New Report says 80% of Teacher Prep Programs in U.S. Get Mediocre or Failing Grade

NCTQ president Kate Walsh said her group’s rankings of teacher prep programs differ from others in that it is not dominated by traditional “elite” institutions.
NCTQ president Kate Walsh said her group’s rankings of teacher prep programs differ from others in that it is not dominated by traditional “elite” institutions.

In an effort to drive the ongoing discussion on the quality of educator preparation programs in the United States—or lack thereof—the National Council on Teacher Quality on Tuesday released a bigger and bolder version of its controversial Teacher Prep Review.


Like its inaugural predecessor that lamented an “industry of mediocrity,” the latest review paints what it calls a “grim picture” of teacher preparation in the United States: four out of five of the 2,400 teacher preparation programs in the United States are “weak or even failing.”

The review acknowledges, however, that many improvements—such as higher grade-point average requirements or college entrance exam scores for entry into teacher prep programs—are afoot throughout the nation and will take time to yield positive results.

Probably the most significant difference between this year’s review and the first review is that the new review ranks teacher prep programs numerically, whereas the first review just rated them with stars.

In what some view as a surprise finding, under NCTQ’s ranking scheme, Western Governors University came out as the top training program in the nation for secondary teachers—a distinction that a WGU administrator says “validates” its online, competency-based approach to teacher preparation.

In another unexpected finding, “elite” institutions didn’t dominate NCTQ’s top ranked teacher prep programs like they often do in other college rankings.

“The list of who’s the best in the country doesn’t look much like other people’s lists,” NCTQ president Kate Walsh said in a conference call with news reporters Tuesday.

While this year’s review is bigger in that — despite noncooperation from numerous institutions mistrustful of NCTQ and its aims — it evaluates the core components of teacher preparation at 836 institutions of higher education — 40 percent higher than the 608 it evaluated last year — critics say the review’s switch from ratings to rankings doesn’t necessarily translate into progress.

“Assessing the quality of teacher preparation in America is a vitally important undertaking. Unfortunately, the NCTQ effort doesn’t get us very far,” said Timothy F.C. Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago.

“There is an almost total absence of attention to things that matter—like where teachers teach, how long they stay, measures of instructional quality or the extent to which students from particular programs actually learn,” Knowles said. “Until we focus on outcomes we are unlikely to move the needle very far, if at all.

“Some rankings are useful, some are irrelevant,” Knowles continued. “The NCTQ rankings fall decidedly into the latter category, and I fear will have very little impact on the quality of the teaching workforce and may serve to make it worse.”

However, Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, or CCSSO, said the report provides “useful data that states can use in their work with educational stakeholder groups and policymakers to transform educator preparation programs.”

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education dismissed NCTQ’s move from ratings to rankings.

“The fact that they moved from ratings to rankings in the 2014 Teacher Prep Review doesn’t represent progress,” AACTE said in a statement. “It just represents another diversion away from the profession’s focused agenda of preparing effective teachers to advance student learning.”

In an apparent response to critics, NCTQ’s new review also launched a pilot study to take a critical look at alternative certification programs, such as Teach for America (TFA), and concludes that alternative certification is “generally more broken than its traditional counterpart.”

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Source: Diverse Education | Jamaal Abdul-Alim

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