Friday, June 21, 2013

Report Card on Teacher Prep Programs

This week, the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released the first ever national report on the quality of teacher preparation programs.  NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review provides data on the 1,130 institutions that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers. That data was used to determine overall ratings of the programs based on a set of key standards.

Among the key findings of the report:
--Less than 10 percent of rated programs earn three stars or more. Only four programs, all secondary, earn four stars: Lipscomb and Vanderbilt, both in Tennessee; Ohio State University; and Furman University in South Carolina. Only one institution, Ohio State, earns more than three stars for both an elementary (3½ stars) and a secondary (4 stars) program. 

--It is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program. Just over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of their class, compared with the highest-performing countries, which limit entry to the top third.

--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 new Common Core State Standards now being implemented in classrooms in 45 states and the
District of Columbia.

-- The “reading wars” are far from over. Three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers, from 30 percent to less than 10 percent. Instead, the teacher candidate is all too often told to develop his or her “own unique approach” to teaching reading.

--Just 7 percent of programs ensure that their student teachers will have uniformly strong experiences, such as only allowing them to be placed in classrooms taught by teachers who are themselves effective, not just willing volunteers.

Among the key findings for Kentucky:
High rated programs – Programs at Eastern Kentucky University (undergraduate secondary), the University of Kentucky (undergraduate and graduate secondary), and University of Louisville (undergraduate secondary) are on the Teacher Prep Review's Honor Roll, earning at least three out of four possible stars. Across the country, NCTQ identified 20 elementary programs (3 percent of those rated) and 84 secondary programs (14 percent) for the Honor Roll.

Selectivity in admissions -- The Review found that only 14 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Kentucky restrict admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide. Countries where students consistently outperform the U.S. typically set an even higher bar, with teacher prep programs recruiting candidates from the top third of the college-going population. Some worry that increasing admissions requirements will have a negative effect on the diversity of teacher candidates. By increasing the rigor and therefore the prestige of teacher preparation, the profession will attract more talent, including talented minorities. This is not an impossible dream: 83 programs across the country earn a Strong Design designation on this standard because they are both selective and diverse, although no such programs were found in Kentucky.

Early reading instruction -- Just 29 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Kentucky are preparing teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, the same small percentage of programs providing such training nationally.

Elementary math -- A mere 19 percent of evaluated elementary programs nationwide provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics, training that mirrors the practices of higher performing nations such as Singapore and South Korea. A notably higher percentage -- 36 percent -- of evaluated programs in Kentucky provide such training, although most programs in the state come up short.

Student teaching -- Of the evaluated elementary and secondary programs in Kentucky, 32 percent entirely fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. This is a much lower failure rate than the 71 percent found nationally. No Kentucky programs earn a perfect four stars, compared to 7 percent of evaluated programs across the country.

Classroom management -- Only 10 percent of the evaluated Kentucky elementary and secondary programs earn a perfect four stars for providing feedback to teacher candidates on concrete classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior, compared to 23 percent of evaluated programs nationwide.

Content preparation -- 13 percent of Kentucky's elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation, 11 percent of elementary programs do so nationwide. Digging deeper, more elementary programs (9 percent) earn a perfect four stars than their national counterparts (3 percent), and only 17 percent entirely fail this standard, compared to 44 percent nationally. At the high school level, only 27 percent of Kentucky secondary programs earn four stars for content preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide. But unlike 20 percent of programs across the country, no Kentucky secondary programs entirely fail the high school content standard.

Outcome data -- None of Kentucky's evaluated programs earn four stars for collecting data on their graduates, compared to 26 percent of evaluated programs in the national sample, although most programs do earn partial credit. In the absence of state efforts to connect student achievement data to teacher preparation programs, administer surveys of graduates and employers or require administration of teacher performance assessments (TPAs), programs that fare poorly on this standard have not taken the initiative to collect any such data on their own.

Having a highly effective teacher for every student in Kentucky is a goal of the Kentucky Board of Education. It is extremely important that our teacher preparation programs, Education Professional Standards Board, school districts, Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Kentucky Department of Education work closely to build on our strengths in Kentucky teacher preparation and improve in areas highlighted in this report.

Over the summer, I will highlight specific issues from this report, the Commission on Accreditation of Educator Preparation standards report, the Council of Chief State School Officers focus on teacher preparation and the results from our 2013 TELL Kentucky survey. All of these are interrelated and provide excellent data as we continue our work toward college- and career-readiness for all students in Kentucky.


  1. Dr. Holliday,

    As a frequent follower of your typically thoughtful entries, I am surprised at the attention and legitimacy you have given to the recently released NCTQ report. Certainly, as a CAEP commission co-chair, you must be aware of the considerable controversy surrounding this document; however, your remarks do not appear to reflect the multiple perspectives (many of them substantively critical) that accompany this report.

    As a teacher educator, I very much welcome the opportunity for honest and thorough evaluation; however, after much study, I have concluded that the NCTQ report is not such an evaluation. To paraphrase the language of another blogger, the NCTQ, relying only on external documents, has attempted something akin to reviewing restaurants based on reading their menus without taking the time to actually taste the food.

    Given the near universal agreement on the strong relationship between teaching practice and student learning (a view that NCTQ heavily endorses, by the way), I find it quite frustrating that NCTQ made no attempt to actually discern the quality of teaching and learning at any of the institutions in this report other than by external (and often incomplete) document review.

    Below are links to more critical views of the NCTQ report.

    American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education: NCTQ List of Chief Concerns

    Response to NCTQ by Linda Darling-Hammond in the Washington Post

    In summary, I want to thank you for your dedication to maintaining thoughtful flow of information to educators via this blog, and I appreciate the opportunity to share a divergent viewpoint in the comments section.

    I do hope that this information brings balance to the discussion of the NCTQ report, and propels us towards more thoughtful ways of examining systems of teacher preparation

    Jonathan Thomas
    Asst. Professor of Mathematics Education
    Northern Kentucky University

    1. Thanks Jonathan. I have read all of the reports you cite above and have talked personally with Sharon Robinson at AACTE about teacher prep. My fear is that teacher prep reform will ignore the report rather than analyze the report for areas of improvement. The CAEP standards will actually provide measures of some of the NCTQ recommendations. I do agree that teacher prep needs to look at a balance of research and not solely at the NCTQ report.