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Of the 20 best universities, defined by the U.S. News & World Report 2013 rankings, only one offers a major in elementary education. The picture at the top 20 liberal-arts colleges looks strikingly similar. Students can major in elementary education at three, and can obtain certification in secondary education at just over half. Clearly, our top colleges and universities send an implicit message in their course offerings about what is and isn’t appropriate for their students to study.
The State Higher Education Executive Officers and the National Association of System Heads are calling for less government regulation of how teachers are trained and more emphasis on giving would-be teachers classroom experience. In particular, the groups are seeking to make teacher-education programs more selective, by increasing requirements for content mastery and by expanding opportunities for education-school students to get more practical experience before entering the profession.
A report highly critical of the quality of teacher education programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality, released June 18, immediately generated national media coverage. The data and methodology NCTQ used, which found 164 programs so lacking that they received a “Consumer Alert,” has been deemed unscientific and invalid by some experts. Further, the group used questionable tactics to obtain data from private colleges, relatively few of which participated in the review.
University-based teacher-education programs are in trouble and could possibly lose their franchise. Can they be repaired, or must they be replaced? In recent years, the focus has been increasingly on replacement, out of understandable frustration with an organization that knows its problems but ignores or refuses to fix them. However, there is also a case to be made for repair.
Acknowledging that the nation’s educators face large challenges in preparing students for more rigorous academic standards and tests, Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, informed state education officials on Tuesday that they could postpone using the tests to make career decisions about teachers. Over the past 18 months, states have agreed to adopt new “college and career ready” standards and to tether teacher performance ratings partly to student achievement on standardized tests based on those new standards.
The report, "Teacher Prep Review," released on Tuesday, is the product of a partnership between the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report. The council's work has met fierce resistance since data collection began two and a half years ago, with deans of several education programs questioning the review's methodology, and some states balking at furnishing the council with the materials it requested. The council submitted open-records requests to obtain materials from public institutions and asked private colleges to volunteer their information.
The National Council on Teacher Quality's highly critical new report assigns ratings to programs at 608 institutions; some of the data are also published in U.S. News and World Report. Only four out of a total of 1,200 elementary and secondary education programs received four out of four stars in the review; meanwhile 163 programs, or one in seven, received less than one star and were given a “warning” symbol, telling potential candidates not to bother applying, because they are “unlikely to obtain much return on their investment.”
The U.S. teacher training system is badly broken, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality. But the study did not typically evaluate the quality of teaching within the training program or the success graduates may have had in the classroom. "Our members feel like they've been strong-armed," said Stephanie Giesecke, a director at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. "These are not valid ways of rating our programs."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan bowed to (some) reason Tuesday and announced that he was giving states some flexibility in regard to when they had to use student scores from new Common Core-aligned standardized tests to evaluate teachers. Psychometricians have warned for years that linking student standardized test scores to the evaluation of teachers and principals is an unfair and invalid way of assessment, but it has become popular among school reformers who believe that the “data” from the test results — when plugged into a complicated formula — can tell how effective teachers really are.
In the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category: Florida just passed a law making it illegal to evaluate teachers on standardized test scores of students they never taught. If you are wondering why such a law would be necessary, here’s why: For two years, many teachers were actually being evaluated by the test scores of students they had never even seen much less taught, under a school reform law that included a requirement that Florida teachers be evaluated on student test scores.