June 23, 2013

Has the NCTQ figured out what's wrong with teacher preparation?

The National Council on Teacher Quality recently published its Teacher Prep Review, an exhaustive study on teacher effectiveness, based on how we prepare educators to be classroom teachers. The 94-page study asks plenty of interesting questions about teacher preparedness. 

Photo credit: PBS.org
This lengthy study should give all educators a moment of pause. Indeed, the fact that such a study even exists speaks volumes about the current state of education. However, there is plenty to be concerned about, with regard to how this study is conducted. Note page 1 of the report:

"As the product of eight years of development and 10 pilot studies, the standards applied here are derived from strong research, the practices of high-performing nations and states, consensus views of experts, the demands of the Common Core State Standards (and other standards for college and career readiness) and occasionally just common sense."

See any problems here? The studies are based on so-called high-performing nations and states and the views of so-called experts and, you guessed it, Common Core State Standards. The credibility of research that measures educators against other nations and against the CCSS must immediately be called on the proverbial carpet. Here's more from the report:

"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. . ."
Hmm., what is meant, I wonder, by "at the level necessary to teach the new Common Core?" Just who has decided what this necessary level is? In fact, rarely are the people most knowledgeable in a subject area the best teachers. I've known engineers and attorneys, who attempted to be teachers but couldn't escape back to the private sector fast enough, once they encountered the real issues that the everyday classroom presents.

The NCTQ report is hard on colleges and universities that allow educators to "enter the classroom as teachers without institutions having ensured they possess adequate content knowledge," which the report states will not fix a broken system.

Is the education  system broken? Absolutely. Does the NCTQ have the solution figured out? Absolutely not! In fact, I'm frustrated that the NCTQ would spend eight years studying over 1,100 teacher prep programs, only to pin most of its findings on how well educators can teach the Common Core State Standards.

Teacher preparation needs to be changed. Comparing us to nations no larger than Montana and looking at the tactics of dilettantes like Teach for America is simply not the best approach to fixing teacher preparation. I have some ideas, but I'll save those for a future post.

Meanwhile, what do you think?

Don't miss Mark's book ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, now available in the ASCD store, Barnes & Noble and at Amazon.com