In a recent letter to its members, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education left no doubt of its opposition to an effort by the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report to review and rank all 1,400 schools of education.
AACTE has never been particularly enamored of this project, but as of this letter, dated Oct. 12, it’s clearly signaling members not to participate, asserting that the project “is so fundamentally flawed, it is not worthy of your engagement.”
That’s only one of the zingers in the communique, which also calls the review an “outrage,” a “cause for alarm,” and NCTQ’s tactics “unprofessional.”
The letter goes on to outline several new objections to NCTQ’s methods, including the fact that NCTQ is having students collect and submit documents when institutions won’t voluntarily participate. It notes that these students are often undergraduates who don’t have to meet a particular grade-point average. (Of course, some education schools’ own GPA requirements are also fairly low.) It also notes the high costs of complying with FOIA requests from NCTQ at nonparticipating public institutions.
And, in what could be a new wrinkle for NCTQ, the letter asserts that some institutions have received legal notice that their course syllabi are proprietary, which means they might not have to submit them.
Wondering who’s in and who’s out of the review? You can find all of the correspondence on NCTQ’s “Transparency Watch” website. We’ll try to keep you updated here at Teacher Beat, too. Here’s the rundown so far:
States in which some public institutions have declared they will not voluntarily participate: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The list is longer than when I last wrote about this, in April. Keep in mind, though, that even when state officials have declared their schools will opt out, individual institutions have chosen to participate. New York’s CUNY schools are cooperating, as are some of the SUNY schools; Two Kentucky public institutions agreed to participate; and although State University System of Florida schools said they wouldn’t participate, in the end several decided to, after all.
All of this action seems to be a harbinger of what’s to come in 2012. The information NCTQ will be reporting will certainly be more detailed than prior studies of teacher education, but if this letter is an indication, the council’s conclusions probably aren’t going to be better received by the teacher education field. Institutions appear to be gearing up to say that NCTQ’s methods are unsound, so the conclusions are flawed and unreliable. We’ve been through this before.
One other thing worth noting: Many of the programs protesting the study state that they meet standards set by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or other program-approval standards. It’s an argument that raises the related question of whether those standards are high enough or nuanced enough to reliably distinguish program quality.
Below is the full letter from AACTE.
Dear Colleagues, The outrage continues. As you recall from previous updates citing Brian Kelly's comments at a July NCTQ event, there is a clear negative bias held by both U.S. News and NCTQ against university based educator preparation programs. This is cause for alarm and further confirmation that this is a deeply flawed endeavor. AACTE continues to learn more about the practices that NCTQ is employing to conduct its national review and the ways our members are responding to them. We are committed to collecting and sharing information with you. Thus, below are some recent developments: Students on Campus NCTQ's presence on your campus might be more prevalent than you realize. Although NCTQ has said it will submit official FOIA requests to institutions that are not participating, AACTE has heard from many institutions that students on their campuses have been hired by NCTQ to obtain syllabi and other course documents from education schools, including those that have chosen not to participate in the project. NCTQ is hiring these students from any year of schooling—including some that just graduated high school last spring—from any program at the university and with no GPA requirement, and asking them to collect the data that will be used to draw substantial conclusions about your institutions' education programs. This is yet another unprofessional practice by NCTQ, which consistently touts itself as a credible research body. Some AACTE members have decided to bring the matter up with their institutions' leadership to determine whether students conducting these activities are in compliance with university regulations. If you encounter these students, please let us know about your experiences. Proprietary Status of Syllabi Several members have raised the important issue of whether syllabi are considered the proprietary property of faculty and, therefore, not allowed to be shared or sold by students back to NCTQ for commercial purposes. In some circumstances, members have vetted this topic with their institutions' legal counsel and have received confirmation that syllabi are considered proprietary. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Institutions have begun receiving FOIA requests from NCTQ, mandating the submission of documents for the national review. We are hearing a wide range of costs associated with staff time and production of the requested materials, from $2,000 to more than $25,000. Rightfully, many institutions have billed NCTQ back for the costs, but to our knowledge, NCTQ has not yet reimbursed one of these programs. It could be helpful to find out if your state is one that requires anyone who submits a FOIA request to pre-pay those they are seeking information from—before they can receive the requested information. Please let us know how your institution is handling FOIA requests from NCTQ. AACTE continues to assert that this initiative is so fundamentally flawed that it is not worthy of your engagement. However, we do understand that some programs will be required to participate for reasons beyond your control. Please stay in touch with us to share your experiences so that we can keep the entire membership informed. [E-mail of AACTE staffer removed.-TB] Sincerely, Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D. President and CEO American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.