Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Commissioner Holliday drinks the NCTQ Kool-Aid

NCTQ Targets Higher Education Leaders

The decision a university makes to cooperate with NCTQ - or not - is fraught with conflicts. On one hand, any institution that cooperates in an endeavor they know in advance will produce untrustworthy results - which will then be reported to the public - is contributing to some level of fraud. On the other hand, NCTQ is asking universities to provide public information they are entitled to under the Open Records Act.

But whether a university participates or not, any institution that stands for intellectual honesty is also honor-bound to call out NCTQ for its shoddy methodology. If scholars and policy makers allow the NCTQ rankings to go unchallenged, then the public is dis-served. On some level we perpetuate a lie.

If a study is bad; if an instrument is broken; if research is not trustworthy: then it must be ignored. There was a time when Kentucky education leaders understood this and the problems associated with NCTQ’s poor methodology.

But Commissioner Holliday has apparently forgotten a basic principle of research: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” It would be dishonest (and on some level anti-scientific) to disregard known weaknesses in a study but report the results as trustworthy anyway. But that is pretty much what the commissioner did last month when he touted the results of NCTQ’s “study.” He cited deficiencies of Ed schools that were lousy in one way or another as determined by NCTQ’s report, which he now regards as “excellent data.”

If this is Commissioner Holliday’s standard for what constitutes excellent data, it calls into question whether he truly knows the difference. To make matters worse, he promises more.

Over the summer, I will highlight specific issues from this report, the Commission on Accreditation of Educator Preparation standards report, the Council of Chief State School Officers focus on teacher preparation and the results from our 2013 TELL Kentucky survey. All of these are interrelated and provide excellent data as we continue our work toward college- and career-readiness for all students in Kentucky.” 

Lumping NCTQ data in with CAEP, and TELL weakens the stature of CAEP and TELL.

In March, 2011, Holliday, along with EPSB's Phil Rogers, CPE's Bob King joined other leaders of Kentucky's private and public colleges and universities who objected to the methodology used by the NCTQ. In a letter to NCTQ, they said, 

"we have met with additional individuals and agencies in Kentucky to reassess our decision regarding endorsing the NCTQ report to be sure we are doing what is best to address that important, commonly held goal. After we carefully examined NCTQ's response, participated in webinars and attended the NCTQ presentation in San Diego at the 2011 AACTE annual conference, we stand with the majority of colleges and universities across the U.S. that have elected not to endorse the NCTQ investigative report… 

"…we remain convinced that your proposed investigative report fails to measure vital activities that we believe would more accurately inform the public of the quality of our teacher preparation programs. Hence, we cannot in good conscience endorse the methodology or results of your effort." 

Where has the Commissioner’s “good conscience” gone?

@The Chalk Face is reporting that NCTQ Honcho Kate Walsh has now moved her campaign to privatize teacher education programs to the top of the Higher Ed food chain.

This from Timothy Slekar:

Last week I posted a blog in the form of a letter to College and University leaders. I asked them to think about teacher education programs and the importance of these programs to the overall success of their institutions.  I also warned them to beware of NCTQ masquerading as a legitimate “national council” conducting research of national importance. 

On Friday evening my President forwarded me this email that was sent directly to him from none other than Kate Walsh:
Dear _____________,

Last month, the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report issued the Teacher Prep Review, the first-ever ratings of the nation’s teacher preparation programs. With some notable exceptions, the news was not good, with programs earning an average rating of 1.5 stars on a 4-star scale. That said, the findings were not surprising to most people, given how this nation has struggled for decades to deliver teacher preparation that systematically adds value. 

I am urging you to take a leadership role on this critical issue and work with us to provide the data we need to rate your institution’s teacher preparation programs for the second edition of the Review, scheduled for release in June 2014. By doing so, you will help ensure that the public gets the information it deserves about the publicly-approved programs preparing public school teachers.

It is no secret that the Review has not been well received by many in higher education. But I ask you to judge our work for yourself by reading our report. Outside of higher education, the Review is getting broad and generally positive coverage, with over 800 stories in the media since its release. Institutions which chose not to cooperate have gotten little support for their stance, as the attached editorials from the Washington Post and Pittsburgh Post Gazette illustrate.

Most importantly, the ratings are already beginning to penetrate consumer thinking, given our two partnerships, first with U.S. News & World Report and now with SearchSoft, a company that helps school districts’ HR offices track applicants for teaching positions. SearchSoft will be incorporating NCTQ ratings into their software currently used by 1,200 districts.

Concurrent to this letter, we are reaching out to the country’s deans of education schools, asking them to work with us to provide the materials we need for the next Review by no later than December 1.  If a conversation would be helpful at this point, I am more than happy to speak with you. Please contact my assistant, Susan Douglas, at (202) 393-0020 x. 105 to set up a call.


Kate Walsh
My president asked me about our interest and or need to “cooperate” with NCTQ.  For a moment my heart sank.  I just finished my 3rd week in my new position and I really had no desire to possibly offend or be seen as noncompliant trouble maker (Trust me I do sometimes think about the ramifications of my actions). But I had to respond from the heart.

So I composed the following email response:
Dear Mr. President.

We should talk about this next week. NCTQ is not a national council. They are a well financed group of anti-intellectuals with no experience in classrooms.   Their “report” has been systematically dismantled by leading scholars from across the country. They have no intention of objectively evaluating our programs.

