Statement on NCTQ Teacher Prep Review

Yesterday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its second annual Teacher Prep Review: A Review of the Nation’s Teacher Preparation Programs. Although parts of this report venture a conciliatory tone, as might be expected from NCTQ’s past reports, this review offers largely unhelpful recommendations that are based on questionable methodology.

Public Shaming—Over a Document Review

In an attempt to provide a consumer-friendly guide to teacher preparation programs, NCTQ has moved from rating institutions on a 4-star scale to ranking them numerically—a divisive tactic that mostly serves to pit institutions against one another. Notably, these rankings have as little to do with graduates’ readiness to teach as did last year’s star system.

Because of NCTQ’s history of misrepresenting data, only 118 of the 1,127 institutions reviewed fully participated in the report. In many instances, programs provided less than 50% of the information requested to evaluate whether a standard was met. Gaps were filled by NCTQ by downloading online course descriptions, catalogues, and syllabi and tracking down other materials from partner schools and districts. Even “full participation,” however, resulted in little more than a document review—hardly adequate evidence to judge graduates’ readiness to teach.

Despite this lack of data, NCTQ draws sweeping conclusions about the entire field. The report goes so far as to recommend that prospective employers refer to these input-oriented ratings to help sort applicants for job openings—even as it acknowledges that “low-ranked programs can, and often do, graduate teachers who end up being effective, even superstars.” I advise school leaders to view this report with caution and consider carefully its usefulness in evaluating teacher candidates.

Real Reform and Accountability

AACTE and its member institutions believe in accountability. Low-performing programs should be given the opportunity and support to improve and then evaluated on transparent, well-researched standards with a clear understanding of what needs to change. If programs fail to improve, then they should be closed. But rather than wasting any more attention on antagonistic distractions such as NCTQ’s report, we are committed to continuing our own reform efforts on several exciting fronts—using reliable and valid evidence derived from and informed by research.

We are implementing a ground-breaking performance assessment, edTPA, that gives both programs and teacher candidates meaningful evidence about whether graduates are ready to teach from Day 1. We have a remarkable new initiative, the Innovation Exchange, responding to the changing demands of PK-12 schools with several programs aimed at building programs’ capacity, synthesizing research, and more. We are expanding partnerships with PK-12 schools to improve clinical preparation and supports for all educators. And we participate in rigorous transformation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), our professional quality-assurance provider committed to research, improvement, and peer-driven accountability.

In its report, NCTQ acknowledges some of these reforms and even tries to take credit for many of them, but in fact, they predate NCTQ’s work. AACTE and its members are steadfast in our goal of promoting true program improvement and reforms that have had lasting and positive outcomes for teacher preparation and the students served by these educators.

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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE