NCTQ Report Grades Schools of Education

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By Elisabeth Liptak, Director of Professional Development, IDA

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) issued its long-anticipated review of U.S. Schools of Education. At 100 pages, the 2013 Teacher Prep Review provides a comprehensive look at how teachers are trained through our university system before they enter the classroom. It includes sections on Selection Criteria, Content Preparation, Professional Skills, and Outcomes. Schools need to score well in more than one of these sections in order to receive a high score overall. Schools that scored highly in the reading standards, for example, did not necessarily score highly in the overall ranking.

Academic aptitude is not the only measure of a good teacher, but it is an important starting point. On this measure, the NCTQ report found that it is far too easy to enter a teacher preparation program in the U.S. Just over a quarter of the programs they reviewed restrict admissions to students who ranked in the top half of their class, whereas the highest-performing countries limit entry in their programs to the top third.

Standards for reading appear in the Content Preparation section and break down into separate categories for Early Reading, Struggling Readers, and English Language Learners. Also included in the Content section of the report are standards for Elementary Mathematics, and Elementary, Middle and High School Content that align with the Common Core State Standards.  In order to score well in the reading content areas, schools only needed to show that they address the five components identified by the National Reading Panel in 2000 in two lectures and an assignment.  This is a low bar, by NCTQs own admission, yet only 29% of schools reviewed address science-based reading instruction. (By contrast, the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading cover these component skills, and more, in significant depth. Three of the nine university programs IDA recognized in its 2012 review – Southern Methodist University, the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and Southeastern University – also received high scores in the NCTQ report. The other programs IDA recognized were not included in their review either because they were too small or did not lead directly to teacher licensure.)

The Professional Skills section of the NCTQ report measures standards for classroom management, lesson planning, assessment and data, student teaching, secondary methods, and special education. One of the most significant findings here is the lack of preparation students receive in the area of assessments and data. Few of the programs reviewed provide students with adequate opportunity to analyze data from tests and use it to plan instruction, a major concern given the increasing reliance on testing in schools.

The NCTQ report generated media buzz with coverage in major outlets including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, NPR, and Education Week, as well as social media outlets.   The NCTQ report was co-published by U.S. News & World Report.

For a more in-depth look at the report, with links to reports on specific standards and a breakdown by states, visit the NCTQ website.

Elisabeth “Liz” Liptak is in an expert in the reading and literacy fields. She served as the Executive Director of the Washington Literacy Council, a community-based direct service program in Washington DC that served struggling adult readers and younger children, prior to joining IDA in May of 2011. Liz has been a reading tutor since 1989. 

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