NAICU Washington Update

NCTQ Attacks Quality of College Teacher Prep Programs

July 02, 2013

A report highly critical of the quality of teacher education programs was released June 18 by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), working with U.S. News & World Report. NCTQ’s long–awaited report immediately generated widespread, national media coverage criticizing the state of the nation’s teacher training programs at colleges. (See samples of such coverage in list below.)

The NCTQ report reviewed 2,400 programs at 1,130 institutions of higher education, and found that only half those programs had sufficient data to rate. Of those 1,200 programs rated, less than 10 percent (105) earned at least a three-star rating on a scale of 0-4 stars. Only four of those -- Lipscomb University, Furman University, Vanderbilt University, and Ohio State University -- received a four-star rating. Nearly 14 percent of programs (164) garnered no stars and received a “Consumer Alert” designation that effectively signals teacher candidates, “Warning! You are unlikely to obtain much return on your investment for this program.”

The methodology used by NCTQ to collect and analyze its data has been criticized as unscientific and invalid by some of the nation’s top teacher education experts, which is why most private colleges and universities have not participated in NCTQ studies. Much of that criticism is because the data is based on paper reports of course descriptions, syllabi, student handbooks, observation instruments, and student surveys. One of the best descriptions is from an Education Week article: “It’s like doing restaurant reviews by looking at the menu rather than eating there,” by Catherine Cornbleth, a professor emeritus of education at the University at Buffalo. 

Only 114 of the 1,130 institutions participated fully and willingly in the review. Most of the rated institutions are public colleges and universities that felt pressured by state open-record laws to submit the requested information. Private colleges and universities are largely underrepresented in the report by choice. They are also not subject to state open-record laws.

When private colleges chose not to participate, NCTQ resorted to questionable tactics to get information, such as paying students to turn in information and planting straw students. Over the past year, NAICU has heard numerous reports of such tactics from private colleges, large and small, across the country. Ironically, despite NCTQ’s disparaging attitude toward the teacher preparation programs of private colleges, three of the four top-rated universities were from the private sector.

Institutions rated in the report were not notified of their scores until the day before the report’s release. The NCTQ web site allows search of the rated colleges by state or program.

The negative messages generated by the report will continue to seep into congressional deliberations on reauthorizations of both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act.

Examples of Media Coverage Criticizing Teacher Training Programs:

Study: Teacher Prep Programs Get Failing Marks, NPR, June 18, 2013

Teacher Ed Takedown, Inside Higher Ed, June 18, 2013 

'An Industry of Mediocrity': Study Criticizes Teacher-Education Programs, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 18, 2013 

Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Prep, Education Week, June 18, 2013

Rookie teachers woefully unprepared, report says, Reuters UK, June 18, 2013  

Report: Too many teachers, too little quality,, June 17, 2013 

MORE News from NAICU