Accountability for education schools

How well are ed schools preparing tomorrow’s teachers? The National Center on Teacher Quality will evaluate the quality of the nation’s 1,400 education schools.

. . . very little is known about the quality of teacher preparation programs—their selectivity, the content and pedagogical knowledge that they demand that their teacher candidates master, or how well they prepare candidates for the rigors of the classroom.

The review will be based on 17 standards “based on the highest caliber research on education and best practices of states and countries with excellent education systems” and vetted by national experts in a variety of fields.

NCTQ field-tested the methodology in analyzing education schools in Texas and Illinois.

U.S. News & World Report will publish the review annually, starting in the fall of 2012.

Alternative routes to teaching will be included only if they’re housed at education schools, writes Teacher Beat. That will exclude Teach for America and district-created teacher-prep programs.

Selling the idea to education deans may be difficult, Teacher Beat notes.

NCTQ’s Texas review was criticized by deans there even before the results came out.

In Texas, deans objected to the fact that the ratings were based on reviews of syllabuses and materials culled from websites rather than in-depth visits to schools. They argued that important topics might not be listed on such outlines. The forthcoming reviews are going to be based on a similar methodology, so anticipate more back-and-forth in this vein. (In fairness to NCTQ, ed. schools grumbled in the past about accreditation visits, too.)

NCTQ’s review will look at how well would-be teachers learn classroom-management skills, understand assessment and demonstrate expertise in their content area, among other things. In addition, programs will be judged on how well student teaching experiences are organized and whether the program collects data on graduates’ performance in the classroom.

Barnett Berry writes about building the 21st-century teaching profession in Ed Week.

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  1. I applaud the NCTQ’s aim, but would take the evaluation even further by tracking teacher hiring and tenure later on.

  2. Foobarista says:

    One only hopes US News & World Report won’t do for ed schools what they’ve done for law schools, where gaming the relevant stats is Job 1 for anyone running a law school not named Harvard or Yale.

  3. If all they do is evaluate syllabi and websites, then their ratings will be worthless.

  4. I agree. What an idiotic way to assess ed schools.

  5. Many readers of this blog attended education school, and I’m one of them. While merely assessing syllabi and materials is imperfect way to assess a school, it’s hard to argue against it being a step in the right direction. Holding ed schools accountable is a worthwhile endeavor.

  6. Assessing syllabi will tell you what’s missing from an Ed School’s curriculum. Frequently, that would be enough (or any) attention to validated methods for teaching reading, both in general and to children who start out behind or face obstacles.

  7. Ed schools have been evaluated ad nauseam. They have survived only because of the monopoly they have been handed by states to license teachers. If there is ever a market-based approach to becoming a teacher, ed schools will die a quick death. And they should.

  8. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    It’s not the ed schools that are the problem.

    It’s their students, and thus their admissions committees.

  9. Again, the students (at least in California) have to pass state qualifications. If you think the quals are too low (and they aren’t here), take your beef to the state.

  10. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    The California quals are a f***ing joke. I’ve tutored for them — and you have to be in sad, sad shape to need tutoring for those tests. Essentially, you have to have a pulse and know your ABC’s. The single-subject credentials require that you have a pulse, know your ABC’s, and understand your subject’s material to an 8th grade level.

    I’ve taken my beef to the state, and will continue to do so.

  11. scrooge mcduck says:

    The single subject credential test for math (CSET) is not exactly a piece of cake. Tell me why you think it is.

  12. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Scrooge McDuck:

    You demand (and without saying please) that I explain why I think something that I don’t necessarily think. I hardly think that’s fair. What I said was that the tests are a “joke” — and bad ones at that. Now, a test can be a joke while still being a difficult test, if it is a profoundly ill measure for what it wishes to measure. Were I, for instance, to establish an exam for teaching the ABC’s to kindergartners, and I made the test one of Topology and advanced Combinatorics, you might rightly call the test a “joke” despite the fact that the test itself was quite difficult. Nevertheless, ease of passing does figure somewhat into my account of why it is a profoundly inappropriate exam, so I shall deal with the “piece of cake” part in passing.

    One might think that we would want our teacher’s subject tests to be perhaps a little harder than the tests that we give to our brightest students. They are not. Now I find most of the test questions to be relatively easy — the sort of calculation and mathematical manipulation I hardly think about anymore. Still, I’m not exactly the sort of person you want to use as your standard. (Or maybe I am and we’re in bigger trouble than we thought…) So your implication is probably correct, as the questions on the Math test itself aren’t entirely a piece of cake — certainly not to the average college graduate. But your question was directed to the test itself, not to the questions on the test. They are, as we will shortly see, two very different things.

