That so-called report on the nation’s schools of education

Diane Ravitch has a worthwhile entry on the survey that’s in today’s news — the one from the self-named NCTQ (National Center for Teacher Quality).

That’s the report that gave most of the US teacher-training schools very low marks.

I read the report in the Post, twice, once online and once in the form of black marks on paper (remember those?).

I thought it strange that the authors of the NCTQ report had visited exactly none of the actual colleges or universities that they were supposedly surveying, nor talked to any of the professors, nor even to any of the students in those programs (past or current), nor made any effort to find out what fraction of their graduates were even still teaching after some number of years later.

Diane’s analysis explained why. And she in fact knows it quite well: she herself used to be on the board of that organization, back when she herself used to be a right-wing educational ideologue under the leadership of Rodney Page, George Bush and other, similar lying creeps. (We all should be amazed at the complete, 180-degree about-face Ravitch has undergone — not very often that anybody does that!)

As it is, she is performing a very valuable service, and has been doing so for a little more than a year IIRC.

I thought it worthwhile to repost her entire post. I don’t often do that. I’ve accentuated a small part of her piece.

Apparently, according to Diane, the only thing that the NCTQ was looking for was the fraction of course syllabi that mention or emphasize “Common Core”. Sheesh.

Here goes:

That NCTQ Report on Teacher Education: F

by dianerav

The just-released NCTQ report on teacher education gives an F to the nation’s colleges of education. It was published in association with U.S. News & World Report.

But the report itself deserves an F.

To begin with, there are professional associations that rate the nation’s education schools, based on site visits and clear criteria.

NCTQ is not a professional association. It did not make site visits. It made its harsh judgments by reviewing course syllabi and catalogs. The criteria that it rated as most important was the institution’s fidelity to the Common Core standards.

As Rutgers’ Bruce Baker pointed out in his response, NCTQ boasts of its regard for teachers but its review of the nation’s teacher-training institutions says nothing about faculty. They don’t matter. They are irrelevant. All that matters is what is in the course catalog.

There are many reasons not to trust the NCTQ report on teacher education. Most important is that it lacks credibility. Not only is it not a professional association. it lacks independence. It has an agenda.

NCTQ was founded by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000 with the explicit purpose of harassing institutions of teacher education and urging alternative arrangements. I was on the board at the time. Initially, the new organization floundered but was saved by a $5 million grant from U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Just lucky.

So, knowing NCTQ’s history, and reading Mercedes Schneider’s posts about the organization, I conclude that NCTQ cannot be considered a fair, credible, independent judge of the quality of teacher training institutions.

I certainly agree that some such institutions are weak and inadequate, though I don’t think NCTQ’s superficial methodology identifies them.

I also agree with the report’s recommendation that teacher education institutions should have higher standards for admission.

But I don’t agree that the mark of a great education school is how many courses it offers on the Common Core standards or how attentive it is to raising test scores..

The great Robert Hutchins once wrote that the purpose of a professional school is to teach students to criticize the profession. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the profession would prepare them to make it stronger. The NCTQ report–looking at education schools from a mountain top–would have them conform to the status quo, to the conventional wisdom. This is not a prescription for the future, nor for the creation of a profession of strong teachers. It is a prescription for docility and conformity. Robert Hutchins would not approve.

dianerav | June 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Categories: Common CoreCorporate R
Published in: on June 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Educated people look at sources and, if necessary, do research before espousing a point of view. It’s especially important today on social media sites, where there is little depth and a lot of name calling. Sometimes, the other side has it right…to an extent…A report that promotes teaching only common core and testing to our nation’s teachers is obviously coming from a certain place.


  2. It also went on to quote, anecdotally, some teachers who felt they weren’t ready for teaching their first year. Well, gee whiz, no teacher in this entire nation feels ready or IS ready their first year. Even the ‘fellows’ of Math for America – who, unlike the poor saps at TFA, get an entire school year, after college, of extra math pedagogy and content classes AND a full year of practice teaching, they don’t feel ready.

    It’s never enough. The demands on a full-time teacher are overwhelming and the job gets harder every year. The data-entry and record-keeping requirements alone are enough to occupy a full-time clerk and are constantly changing. Plus, you have to re-invent your own curriculum every year in tune with the current fad* AND differentiate it for every single child while NOT deviating one iota from the fully-written-out lesson plan that had to be submitted how ever many days or weeks in advance… Well, 35 years ago I wasn’t ready either. New teachers should be put in charge of the data-entry and individual-reteaching stuff in a veteran teachers’ classroom or two for a year, so they can see exactly what to expect.

    * (it’s now Common Core Curriculum, but who knows how it’s going to be re-interpreted and morphed in a couple of years so that anyone who still is trying to implement the CCC at that time will be seen as pure evil)


  3. Great post on NCTQ’s nonsense. I was disturbed by the amount of press the poorly conducted report generated, but alas, we are awash in industrial-educational complex’s bombast, with precious little voice and popular leadership from more human centered reformers. Ravitch mentions someone with which I was unfamiliar, Robert Hutchins, whose Perennialism speaks directly to the disconnect between the robotics of ‘Education Reform’ and the need for education that supports full personhood and not simply support for industry–a notion of value no matter the pedagogy.

    That said, I wonder how you view the WTU’s upcoming election candidacies and recent issues of collective bargaining for DCPS teachers?


    • I think that it is absolutely catastrophic that only about fifteen percent of the WTU members actually voted in the last election. Ever since George Parker gave away nearly all of the union’s bargaining chips in return for relatively high salaries, hundreds (if not thousands) of teachers have been terminated or resigned before they could be fired under the provisions of the current contract, with no recourse. There essentially is no job security for DCPS teachers any more. (Despite all the predictions by corporate educational DEformers of amazing rises in student test scores, this massive and constant turnover of teachers in DCPS has not improved matters for students — as anybody with any actual experience in education could have predicted.)

      I am not privy to any of the language in the new contract. But unless the leadership of the WTU decides to leave behind business-as-usual unionism and instead studies and follows the activist lead of Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers’ Union in enrolling all the rank-and-file and reaching out to parents, things look very grim.


  4. There are many reasons not to trust the NCTQ report on teacher education. Most important is that it lacks credibility. Not only is it not a professional association. It lacks independence. It has an agenda.


  5. “Beyond ratings and labels, I can say without a doubt that I have been a successful social studies teacher because I received a top-notch education at Plymouth State. When I entered the classroom, I was completely prepared for all the challenges I faced because I took many practical courses and participated in hundreds of hours of supervised pre-service practicum work at PSU.


  6. Traditional education schools are under fire for failing to prepare new teachers for the challenges of today’s classrooms. With that in mind, NCTQ releases its largest ed school study to date, measuring 67 undergraduate programs in Texas against 25 standards focused on design. Most programs failed to meet every NCTQ standard, while some rated highly, others miserably, useful information for ed school “consumers,” both aspiring teachers and school districts looking to hire.


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