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June 18, 2013 2:58 PM Rating the Teachers Colleges (or trying to, anyway)

By Daniel Luzer

A new feature on U.S. News & World Report rates America’s teacher preparation programs. Surprise, they’re all pretty bad.

Together with the National Council on Teacher Quality, the publication has revealed its new rankings. Read it and weep.

While the 2013 teacher preparation rankings begins by informing interested parties that “with NCTQ’s ratings of teacher prep programs, you can find the one that will get you classroom-ready from day one,” it actually does no such thing.

The organization rates schools according to their training program curricula, syllabi and admissions standards, but there are, in fact, only four programs in America that earn four stars in all areas: the teacher training programs at Lipscomb, Vanderbilt, Furman, and Ohio State Universities. Only ten percent of all the teacher schools in America even earn three stars.

The report that NCTQ released along with the rankings said that the evaluation “pulls back the curtain on ‘an industry of mediocrity’” and that,

The field of teacher preparation has rejected any notion that its role is to train the next generation of teachers. Any training regimen in classroom management or reading instruction runs the risk, the field worries, of new teachers pulling from a fixed bag of tricks rather than considering each class as something new and unique.

That might be a valid point, but what’s missing from the ranking is any indication of effectiveness. We’ve been trying this for years. Despite a veneer of science evidence in such programs, evidence in teacher training has always been pretty limited.

In fact, the odd thing about the NCTQ ranking is that it’s somehow manages to be both disparaging and meaningless.

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Sure it seems to make sense to look at teachers colleges’ “training program curricula, syllabi and admissions standards,” but does it really matter? Are the people trained at Lipscomb, Vanderbilt, Furman, and Ohio State better teachers?

Well no. In fact we have no idea if the measures NCTQ used are an accurate reflection of the things that matter for student learning.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the NCTQ ranking a “gimmick” with nothing to do with “professionally-accepted standards.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the organization “deserves praise for working to give consumers — both teacher candidates and districts — better information to use in selecting the most effective teacher preparation programs.” He also indicated that more information about student achievement would improve the ranking. “As the classroom effectiveness of the teachers trained in these programs is better understood, I’m confident that NCTQ will continue working to validate and improve these ratings.”

America should maybe be a little less confident. There might actually be no connection between teacher training and classroom effectiveness. So far, despite decades of work, no one has found any link between teacher education programs and student achievement. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Masy on June 19, 2013 10:53 AM:

    On top of everything else, some of the information in the report is simply wrong. It gives high grades to undergrad programs that don't exist, low grades to programs for not having specific types of training or courses when in fact they do, and really simply seems to make stuff up.
    Do these colleges and programs need help? Of course. But THIS? It's not even any good.