Easy A's in ed school

Grading is easy at education schools, asserts PDQ Stories, the new blog for the National Council on Teacher Quality. The post includes a graph comparing grade point averages at a large state university.  Education majors are in blue. The other lines represent math, science, humanities and social studies departments.

According to a forthcoming paper by Cory Koedel of the University of Missouri, more than a dozen education departments at major universities have a similar grading pattern.

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Comments

  1. This reminds me of how a classmate seemed scandalized when I told him I got a B on a paper in ed school. To me, a B was a B. But that’s when I started to realize that a B is a F in ed school.

  2. I agree Ben F., I was just talking to some new teachers (after being on the committee to hire them) and that idea hasn’t changed. If you make a B in any Edu classes that’s like flunking and if you make a C in any Edu classes it’s best to change majors as no one will hirer you.

  3. This is no surprise; it’s been going on for at least 50+ years. A teacher relative (who was never in the ed school) said it was the case when he was in school in the 50s and it was the case when I was there in the 60s (also not in the ed school). The ed school attracted the weakest entering students and the coursework and grading was regarded as a joke, as was the quality of teaching. There was a reason why so many of the sorority crowd was in the ed school; there was plenty of time for a full-time social life while still making the Dean’s List. The ed school was also the popular destination for those who dropped out or were counseled out of stronger programs; almost all of those from my program ended up there. We started with 65 entering freshmen and graduated 29 of them.

  4. Given that the National Council for Teacher Quality is nothing more than a front group for the Gates Foundation anti-teacher crusade I’m not surprised this “research” is presented here as truth.

    As always, was this “study” presented in a peer-reviewed publication?

    Of course not.

  5. Sadly, this continues in graduate teacher education programs. I’m in one now, and since we’re a cohort we all know each other well. When I got my context grade report for this past semester I realized that I put in too much effort. The lowest grade was an A-. There were students who showed up 2 hours late for a 3-hour class most days even though part of the grade was participation, students who asked for multiple extensions on multiple projects and weren’t ready to present them on presentation days, and students who just didn’t meet the grading criteria for each assignment but still managed to get good grades.

    I paid money for this, people. My graduate GPA will be the same as everyone else’s even though what we put into it was vastly different. Yes, I got more out of it, of that I’m sure. But that’s hard to convey to a prospective employer without sounding snarky and bitter.

    My original degree is in business. You can say what you want about b-school factories, but they weren’t afraid to fail a student 20 years ago. I would hope it’s the same now, but I’m guessing it probably isn’t.

  6. Oh, please. The classes in the grad program aren’t that hard. Teaching credentials are pay to play.

    However, as your experience demonstrates, many teachers do not go through undergraduate education.

    Cite:

    –Only 36% of secondary ed majors (with only a bachelors degree) are teachers.
    –Only 42% of math teachers have an ed bachelors degree

    And this is only those teachers who have a bachelor’s degree. Many teachers get a master’s degree in ed with an undergrad degree in something else.

    This is also all teachers, not just those who have become teachers in the last decade, when the standards got much tougher. So my guess is that a lot of those secondary ed majors have credentials from a much earlier era.

    So as I’ve said a bunch of times, a) high school teachers have much higher qualifications and b) standards for elementary school teachers have gotten much tougher in the past decade.

    But it’s so convenient to pretend otherwise.

    By the way, it’s interesting to note that we’ve dramatically increased teacher standards in the past decade and there’s no corresponding improvement in scores.

  7. So apparently everyone here who thinks ed grad school is easy peasy lemon squeezy never went to a school like I did, where my cohort was pretty competitive for grades, we worked our butts off, and it was damned near impossible to hold down a job simultaneously with full-time class work.

    I know other schools are easier–heck, when we get student teachers in (none from the school I went to), their requirements are simpler. Maybe it’s because I went through a sped program rather than a general ed program, and I didn’t go through one of the cheap diploma mill teacher programs (you know, the ones that advertise teacher! job! opportunities!). The Ed School that I graduated from was also more than willing to bounce you from the program for poor feedback from cooperating teachers or a perception that you weren’t going to be a good teacher. One friend of mine was bounced from a different piece of the same program (general ed, not sped) with only six weeks left before she completed it.

    It was much more work than the legal assistant certificate program I went through. The head faculty person for that program used to insist that it was a graduate-level program. Uh–no, not really. It was designed to be a night school program compatible with a full-time job. Those types of programs are by definition less rigorous than a typical academic program, simply because they’d lose students otherwise.

