Thursday, June 19, 2014

Response to the new NCTQ Teacher Prep Review

I was planning to give this year's version of the NCTQ report on teacher prep colleges its due - you know, completely ignore it - but then I ran across this piece and AACTE's response and thought I'd post them.

NCTQ was established to break down Ed schools and create a market for private teacher preparation institutions. Its methodology is so suspect that it's results (even those that ranked EKU highly last year) should be totally ignored. I'm convinced that their paper review of our program has taught them nothing about the educational experience here or anywhere else.

This from The Becoming Radical:
NCTQ’s announcement of its new edition of its Teacher Prep Review predictably exalts its own role in improving public education by requiring colleges of education to raise students’ test scores through the instruction of its teacher candidates once they are members of school faculties. I will briefly respond to a few of the claims that they make, which rely on rhetorical characterizations about “success” and “achievement” that spuriously elevate their belief that standardized tests reflect the whole of learning, a claim that few teachers or teacher educators endorse. In contrast, most teachers and teacher educators believe that the NCTQ’s narrow focus on standardized “achievement” tests undermine an authentic education that prepares students for work or life.

The report claims that “The training that teachers receive has to set them up for success.” Well, who doesn’t want successful teachers and students? The question that many of us within the profession ask is this: How is success defined here? For NCTQ, teacher educators are successful when graduates of their programs teach students who do well on standardize tests. But it’s pretty well documented that the best way to have students get good test results is to teach kids from affluent families. The best way to be a successful teacher educator, then, is to encourage teacher candidates to teach the wealthiest kids possible, rather than those residing in impoverished communities. Given that social justice is inscribed in the mission statement of just about every college of education in the nation, being successful according to NCTQ means betraying the values to which we are committed as educators.

The recent judicial decision to eliminate teacher tenure in California may well negate the claim that tenure decisions will now include data from “student achievement.” NCTQ overlooks the fact that in many “Right to Work” states do not have tenure, collective bargaining, unions, or other job protection rights. In any case, the idea that the only measure of “student achievement” is standardized tests overlooks other ways in which students may achieve in school.

The “troubling ‘capacity gap’ between what teachers were being expected to do and what their training equipped them to do” is only troubling if one accepts the fact that teacher educators reject the idea that they should focus on one thing: training prospective teachers to train children and youth to take multiple choice tests. I use the word “train” here because narrow, tedious learning of this sort involves little constructive or open-ended thinking. These tests, first of all, are often not related at all to the curriculum but instead test students on their ability to get correct answers on test items constructed in relation to brief passages by psychometricians who may have little understanding of curriculum, instruction, human developmentexcitement about learningopen-ended thinkingcreativityartistic expressionkids’ home livesauthentic work readiness, cultural ways of thinking, kinesthetic learningthe needs of learners with special circumstancesthe cultivation of committed writersrelating instruction authentically to students’ lives, and other aspects of school learning.

The emphasis on narrow testing abilities further overlooks the many contributions that teachers make to schools: caring for emotionally needy studentsproviding pathways to persistingmaking a long-term commitment to schools and their communitiesfostering the ability to form healthy relationshipsinvolving community members in school activitiesbeing good colleaguesbuilding the confidence of young people at fragile points in their lives, and other aspects of cultivating the whole person.

The report further claims that “new teachers don’t feel like they can even get to the business of teaching and learning because they haven’t been taught the most basic classroom management techniques.” They are right in that many colleges of education have eliminated classes in classroom management, in many cases because without unruly students present to illustrate procedures, the abstraction of management textbooks are of little value in learning how to manage increasingly large classes of kids who are subjected to a deadly dull curriculum oriented to multiple choice assessments. The NCTQ appears to have little understanding of the relation between an engaging curriculum and student engagement. Rather, colleges of education should train teacher candidates how to prepare kids for standardized tests and manage (i.e., punish) those who find the experience despicable. It’s easy to see why an intelligent, dedicated teacher educator would find that prospect both unappealing and educationally bankrupt.
This from AACTE:
Statement on NCTQ Teacher Prep Review from Sharon P. Robinson

Yesterday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its second annual Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs. Although parts of this report venture a conciliatory tone, as might be expected from NCTQ’s past reports, this review offers largely unhelpful recommendations that are based on questionable methodology.

Public Shaming—Over a Document Review

In an attempt to provide a consumer-friendly guide to teacher preparation programs, NCTQ has moved from rating institutions on a 4-star scale to ranking them numerically—a divisive tactic that mostly serves to pit institutions against one another. Notably, these rankings have as little to do with graduates’ readiness to teach as did last year’s star system.

Because of NCTQ’s history of misrepresenting data, only 118 of the 1,127 institutions reviewed fully participated in the report. In many instances, programs provided less than 50% of the information requested to evaluate whether a standard was met. Gaps were filled by NCTQ by downloading online course descriptions, catalogues, and syllabi and tracking down other materials from partner schools and districts. Even “full participation,” however, resulted in little more than a document review—hardly adequate evidence to judge graduates’ readiness to teach.

Despite this lack of data, NCTQ draws sweeping conclusions about the entire field. The report goes so far as to recommend that prospective employers refer to these input-oriented ratings to help sort applicants for job openings—even as it acknowledges that “low-ranked programs can, and often do, graduate teachers who end up being effective, even superstars.” I advise school leaders to view this report with caution and consider carefully its usefulness in evaluating teacher candidates.

Real Reform and Accountability

AACTE and its member institutions believe in accountability. Low-performing programs should be given the opportunity and support to improve and then evaluated on transparent, well-researched standards with a clear understanding of what needs to change. If programs fail to improve, then they should be closed. But rather than wasting any more attention on antagonistic distractions such as NCTQ’s report, we are committed to continuing our own reform efforts on several exciting fronts—using reliable and valid evidence derived from and informed by research.

We are implementing a ground-breaking performance assessment, edTPA, that gives both programs and teacher candidates meaningful evidence about whether graduates are ready to teach from Day 1. We have a remarkable new initiative, the Innovation Exchange, responding to the changing demands of PK-12 schools with several programs aimed at building programs’ capacity, synthesizing research, and more. We are expanding partnerships with PK-12 schools to improve clinical preparation and supports for all educators. And we participate in rigorous transformation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), our professional quality-assurance provider committed to research, improvement, and peer-driven accountability.

In its report, NCTQ acknowledges some of these reforms and even tries to take credit for many of them, but in fact, they predate NCTQ’s work. AACTE and its members are steadfast in our goal of promoting true program improvement and reforms that have had lasting and positive outcomes for teacher preparation and the students served by these educators.

No comments: