Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The schools preparing teachers have become an industry of mediocrity

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)'s Teacher Prep Review reports that the colleges and universities producing America’s traditionally prepared teachers have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.

They assigned overall ratings based on a set of key standards for 608 institutions. Those ratings can be found at www.nctq.org/teacherPrep, where there is additional data on another 522 institutions.

The webpage provides access to a variety of materials, including more detailed findings by state, by standard and by individual program; resources for program improvement; rationales and scoring methodologies for each standard; and more information about outside advisory groups and expert evaluators. Altogether, the Review provides data on the 1,130 institutions that prepare 99 percent of the nation’s traditionally trained new teachers. No small feat.

The evaluations provide evidence, based on a four-star rating system, that a vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars. These are among the most alarming findings:

- Less than 10 percent of rated programs earn three stars or more. Only four programs, all secondary, earn four stars: Lipscomb and Vanderbilt, both in Tennessee; Ohio State University; and Furman University in South Carolina. Only one institution, Ohio State, earns more than three stars for both an elementary (31/2 stars) and a secondary (4 stars) program.

-It is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program. Just over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of their class, compared with the highest-performing countries, which limit entry to the top third.

- Fewer than one in nine elementary programs and just over one-third of high school programs are preparing candidates in content at the level necessary to teach the new Common Core State Standards now being implemented in classrooms in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

-The “reading wars” are far from over. Three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers, from 30 percent to under 10 percent. Instead, the teacher candidate is all too often told to develop his or her “own unique approach” to teaching reading.

- Just 7 percent of programs ensure that their student teachers will have uniformly strong experiences, such as only allowing them to be placed in classrooms taught by teachers who are themselves effective, not just willing volunteers.

- More than three-quarters of the programs, 78 percent, earn two or fewer stars, ratings that connote, at best, mediocrity.

- The weakest programs, those with a rating of no stars (14 percent), earn a “Consumer Alert” designation ! . While these low-rated institutions certainly can produce good teachers, it is less by design than happenstance: a chance placement with a great mentor or assignment to a strong section of an otherwise weak course.

Twenty-five years ago, if you asked a teacher how much experience he or she had, the most common response would have been 15 years; if you ask the same question of teachers today, the answer is one year. The real challenge is that first-year teachers now teach around 1.5 million students every year, many of whom, because of district placement practices, are already behind in their learning.

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