    Now, continuing on, one might also think that, having undertaken a test no more difficult than the sorts of tests we give to our best high school students, that someone who purports to teach those students might be expected to get an “A”. But we know this isn’t the case: to pass the test you need 220 out of 100-300 on each of the three subtests. Now, because of scaling, the score doesn’t translate into exactly 60%, but it’s a rare administration of the test when the minimum passing score is over 70%. Apparently, being a “C” student in possession of the teacher’s manual makes one a math teacher.

    Oh yes, and just in case we thought that being a “C” student was too high a bar to being an educator, you don’t need to pass the test all at once. You can fail the individual tests at different administrations, so long as you eventually pass them all. I suppose, though, that this makes a certain amount of sense: if you are going to teach students the majority of who do nothing but study for a single test and then dump all the information from their brains immediately following that test, it doesn’t seem wildly inconsistent that you be encouraged to take that approach to your own credentialing.

    Finally, you’ve picked the second-hardest of the CSET exams (perhaps the hardest for some) as your champion for the exam as a whole. Even if you were right, that it is this easy to criticize doesn’t bode well for the rest of the single-subject tests.

    You want a test that isn’t a joke? We don’t need harder questions. Just a few changes would do: (1) Double the number of constructed questions on the test; (2) require a 275 in each subtest; and (3) require that the passing score be achieved all in one sitting.

    It’s probably safe to allow multiple attempts if you require that all three subtests be passed at once.

  13. scrooge mcduck says:

    Thiny Veiled Anonymity:

    Correct, you didn’t say the CSETs were a piece of cake, you said “The single-subject credentials require that you have a pulse, know your ABC’s, and understand your subject’s material to an 8th grade level.” My mistake for interpreting that to mean you think they are a piece of cake.

    I disagree that the math CSET exams test subject material at an 8th grade level. To teach high school math, you must pass all three exams, the third exam covering some calculus and trig.

    The first two cover algebra/number theory, and geometry/statistics. Many of the questions require more than computation as you characterize them, and the algebra/number theory exam requires some understanding of rings and fields. I don’t believe such subjects belong on such an exam, because I think one can teach middle school math without knowing about rings and fields. (The first two subtests must be passed to qualify for teaching middle school math).

    As for the cut scores that determine passing, I don’t know that much about test administration to say whether 220 (or 70%) is too low. I do know they allocate 5 hrs to take the tests, whether you take one at a time, two, or all three. There are a fair amount of involved questions on the multiple choice alone; the constructed response (though you think there should be more of them) take some time to do them right. Doing all three exams in one sitting is quite a feat. Requiring they be passed first time only and no re-takes is an interesting idea. They don’t do that for the California bar, nor for exams required for medical licenses.

    I know, I know. Maybe they should. Maybe the world according to you is the one that we all should adhere to.

  14. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Touche… I overgeneralized about the tests last night. But I’m sober this morning, and the tests are still crap.


    Also: Requiring that they be passed first time only and no re-takes *is* an interesting idea, though it’s not what I suggested. I’m fine with retakes, because people have bad days all the time. But I think you should have to pass all three tests at once; you don’t get to cross a test of your list if you fail one of its companions.

  15. I wonder if there’s a single ed school in the country whose leaders have
    the courage to say that the paramount goal of education is imparting core knowledge, and that lecture is often an excellent way to impart that knowledge.
    Is there any significant diversity of thought in the ed school world?

    It seems to me that one of the structural problems with ed schools is that they need to reject simple, old-fashioned approaches and promote ineffective (or harmful) complex, new approaches in order to justify their existence as a stand-alone school. In my view the best course-of-study for a prospective teacher would involve a course on the history of education (with Ravitch’s Left Back as a text), some educational psychology, training on classroom management by grizzled and successful veteran public school teachers, and lots of content-knowledge classes that give deep background on the courses they’re likely to teach.

    It’s striking to see the revival of the classical model of education among home-schoolers (led by Susan Wise Bauer’s book). My ed school never hinted to us that there WAS a classical model of education. Their focus was to indoctrinate us with their progressive ed dogma.

  16. There should be no such thing as a college degree (BS, BA, MS, MA, PhD) in “Education”. Any of those degrees in any subject is of course “Education”! K-12 teachers should get a BS or BA in the subject(s) they want to teach, and then be made to take an extra semester or two to minor in Pedagogy & Management.

    Community college instructors should be made to get a MS or MA in the subject(s) they want to teach. In a perfect world, they’ve already “done their time” as a K-12 teacher by then, so they’ve long since aquired the above minor.

    University professors should be made to get a PhD in the subject they want to focus on teaching. Research should be encouraged, but not “make or break”. (No ‘publish or perish’). And again, in a perfect world, they would have gone up through the ranks from K-12 and community college to get there.