The recently released report by the nonprofit advocacy organization National Council on Teacher Quality, Teacher Prep Review 2013, purports to critique the nation’s schools of education and promote change by advertising the results of their research. NCTQ hopes to improve teacher education by advocating for the good programs, thus causing poor programs to fail.
As The Journal Gazette reported on June 19, there are both critics and supporters of the report. We, as are many other teacher educators, are critical of NCTQ’s methodology for collecting data and its intentions in publishing the report.
State Sen. Jim Banks, R- Columbia City, cites the report positively and suggests legislation to improve teacher training. We believe Banks’ suggestions are unnecessary, for the oversight he wants to legislate is already being carried out by other means.
Schools of education are held accountable by their accreditor, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, as well as their state’s Department of Education and their university.
For each of these entities, we must pass rigorous standards with performance data for all students and programs.
The standards have become ever more rigorous, the data required ever more focused, and collaboration with school districts for field experience and student teaching ever more expanded.
In addition, and in response to Banks’ proposed legislation, we already report many of the measures he proposed, such as the pass rate of program completers on licensure tests.
However, some of his suggestions are, at best, indirect measures of program quality – such as retention rates of our majors (college students in general often change majors) and placement rates of graduates (which depend on market conditions and life choices of our graduates).
Our accreditor, the Indiana Department of Education, and the university use direct measures of student performance, which tell us what our students are able to do in their future classrooms. Students can’t be licensed until they can successfully pass these assessments. This form of assessment leads to a flow of continuous improvement.
Every semester schools of education assess their programs based on data culled from their assessment systems.
They initiate changes to respond to weaknesses or ineffective practices that data indicate.
Performance data thus drive improvements.
In contrast, NCTQ’s research is based on inputs, not outputs or performance data. For example, the NCTQ only read syllabi and course catalogs to assess programs. They didn’t assess the effect of instruction; they didn’t talk to us; they didn’t look at our assessments or performance data; they didn’t ask school systems about the performance of our graduates.
Through their form of assessment they cannot determine how well our graduates actually teach, yet they purport to say that they can. It is like claiming you can determine the performance of a car by reading the owner’s manual.
Everyone is in agreement that our children’s education is of primary importance and that the colleges that prepare teachers must continue to evolve to meet today’s challenges.
Our task is to stay focused on that objective and continue to use sophisticated assessment methods to guide us in our work and our decision-making.