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms…" (p. 1).
    • The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has noted the shortcomings of using document reviews to measure teacher preparation program effectiveness. In its 2012 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Teacher Preparation Programs for Support and Accountabilityreport, AIR lists several challenges with using process measures to evaluate teacher preparation programs: The research base of a document review is not robust enough to build assessment for accountability based on process measures; process measures do not always accurately capture what actually happens in preparation programs; and process data require complex qualitative measures that are difficult to score reliably across programs.
    • Even NCTQ's own audit panel recognized in its report that NCTQ must do a better job of "clearly and exhaustively explaining methodology and what findings do and do not mean." The audit panel also questioned the validity of using course syllabi to determine the effectiveness of a program, suggesting that NCTQ must improve its method of "studying how accurately reading syllabi reflects the actual content of classroom instruction."
  • This review is a public relations campaign. It does not seek to improve teacher preparation, nor is it a helpful or reliable guide for parents, prospective teacher candidates and the public.
    • NCTQ promotes to the public that its goal is to help improve teacher preparation. Yet NCTQ outright refuses to make rubrics available publicly or individually to institutions to show where programs did and did not meet standards. It does, however, make recommendations to policy makers on how they should regulate preparation programs. If NCTQ's goal was to help improve teacher preparation, rubrics should be released so that programs could utilize that information.
    • In the "Next Steps" for prospective and current students, NCTQ's recommendations are self-promoting, public relations steps intended to further promote the review – not to improve teacher preparation for future teachers.
"AACTE is focused like a laser on targets for change in educator preparation, including the ability to analyze teacher candidates' impact on PK-12 student achievement," said Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., president and CEO of AACTE. "We are evaluating teacher candidates' classroom readiness in a rigorous fashion through edTPA, and we are deepening partnerships with the PK-12 community to enrich clinical development and enhance student learning. Despite efforts such as NCTQ's to distract us from our agenda, we are committed to focusing on what research has shown to matter most."

For more information on AACTE members' response to the NCTQ review of the nation's education schools, visit

This from the Herald-Leader: 

                   Three Kentucky universities make the 'Honor Roll' in training survey

The University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Louisville made the "Honor Roll" in a first-ever national survey of teacher-training programs released Tuesday, but an official called the overall results "dismal." 

The Teacher Prep Review, released by the National Council on Teacher Quality, concluded that while a handful of U.S. teacher-training programs are performing at a high level, many others are effectively failing, leaving their graduates poorly prepared to teach in the nation's schools.

"The results are dismal," Kate Walsh, president of the teacher quality council, told reporters Tuesday. "New teachers deserve training that will enable them to walk into their own classrooms on their first day ready to teach ... but our review shows that we have a long way to go.

"While we know a lot about how to train teachers, those practices are seldom evident in the vast majority of programs," Walsh said.

The teacher quality council is an advocacy group that has been pushing for education reforms since about 2000.

Its report, however, is controversial. Many educators across the country have questioned the methodology used in scoring the programs, and some schools refused to cooperate in the survey.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the report's grading system a "gimmick" in a statement Tuesday.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in a statement that Tuesday's findings will have implications for the state Education Professional Standards Board, the agency that credentials Kentucky teachers.

"If we are to achieve our goal of an effective teacher in every classroom, and an effective principal leading every school, we need to collectively evaluate the teacher preparation programs in our state and take the action necessary to ensure the best outcomes for our students and that all students graduate from high school college and career ready," Holliday said.

The Teacher Prep Review rated more than 1,100 college-and-university-run teacher training programs nationwide.

Only 104 programs nationwide made the review's Honor Roll by earning at least three out of a possible four stars. Four programs, all training teachers for secondary education, got four stars: Ohio State University; Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University in Tennessee; and Furman University in South Carolina.
UK received three and a half stars for its undergraduate and graduate secondary training program, and three stars for its graduate-secondary program. EKU, which received three stars for undergraduate-secondary training, and the University of Louisville got three stars for its undergraduate secondary training.

In all, 22 Kentucky institutions were included in Tuesday's review. Some, however, received only partial scores because of limited information or because their teacher-training programs have relatively few students. Still, some of those programs got impressive marks. Asbury University, for example, won a four-star rating for the criteria it uses in admitting students to teacher training. However, other Kentucky results were less glowing.

The teacher-quality council said, for example, that only 14 percent of Kentucky's elementary and secondary training programs limit admission to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent of programs nationally.

The report also shows that just 29 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Kentucky prepare teachers in "effective scientifically based reading instruction." Just 36 percent of evaluated Kentucky programs provide strong math teaching preparation, while 42 percent "entirely fail" to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, the report said.

Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, noted Tuesday that some education school deans continue to question the way the report was prepared.

"Whether the methodology is perfect or not, the report certainly raises legitimate concerns," King said.
Those concerns are supported by results from the TELL survey, an online questionnaire for Kentucky teachers by the state Department of Education, King said. In the 2011 survey, nearly 45 percent of teachers said they needed more training in working with English-language learners; 60 percent reported needing more training to help struggling readers; and 55 percent wanted more help in classroom management.

"Our own program graduates are telling us that we need to rethink and redesign the way we are training our reachers," King said.

Margaret Rintamaa, program chair for the UK College of Education's middle school teacher education program, said several factors helped the university earned three stars in the survey.

"In particular, we have students out in schools from the time they enter the program," she said. "From the first semester, they have course work in a local middle school, faculty work with them in the mornings, and in the afternoons they work in classrooms with teachers and students."

Nikki Wiencek, who graduated from UK this year and will start teaching at Lexington's Jessie Clark Middle School this fall, said she's well prepared as a result of her training at UK.

"UK gave me the opportunity to make connections and network in Lexington that has made me feel more prepared," she said. "I've already been to Jessie Clark, met the principal and the people I'll be working with."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is like NCAA football. We need a darn tournament for COE students to compete - like a teacher bowl - instead of all these contradictory polls.