Universities and colleges were the subject of criticism Tuesday when the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) issued a report suggesting that most Ohio colleges have failed to prepare first-year teachers for the classroom.
The same could be said about teacher colleges nationally, according to the report from the conservative research group, which has drawn much criticism from the education community.
Teacher colleges annually produce 200,000 first-year teachers who in turn educate 1.5 million children.
NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review used course syllabi, student-teacher programs, admissions standards and other criteria to rank 1,130 higher education institutions on a four-star grading system.
However, the report authors acknowledged only 114 colleges cooperated fully, and in many cases the study was conducted short of the data that had been requested.
NCTQ is affiliated with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a charter-school advocate and critic of public schools, and the study was conducted in cooperation with U.S. News & World Report.
Only four colleges and universities in the nation received four stars, the highest designation. Ohio State University’s graduate program in secondary education was among them.
More than 162 colleges and universities received “consumer alerts” and no stars, among them Kent State University’s graduate program in secondary education and Cleveland State University’s graduate programs in elementary and secondary education.
That low designation, according to the report’s authors, is meant to drive prospective students away from those programs.
“You would do better to spend your time and your dollars in a program that has a higher rating,” said Kate Walsh, NCTQ president.
The University of Akron ranked in the middle with most other Ohio public universities.
“With this data, we are setting in place market forces that will spur underachieving programs to recognize their shortcomings and adopt methods used by the high scorers. At the same time, the review serves as a consumer guide for aspiring teachers in selecting a superior preparation program and for principals and superintendents in their recruitment efforts,” the report’s authors wrote.
The study is the latest — and touted as the most expansive — attempt to evaluate and rank teachers and education programs, a controversial and often politically charged topic.
The NCTQ study met with opposition from higher learning institutions at the outset, some of which resisted and argued that there already were reputable organizations conducting studies. Some also questioned whether NCTQ had an agenda.
The report repeatedly mentions failed public records requests, legal action taken to procure data and working around noncooperative campus officials by asking college students to retrieve syllabi. Private schools were the least forthcoming.
One of the early critics of the study was education historian Diane Ravitch, who wrote that she was a board member of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (TBF) when it created NCTQ.
“TBF established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated [education] schools,” she wrote in her education blog.
“Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. We thought they were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics,” Ravitch said.
EduVentures, another higher education data and consulting research organization, said NCTQ’s report would “seek to change the way that teachers are trained, licensed, hired, and fired.”
“The combination of flawed research methods and the potential for negative media exposure has caused a number of leaders of teacher training institutions around the country to be concerned about the potential impact that the forthcoming release of the National Review could have on public perceptions of program quality.”
Kent State response
“The biggest issue is that the report largely reports on the inputs instead of the outcomes,” said Dan Mahony, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State.
Outcomes include how graduates perform in the classrooms, and those are available in Ohio. However, because outcomes weren’t universally available in all states, those were omitted.
Mahony said some standards used by NCTQ are irrelevant when asking the most important question: “Are we producing better teachers?”
For example, KSU’s education program was docked points because the 2.75 GPA required for admission fell below NCTQ’s 3.0 GPA benchmark. That doesn’t matter, though, because KSU education graduates average a 3.44 GPA by the time they complete the program, Mahony said.
“Our proof is always in the quality of our graduates, which this report ignores completely.”
Walsh, however, asserts that the proof is in the program and programs must improve. Too many teachers reach the classroom unprepared.
“Right now, in this country, good training happens too often by happenstance,” she said.
Confusion on grading
Ohio State University is one of only four programs nationwide that received a top rating, but according to a study by the Ohio Board of Regents, education majors at seven other Ohio public universities were more likely to pass a state-administered teaching license test.
This and other data that measure teachers in the workforce were omitted from the NCTQ study.
State officials in charge of overseeing Ohio’s post-secondary programs acknowledged the NCTQ report with a mixed response.
“We are aware that the teacher preparation programs in Ohio are not where they need to be, but we are glad to see some Ohio schools ranking among the top-rated programs,” Chancellor John Carey said. “The Ohio Board of Regents has been working with the Ohio Department of Education in a cross-agency collaborative effort to review teacher preparation issues and ultimately make recommendations for improvements.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.