    Then again, while some of my classes bore no relevance to what I’m now doing (some of which is due to the fact that I was trained to work with all sped levels and I’m only working now with the higher level sped kids), I still find a lot of good stuff that I use from my ed classes.

    My recommendation? Don’t waste your time on diploma mill grad programs. Rigorous ed programs do exist.

    The other factor is–how many of these programs cater to kids straight out of their bachelor’s degree, and how many are catering to people coming into teaching from other careers who want to get a quick and dirty ed degree? When you’re discussing ed school rigor, you need to think about that factor.

    (and sorry, I took some entry-level b-school coursework. It’s less rigorous than the legal assistant stuff. Heck, it’s less rigorous than the neuroscience certificate stuff I’m doing now, even the non-credit stuff)

  8. A relative went through a pre-service MEd program several years ago and did find it helpful, although I don’t think she found it particularly difficult. It is designed – at least for secondary ed – for people with majors in the field and is combined with a whole-year placement with a same-subject teacher at the same level. As the year progressed, students were expected to play an increasing role in teaching.

    However, I’ve known FAR too many ES teachers who are very quick to say they (1) don’t like math, (2) aren’t good at math and (3) went into el ed because they didn’t have to take a math course. The latter may no longer be true, but I still hear both from young teachers. I’ve also known more than a few MS-HS English teachers, particularly the younger ones, who have no problem admitting they’ve never diagrammed sentences and think it’s useless. I disagree with the latter.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    Going backwards in time, at some point we reach a situation where teaching was the best thing for women was teaching because the business world was more or less closed except for the steno class. Or nurses if bodily fluids didn’t gross them out.
    Which is to say that some really, really sharp women went into teaching for lack of better opportunities and now some of them are in…biz, engineering, etc. And not in teaching.

  10. North of 49th says:

    By the way, it’s interesting to note that we’ve dramatically increased teacher standards in the past decade and there’s no corresponding improvement in scores

    Give it time. If Ontario is any example to go by, raising teacher quality will correlate with higher student achievement. There are other factors at work here too of course: tightening up the curriculum, huge emphasis on in situ PD, PLC’s, but our results have improved at the same time as we have significantly increased diversity.

    This report http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/47/46580959.pdf is basically accurate. The overall curve has shifted to the right although I personally see plenty of room for improvement. The kids at both ends of the curve are poorly served IMO.

    Teachers all have a bachelor’s degree in something and get their ed school training post-graduate. Admission is extremely competitive so the really weak candidates are rarely successful. OTOH I have not heard that the education faculty has made its program more cognitively demanding. Most of my newer-graduate colleagues report it was rife with political correctness and social justice, skimpy on substance or practical training in such areas as assessment, research, classoom management or whatnot.

  11. I’ve also known more than a few MS-HS English teachers, particularly the younger ones, who have no problem admitting they’ve never diagrammed sentences and think it’s useless. I disagree with the latter.

    I am a Political Science teacher by credential and training, but in the beginning of my career I taught a History/Language Arts core at the Middle School level. The rest of the department had English or Multiple Subjects credentials. When I suggested teaching the kids to diagram sentences, several had no idea of what I was talking about and none of them knew how to do it. I was never exposed to diagraming sentences again after I graduated from my Dept of Defense High School.

    Diagraming sentences was an effective tool for teaching grammar for over a hundred years…why did we abandon it?

  12. Oh, is it time for a teachers-are-stupid post again? How…. original.

  13. Lightly Seasoned,
    Its hard to argue with the consistent numbers that show education school graduates are not as academically gifted as students entering other majors, or that education school majors require significantly less effort for high grades in their department. The population of education school graduates is lower than most.

    However, like any group of people, there is significant variation within the population.

  14. You’re right, Paul. It is hard to argue that one is more “academically gifted” than thou without looking a bit like a .

  15. Let’s say we push aside any discussion about whether this means teachers are smart or stupid or whatever. What we’re left with is the succinct summation from commenter Cal:

    “Teaching credentials are pay to play.”

    That’s still a freaking huge problem that is undermining respect for teaching as a profession. Sure would be nice to see an Ed School that openly targets this problem and dares to be different.

  16. The population of education school graduates is lower than mos

    It’d be more of a problem if ed school graduates were the vast majority of teachers. But they aren’t, particularly in high school. And let’s face it, elementary school doesn’t require rocket science.

    Dave, it’s not ed school’s problems that credentials are pay to play. It’s the state. Any ed school that tried to set standards higher would end up in a disparate impact lawsuit.

