In June, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its long-awaited report on teacher preparation and, to the surprise of almost no one, it was a devastating critique of the nation’s colleges of education. The full report, which provides data on 1,130 institutions and ratings for 608 of them based on a rigorous four-star rating system, is available at www.nctq.org/teacherPrep. Here are the major findings from the Executive Summary:
· ** Less than 10% of rated programs earn three stars or more and only four programs earn four stars.
· **Admission standards to preparation programs are weak. Just over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of their class.
· **Fewer than one in nine elementary programs and just over one-third of high school programs are preparing candidates in content at the level necessary to teach the Common Core standards being implemented in 45 states.
· **Three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the well-founded scientific methods of reading instruction, and candidates all too often are told to develop his or her “own unique approach” to reading instruction.
Eight years in development, including 10 pilot studies, and applying standards based on valid research on effective teaching, the evaluations in the report provide convincing evidence that a large majority of our nation’s teacher preparation programs are miserably failing our aspiring teachers and our children.
For those of us deeply involved in public education reform, this issue simultaneously represents potentially the most productive area of reform and exhibits the most intransigent support base protecting the status quo. What do we do?
There are a number of good ideas being floated, recently and prominently in a January 2013 address to The Pope Center in North Carolina by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who believes that the weighting of education reform focus should be shifted from student standards to a priority on educator standards, beginning with much higher standards for admission to preparation programs and limiting schools of education to the graduate level. She further suggests that a working model for educator preparation reform is the one used at the beginning of the last century in overhauling and upgrading the country’s medical schools, which resulted in the closure of over half of the medical training programs over a 25-year period.
There is no shortage of other ideas that would be productive, such as grounding educator preparation program accreditation in output and performance-based criteria based on the value-added to student achievement by their graduates, a policy that has been advanced in several states and is currently being implemented in Texas.
But we must start by recognizing two clear realities, so well outlined by Charles Barone and Mac LeBuhn of Democrats for Education Reform: (1) those who want to overhaul public education are taking on a culture, a philosophy, and a belief system that has been in place for over a century. It permeates virtually every facet of our K-12 system, and begins to influence future educators as soon as they enter training, and (2) to be effective, advocates are going to have to up their game and employ a vertically-aligned model of advocacy that extends well beyond the passage of laws.
Hopefully, the NCTQ study will help serve as a final wake-up call on the urgency of attacking this problem.