The National Council on Teacher Quality has changed the rating it gave Samford University’s teacher-education program in a scathing study of the content of required reading courses for the nation’s teacher-candidates. The private council cited the report’s oversight of essential information used in the evaluation.
Samford University—a Birmingham, Ala., institution recognized in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Education as a national model for “effective teacher preparation”—has now been given an “unclear” rating by the NCTQ, an upgrade from its original “zero” score.
“What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching About Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning,” released in May, concluded that a majority of U.S. teacher colleges were failing to teach the elements of effective reading instruction. (“Teacher Ed. Faulted on Reading Preparation,” June 7, 2006.)
Relied on Syllabuses
While the study won praise for highlighting the need for better content on reading research in teacher-education programs, it also was widely criticized for its methodology. It depended primarily on syllabuses available on the Internet and textbooks for required reading courses at selected universities. G. Reid Lyon, a former adviser to President Bush on education policy, was a consultant on the report.
Samford officials said the review did not cover a variety of supplemental materials—including several documents on effective reading instruction from the Education Department—that are routinely handed out in the classes.
“We are very happy to have an ‘unclear’ rating, because that is the only conclusion they could draw from any program based on the [limited] data they looked at,” said Carol D. Dean, the chairwoman of teacher education at Samford. “If they did a thorough review of our program, they would find that [scientifically based reading research] is a huge component of our program.”
NCTQ President Kate Walsh said that, given the critical nature of the report, the fact that her organization has received just one challenge to its ratings affirms the findings.
Officials at Samford University complained to the council about the report, saying that it overlooked a second required reading course and content in other required courses. The Washington-based NCTQ acknowledged those oversights, but gave the “unclear” rating after a professor failed to provide more information on the course.
Samford officials last month sent letters outlining their concerns to the deans of other teacher-training programs named in the review, many of whom were unaware of the study. Several indicated that they are reviewing their ratings and considering similar complaints, but have been slow to respond because the report came after the academic year ended.
Seton Hall University was one of those institutions that responded later and submitted a complaint to the council. In an e-mail to Education Week, Joseph De Pierro, the dean of the college of education, questioned whether the syllabus was old. It “may be an atypical syllabus that a single professor used once; [it] may be incomplete; [it] may not even be ours,” he said.
“I can assure you, there is NO affirmation of the findings of this study” from the colleges of education, Sandra Bowman Damico, the dean of the University of Iowa college of education, wrote in an e-mail. The college received a failing grade.
“In fact, its methodology is so flawed,” she asserted, “none of us would accept it as a paper for a course.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as After Complaint, Teacher Council Changes Rating