They (NCTQ) were formed to defame teacher education. In fact, if we were to be evaluated “highly” by NCTQ we would be violating our mission/values and all of the research on child development and teaching and learning.

NCTQ is a propaganda machine on a mission to eliminate “professional” preparation of teachers. If they actually succeed in their mission our institution will likely lose our teacher education and certification programs.

NCTQ’s monetary support comes from organizations and individuals that want to remove teacher credentialing from higher education in order to privatize it and turn into a technical degree designed for low wage teaching jobs. I can go on and on.

NCTQ and all the other so-called reformers believe teachers and teaching should be entry level work done for low wages and for a short period of time. And the long term picture is not good for all of higher education. NCTQ and its supporters have all intentions of bringing their “evaluation system” to all of higher education.

I guess you can tell I’m not a big fan of NCTQ.

Sorry for the rant, 


As previously reported here, the National Council on Teacher Quality is a Bush-era education non-profit, established for the purpose of “countering" traditional teacher organizations and the current structure of the profession.

It is not a national council. (Beware any group that tries to make of itself more than it is. Two of the conservative Chiefs for Change (conservative state superintendents associated with former Florida governor Jeb Bush) served on NCTQ’s technical advisory panel.)

NCTQ was created by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000. [Diane Ravitch] was on the board of TBF at the time. Conservatives, and [she] was one, did not like teacher training institutions. [They] thought [Ed schools] were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics. In 1997, [Fordham] had commissioned a Public Agenda study called “Different Drummers”; this study chided professors of education because they didn’t care much about discipline and safety and were more concerned with how children learn rather than what they learned. TBF established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated Ed schools.
For a time, it was not clear how this fledgling organization would make waves or if it would survive. But in late 2001, Secretary of Education Rod Paige gave NCTQ a grant of $5 million to start a national teacher certification program called the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (see p. 16 of the link). ABCTE has since become an online teacher preparation program, where someone can become a teacher for $1,995.
NCTQ was one of a handful of groups, partly funded by government grants, whose advocacy for certain Bush policies through Op-Eds and other publicity, came under scrutiny for failing to follow the anti-propaganda rules. According to the Department of Education's Office of Inspector General report on Department PR expenditures from 2002 - 2004, NCTQ and the Oquirrh Institute received $677,318 to "increase the American public's exposure and understanding of the research and full spectrum of ideas on teacher quality."

In 2005, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education called the NCTQ grant into question on a couple of counts. First, the unsolicited grant to NCTQ had been approved, although two out of three reviewers had recommended against it, following involvement by the Office of the Secretary. Secondly, NCTQ president Kate Walsh had run Op-Eds without including the legally required EDGAR disclosure to protect against covert propaganda. The Inspector General wrote, "The failure of these grantees to include the required disclaimer appears to have resulted in an improper expenditure of grant funds that should now be recovered. 

Walsh has a little history herself. NCTQ was a spinoff of the Education Leaders Council, a conservative-leaning group of education officials that was labeled a "high-risk grantee." See SourceWatch for lots more on NCTQ.

Kenneth Teitelbaum, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale drew a clear analogy to demonstrate this problem in Group's Report Poorly Done, Lacking in Data

Imagine an organization that decides to assess doctor preparation by establishing its own standards rather than those embraced by the American Medical Association. Or something similar for lawyers, engineers, nurses, police officers, etc. This is what NCTQ does. Whatever our own major professional associations subscribe to, or whatever the research shows, NCTQ assumes its own standards and then assesses our programs based on them. In addition, they do no direct observations of practice, no interviewing of students and school and community partners, and very little follow up of the factual errors that we call to their attention. They simply look at course syllabi, our website and the University catalog, all very limited indicators of what actually takes place in our courses and field experiences and intended as such. How can one come to grand conclusions about the quality of an elementary education or special education program from such limited information? Apparently NCTQ thinks you can. 

In my view, and those of my colleagues, their efforts would not be sufficient to pass an undergraduate research course.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education issued a Member Alert. 

"[NCTQ's] efforts have utilized methodologies that do not meet the standards of basic scientific research. For example, they have assessed course syllabi and handbooks against "standards" – that are neither research based nor representative of any established consensus – as a means of evaluating teacher preparation programs. AACTE has consulted with its member institutions as they have encountered difficulties with NCTQ...Institutions being contacted by NCTQ can thus be aware of the experience of others as they consider participation in any way with NCTQ "studies".


Anonymous said...

So why did EKU COE participate?

Ironically it gets identified in a positive light and goes so far as to publically point out this "recognition". I am not sure if it is more embarassing to garner NCTQ kudos or give it undo value by touting the recognition publically.

Richard Day said...

We came down on the side of transparency, and following the law.

While we were very concerned...for all of the reasons listed is NCTQ's responsibility to conduct appropriate research and report trustworthy data - or remain silent if it's not trustworthy.

It is our responsibility to follow the law and speak out for proper research protocols.

NCTQ is much less interested in conducting solid research than they are getting out their message. Once U S News and World Report signed on, they were home free. Now they can broadly publish their results and most folks will believe what they read - apparently and sadly, that even extends to our commissioner.

The irony is not lost on us. We believe we have a solid teacher prep program at EKU. And just because NCTQ agrees, does not mean we're not. It just doesn't prove
that we are.

It's not embarrassing for us to be highly recognized by NCTQ. But beyond the original press release, I don't hear anybody touting it.

But beyond EKU, NCTQ got their story out - that the vast majority of Teacher Ed programs are deficient. Watch future reports. That message won't change.