Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ranking Teacher Colleges: A Background Reader

Prospective lawyers, engineers, and literature majors have looked toward rankings to help them wend their way through the college selection process. Despite much opposition from teachers colleges, future educators soon will have rankings to call their own, too.

Tomorrow U.S. News & World Report, in partnership with education think tank National Center on Teacher Quality, will publish an evaluation of more than 1,100 colleges and universities that train the nation’s K-12 education workforce.

“By shining a light on teacher preparation programs, we hope to highlight strong programs that will help aspiring teachers and hiring districts make strategic choices, and help programs and policymakers build a world-class teacher preparation system,” Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ, said in a press release.

In the run-up to the release of the rankings, organizations representing teachers and teachers colleges have publicly aired their gripes with NCTQ, impugning the integrity of the organization’s research methods and motives. In past years, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the national group that advocates on behalf of teachers colleges, has downplayed NCTQ’s findings, accusing the group of having a “strong bias against higher education-based educator preparation.”

State education leaders supportive of teachers colleges in Oklahoma and Wisconsin have taken NCTQ to task in local papers, questioning the group’s politics and intentions.  

U.S. News & World Report has been on the receiving end of animus from college leaders and media critics, too. Late last year, New York Times opinion writer Joe Nocera wrote:

“U.S. News likes to claim that it uses rigorous methodology, but, honestly, it’s just a list put together by magazine editors. The whole exercise is a little silly. Or rather, it would be if it weren’t so pernicious.

Despite the pushback, the rankings are bound to have a dramatic effect on how students rate teacher colleges of their choice, potentially cutting off vital tuition dollars to programs ranked poorly by the U.S. News rankings.

The teacher pipeline has served as a flashpoint for education advocates of all political fronts, with those sympathetic to teachers unions allying with the teachers colleges.

To prepare for the rollout tomorrow, EWA is posting the following stories and background readings to help provide context for what should be a rich news cycle.

Reformers focus on recruiting better students for teacher training

“For many of these critics, the problem with teacher education starts even before the first class begins. These critics argue that low-quality students are recruited to education schools, drawn by low admissions standards and perceptions of education schools as a fallback option. High-quality candidates are being driven away from the field by school budget cuts imposed during the recession and the vitriol over education reform, educators say. Aware of their reputations, education schools find themselves doing balancing between boosting admissions standards and being able to fill seats.” (The Hechinger Report, via The Miami Herald)

Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Quality: Are There Real Di…

“We compare teacher preparation programs in Missouri based on the effectiveness of their graduates in the classroom. The differences in effectiveness between teachers from different preparation programs are very small. In fact, virtually all of the variation in teacher effectiveness comes from within-program differences between teachers. Prior research has overstated differences in teacher performance across preparation programs for several reasons, most notably because some sampling variability in the data has been incorrectly attributed to the preparation programs.” (CALDER Working Paper)

California struggles to assess teacher training programs

“The need for quality teachers is especially urgent in California, where experts anticipate that thousands of teachers will retire in the next few years even as fewer people are attracted to the profession. (Between 2006 and 2011, enrollment in the state’s teacher training programs fell by 33%, most likely due to lack of job certainty, educators say.) The retirement figures — combined with a large number of teachers currently teaching in subjects for which they are not certified and an ongoing shortage of teachers in areas like math, science and special education — have researchers estimating that California could lack nearly 33,000 teachers by 2015.” (The Hechinger Report via The Fresno Bee)

Who Is In Charge of Teacher Preparation?

“Traditional teacher-training programs are generally located in colleges and universities, where faculty members are given a great deal of academic freedom to determine what they teach and how they teach by the authority governing the institution. As a result, policymakers have difficulty in requiring faculty charged with preparing teachers to change their instruction. What’s more, most state institutions of higher education have their own governance structures, which adds yet another layer of complexity. Even if a chief state school officer or a state board of education has authority over teacher preparation, if that teacher preparation is offered at an institution of higher education, then more than likely a different governing body is charged with overseeing that training.” (Center for American Progress)

Ready to Teach: Rethinking Routes to the Classroom

How well is America teaching its teachers? As accountability pressures on the nation’s teaching force mount, scrutiny of colleges of education is intensifying as well. During this one-day EWA seminar, journalists and experts delved into the growing efforts to revamp how aspiring educators are prepared for the classroom and how teacher-preparation programs are held accountable for results. A background on what was discussed, with helpful op-eds and data sources, can be found here. 

How Are States Tracking Teacher Training Programs?

However, there are plenty of interesting tidbits – and potential story ideas for reporters — in the Title II data that are readily available. Here’s one example: The report from the education secretary includes a breakdown of the pass rate in each state for its teacher licensing exams. In the District of Columbia, the minimum passing score on the Praxis exam is 142. In neighboring Virginia, would-be teachers must earn at least a 172 on that same test. Does that mean the bar is being set too low—or too high—in some states? Are the expectations rigorous enough to demonstrate that teachers are ready for the classroom?” (Educated Reporter)

National Council on Teacher Quality’s Annual Yearbook: State of Sta…

A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality contends that states are producing more elementary school teachers than are needed, and the bar is set too low for them to demonstrate that they have been adequately prepared for the work.” (EdMedia Commons)

Bonus Reading: EWA Story Starter on Teacher Evaluations