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NCTQ’s Report on Teacher Prep Programs Must Do More Than Rattle a Few Cages

Any large-scale effort at serious reform or innovation in K-12 education eventually leads to the vexing question of what to do about teacher preparation, ensuring there are enough effective instructors available. The consensus is fairly widespread that broadly speaking, today’s schools of education just aren’t getting the job done.

Released this week, the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Prep Review has been a long time in coming. The large-scale analysis of more than 1,100 teacher prep programs, in painting a bleak picture, has stirred up lots of debate and discussion. Here follow some of the highlights:

  1. Before the report was even released, NCTQ’s Kate Walsh framed the issue of “21st Century Teacher Education” in the latest edition of Education Next, summarizing some of the chief defects while suggesting alternative approaches
  2. Reform-minded state school chiefs embrace the new report’s findings, explaining that it “offers a sobering look at the state of teacher training across the country, and underscores the critical need for improvement”
  3. The Wall Street Journal‘s Stephanie Banchero summarizes the national results based on NCTQ’s four-star rating system: “fewer than 10% of the programs earned three or more stars. Only four, all for future high-school teachers, received four stars”
  4. The American Federation of Teachers — face of the opposition to local innovation in Douglas County — gives lip service to improving teacher preparation but dismisses NCTQ’s four-star rating system as a “gimmick” without offering any specific policy guidance
  5. After detailing some of the not-so-shocking findings in Teacher Prep Review and hailing NCTQ’s project, though less than perfect, as “a reminder that most of the nation’s ed schools don’t deserve to exist,” RiShawn Biddle from Dropout Nation concludes that it “strikes an important blow for overhauling how we recruit and train aspiring teachers”
  6. Not to be outdone, Fordham Institute expert Mike Petrilli tells the Associated Press: “You just have to have a pulse and you can get into some of these education schools. If policymakers took this report seriously, they’d be shutting down hundreds of programs.”
  7. The estimable Jay Greene forges his own path, criticizing parts of NCTQ’s analysis that tie quality preparation to Common Core standards and sharing concerns about the “hubris” of asserting the right policy prescriptions when substantive research is lacking in some areas
  8. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform potently quips in its latest Newswire: “NCTQ uncovered that three out of four elementary teacher programs are not teaching research-based, proven reading instruction. So it’s no wonder that less than 40 percent of our nation’s elementary school students can read at grade level!”
  9. Ed News Colorado highlights the poor showing of our own state’s schools of education — one of 15 states with no three-star or four-star institutions — and includes critique from ed schools that NCTQ’s analysis is too shallow
  10. The American Enterprise Institute’s Daniel Lautzenheiser says that rather than resorting to “hysteria” or dismissive attitudes, the ed schools should be “encouraging healthy debates” and more in-depth analyses, since a lot of evidence points to the underlying teacher preparation problem

I don’t think there’s too much more to be gained by going on and on. Let me only add that we also might want to look at new models of teacher preparation programs (such as this and this) and start putting together the data that shows what kind of difference their graduates are making. Because most of the old schools aren’t getting it done.

The initial media buzz certainly has rattled some cages and provoked some conversation. But it needs to create more momentum toward better understanding and fixing the problem. Otherwise, little me may be spending many of my future school years pounding my head against the wall.