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Standards Opinion

NCTQ Responds to Critics of Its Teacher-Prep Ratings

By Kate Walsh — December 12, 2013 2 min read
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To the authors of the recent “Open Letter to NCTQ on Teacher Prep”:

Thank you for your letter, which we do genuinely appreciate, even in its public nature, as any effort to open lines of communication is important.

In many ways, your letter is consistent with what we often hear from teacher-preparation programs: an attack on our methodology because it is based, in part, on the course syllabi for the programs we review. While such an attack on our critique of your programs is understandable (who among us enjoys being criticized?), we have concluded that it is a red herring. Anyone who has ever taken a college course knows that course syllabi paint a broader landscape than the reality of what is actually taught, so relying on syllabi is undoubtedly generous. And given the fact that our methodology has been thoroughly vetted and blessed by leading scholars, the real source of the field’s fiery antagonism is less likely our methodology than our standards.

For the purposes of this short letter, let me pose this simple question. Is the field prepared to ask public schools which courses matter more for the new teachers they may one day hire: Human Diversity, Power, and Opportunity in Social Institutions, an actual required course at Michigan State University (the letter-writers’ institution) for undergraduate teacher-candidates, or Research-Based Classroom Management Strategies 101, the sort of course NCTQ seeks? Our guess is that you know which they’d pick, and that’s why any discussion of our standards is avoided.

NCTQ’s standards capture the knowledge and skills new teachers need to be ready to teach on the first day of school, as their endorsement by more than 100 school superintendents and 24 state school chiefs can attest. To our knowledge, no public school educator has ever reviewed our standards and found something to disagree with. Shifting the argument from methodology to content is far more likely to be a losing proposition for higher education.

NCTQ's standards capture the knowledge and skills new teachers need to be ready to teach on the first day of school."

The most salient criticism of our work, and one which you commendably employ, has been that NCTQ’s review focuses too much on “inputs” and disregards what really matters, the performance of your graduates. But it’s also disingenuous. Two of our 18 standards do look at outcomes, including one in which we ask institutions to tell us what data they collect systematically to demonstrate the performance of their graduates.

It is telling that, out of the 472 institutions that were willing to share their practices with NCTQ, only four institutions actively collect any postgraduate data apart from some relatively unscientific surveys. If teacher-preparation programs were genuinely concerned about their outcomes, not just pursuing tactics to deflect the NCTQ approach, there would be more convincing evidence.

What we have been most struck by is the persistence, not the validity, of the arguments put forward by teacher-educators. Charges are made which we can easily refute, yet the criticisms build on one another with no other purpose, we believe, than to avoid addressing the real reason why teacher education rejects the NCTQ review. To be more honest about issues of content and training would risk alienating not just a small think tank in Washington, but the entire sector which I trust you view as your primary client: public school educators.

To date, 130 institutions have expressed interest in submitting additional materials for the next edition of the review. We hope you will keep that in mind as you think about whether to participate in our next edition.

A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 2014 edition of Education Week

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