To the Editor:
The online article “Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Prep” (edweek.org, June 18, 2013) provides an overview of the mixed reception of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s report on teacher-preparation programs. However, closer analysis of one program, at the University of California, Los Angeles, illuminates how flawed this report may be.
From 2006 to 2008, I attended UCLA’s social-justice-focused secondary teacher education program, TEP (to which the NCTQ gave 1½ stars). My coursework initially centered on scaffolding instruction for English-language learners and students with learning disabilities. Then, I learned how to plan engaging lessons around relevant and rigorous content from experts like Ernest Morrell.
After observing English classes across the city, I started student-teaching at a large high school in South Los Angeles. Two accomplished teachers supervised, inspired, and coached me daily. Meanwhile, my UCLA field adviser supported me through copious feedback, which continued into my first year of full-time teaching. In these ways, TEP should have excelled by NCTQ standards.
UCLA did not explicitly teach classroom management, though. Instead, the program promoted the establishment of a trusting classroom community. While this sounds idealistic, and I certainly struggled at first, students behaved as mature human beings when I treated them as such. UCLA’s philosophy actually worked.
Preparation programs should be judged by the character of their graduates, not admissions data and syllabi. My TEP colleagues and I often wrote grant proposals and created websites to provide our students with additional resources and activities. And though I only taught for four years, UCLA teachers generally stay in the classroom longer than most; several have even become teachers of the year. TEP encourages teachers to truly serve students.
Based on my research and personal experience, I can attest to the strength of UCLA’s program. It deserves four stars, which makes me question all of the NCTQ ratings.
Harvard Graduate School of Education
A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as One Teacher-Prep Rating Suggests ‘Flawed’ Study