Education Opinion

What K-12 Systems Can Learn from Best Education College Rankings

By Matthew Lynch — March 21, 2014 3 min read
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Student success stems from teacher capability. The educators who oversee today’s classrooms directly determine how much their students learn. U.S. News & World Report recently released its top education graduate programs in the country. Of 356 schools surveyed with doctoral programs, 245 provided the right data to be calculated in the rankings. The list was determined based on 10 criteria, including GRE scores, acceptance rates, student-to-faculty ratios, research expenditures and other factors.

In reading through the rankings, a few things stood out to me. The first is that there are a lot of public colleges and universities represented, proving that you do not always have to pay an Ivy-league fee to obtain a quality graduate education. I also noticed that many of the “top” schools were located in the Midwest (think Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas) which signals to me that it is not just the stereotypical areas of “elite” thinking that are churning out progressive and effective educators.

Take a look at some of the key rankings and let me know what you think:

Top 10 overall:

1. Johns Hopkins University

2. Vanderbilt University

3. Harvard University

4. Stanford University

5.Tie: University of Pennsylvania and University of Wisconsin - Madison

7. University of Washington

8. Tie: Teachers College, Columbia University and University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

10. University of Texas - Austin

Top 5 in elementary teacher education:

1. Michigan State University

2. University of Wisconsin - Madison

3. Teachers College, Columbia University

4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

5. University of Georgia

Top 5 in secondary teacher education:

1. Michigan State University

2. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

3. University of Wisconsin - Madison

4. Stanford University

5. Teachers College, Columbia University

Top 5 in special education:

1. Vanderbilt University

2. University of Kansas

3. University of Oregon

4. University of Virginia

5. University of Florida

Top 5 in Curriculum and instruction:

1. University of Wisconsin - Madison

2. Stanford University

3. Teachers College, Columbia University

4. Michigan State University

5. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

So what are these schools doing “right?” While each curriculum and plan is different from the next, these schools emphasize development of the teacher - not just reliance on what a book lists, or the latest in trends or technology - but these schools focus on what will translate into a better teacher for an entire career.

Top school overall, Johns Hopkins, commitment to teacher training was evident in a press release that followed the rankings. In it, School of Education dean David W. Andrews said that Johns Hopkins will continue to “be part of the innovative solutions to the educational challenges in this country and take a leadership role in the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge affecting education.”

It also seems that this schools are investing in excellent teachers of their own. There were two criteria that dealt specifically with faculty quality in the rankings. One was the percent of faculty with awards, and the other was the percentage of doctoral degrees for the faculty as a whole. Research expenditures and average expenditure per faculty member was also weighed. In other words, the college and universities that care about funding for faculty, either directly in paychecks or indirectly through research, are the ones that end up with the best education programs. Imagine that. A positive for paying teachers more - something that tends to be missing in the K-12 mentality. The idea at the college level is that an educator with a larger paycheck and coffer for advancing his or her field will turn out better graduates who will in turn produce better results in their classrooms. It seems that the K-12 system could take a hint from these rankings and from the college mentality when it comes to teachers.

Do you think these rankings are accurate? Who is missing?

Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.