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Sunday, July 7, 2013
The recent release of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s first-ever Teacher Prep Review 2013 provides a much-needed, outside-in assessment of teacher training across the nation.
According to its website, nctq.org, the first edition of the review is an unprecedented evaluation of more than 1,100 colleges and universities that prepare elementary and secondary teachers. As a consumer tool, it allows aspiring teachers, parents and school districts to compare programs and determine which are doing the best — and worst — job of training new teachers.
Sounds like an intelligent accountability and transparency effort to me.
The hard part is, of course, gathering data from academe, an insular world that protects what information it has and rarely agrees to gather more.
The 29 Virginia colleges or universities with teacher prep programs were evaluated for this review. Of these, 14 institutions (providing 73 percent of the commonwealth’s traditionally trained teachers) provided sufficient data for an overall rating.
Key standards included Selection Criteria, Early Reading, Common Core Elementary Mathematics, Common Core Elementary Content, and Student Teaching.
Other standards included: English Language Learners, Struggling Readers, Classroom Management, Lesson Planning, Assessment and Data, Equity, Outcomes and Evidence of Effectiveness.
Roanoke-region institutions with overall ratings from this review include Averett University, Hollins University, James Madison University, Longwood University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Radford University, Roanoke College, University of Virginia, University of Virginia at Wise, Virginia Intermont College and Virginia Tech.
Averett, Hollins, Lynchburg, Mary Baldwin, Roanoke and Virginia Intermont College were unable or unwilling to provide information sufficient to determine an overall rating.
The following teacher prep institutions were not rated at all, presumably because there was no information with which NCTQ could work: Bluefield College, Emory & Henry, Ferrum College, Randolph College, St. Paul’s College and Sweet Briar.
So how did the Roanoke region stack up?
Longwood University and Radford University both earned three stars, putting them in elite company nationwide, where only 4 percent of elementary teacher preparation courses were good enough to be on the honor roll.
James Madison University netted a mere 2.5 stars; Virginia Tech, 2 stars; and the University of Virginia, 1.5 stars.
The NCTQ is generously funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an assortment of other grant-making institutions from a broad spectrum of ideological missions. In other words, NCTQ has no political agenda; it simply wants, as its tag line says, to ensure every child has an effective teacher.
With more than 3,000 new teachers in Virginia in 2010 (last available data), it makes sense to have accountability measures in place and for higher education institutions to openly share data and to do self-assessment with regard to effectiveness.
Teacher prep programs should consider this report a wake-up call and do some serious self-assessment in the area of teacher effectiveness. Such reports are not going away and, I suspect, will increase in intensity and scrutiny as organizations, such as NCTQ, gain momentum, access and public attention.
Of course, such studies beg the questions: Who are the people teaching our children, what are our children learning, and what options do we have as consumers of the educational product?
Which opens the door to discussions on curriculum, school choice, home-schooling and the like.
Which is all good for our students, good for higher ed, good for our country.
We all should be applauding the NCTQ effort and insisting that each college and university make its own assessments on teacher effectiveness, use the data to improve programs, then publish the data so consumers (both teacher wannabes and parents) can make informed choices.
Working with the NCTQ would be a great start.
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