  17. In some fields, personnel are paid for advanced degrees or certification only if the job requires it. For instance, an intensive-care nurse will be paid extra if she is CCRN-certified (and the job may require that after a certain period of time – CCRN certification requires a certain amount of ICU experience) but if she works on a regular patient unit she won’t get the extra. The same goes for a MSN; the extra pay goes with specific jobs. With one notable exception, you don’t tend to see the situation you see in teaching; paying a 3rd-grade teacher with 60 credits of ed courses the same salary as if she had a doctoral degree. A relative has been paid that for over 25 years. The exception? The federal government; you’re paid extra (higher GS level) for a master’s, even though you’re in a job that doesn’t require it.

  18. Genevieve says:

    I agree that paying a classroom teacher extra for a PhD or EdD without extra duties isn’t a good use of money. It can also lead to other problems.

    My mother worked as a Parents as Teachers teacher in the school system. She had a teacher’s contract and after being hired she completed her EdD. The school system had to pay her extra (for a position that was filled by a para at another school) because of the contract. The position was funded by a grant and eventually my mother had to switch to part time because there wasn’t enough money to pay her salary from the grant.

    The local state school near me doesn’t offer a pre-service elementary ed master’s program (they do offer one for secondary math and maybe science). I heard from one of the professors that they don’t offer it because school districts wouldn’t higher the graduates. The districts didn’t want to pay the premium for a teacher that didn’t have any classroom experience.

  19. According to an article by Kenneth Adelman in the Phi Delta __Kappan__, Ed majors scored among the lowest of all undergraduate majors on standardized tests for grad school admission (GRE verbal and math, GMAT, LSAT). The article advanced an argument for Philosophy as undergraduate preparation for law and business. The top GRE English score was English majors, next was Anthropology, iirc. Philosophy was up there. The top GRE Math score was Physics majors, then Math, then various Engineering majors. The top LSAT score was Math majors, and the top GMAT was Math majors. Business majors scored below average on the GMAT, which is pretty funny. Ed majors, Social Work majors, and Journalism majors trailed the pack. Adelman did not use the MCAT.
    Years ago, the Dean of the Honors program at the University of Hawaii told me that Ed majors had the highest GPA in their major and the lowest GPA outside their major, of all undergraduate majors.

  20. Sigh.

    Again, secondary teachers do not often have Education degrees. Second, who cares if elementary school teachers aren’t awesome intellects? They don’t have to be. And they have to pass a reasonably difficult test to become a teacher, so give it a rest or argue that the test needs to be harder still. But then, you’ll have to prove that raising the standard has improved results, and it hasn’t.

    As for GRE scores, if you break it down by Secondary and Primary, secondaries are about average, not below average. When you consider they aren’t broken down by specialty, they’d probably be higher. They aren’t anywhere near the lowest. Primaries are lower on average, but again, not that low.

    I’m tired of the ‘teachers are stupid” debate. The data is old, stupid, and wrong. People don’t understand the path to teaching, and they don’t understand the extensive testing that acts as a gatekeeper. Without all that, the argument is moronic and only shows that people who buy it are ignorant of reality.

  21. Stuart Buck says:

    Extensive testing? In Arkansas, elementary teachers have to take the Praxis I test, an official sample question of which is as follows:

    1. Which of the following is equal to a quarter of a million? A) 40,000. B) 250,000. C) 2,500,000. D) 1/4,000,000. E) 4/1,000,000.

  22. Could non-Californian weigh in on the “extensive testing” of teachers, and its level of rigor, in other states? I do remember a big flap in MA, relatively recently, when large numbers of candidates failed the testing (when it was first begun, perhaps), but I wouldn’t be surprised if its testing of teachers is comparable to its testing of students. I’m guessing that some of the states’ tests for teachers are as weak as their tests for students (which doesn’t mean that some teachers – and students- could pass much harder tests, of course).

    Cal: I certainly am not saying that ES teachers need “awesome intellects”, but I do say that they should know phonics, English grammar and math through Algebra I COLD, and have a decent grasp of English composition, basic sciences, history (including fine arts), geography and civics/government. You have said that ensuring this knowledge is not the job of ed schools, but of the states (through their own testing); if that is so, why are 4-5 years of college/grad school necessary at all?

  23. Deirdre Mundy says:

    When I was in 5th grade in Montgomery county MD, my teacher had failed the Praxis 1 4 times. She had one more chance to pass or she’d be fired. *I* could have passed the Praxis 1 as a 5th grader.

    I’d also like to point out that these studies compare education majors to other students at the same schools. The most rigorous colleges don’t HAVE ed majors, so these studies aren’t even comparing the teachers to the ‘best of the best.’

    Elementary school teachers may not have to be brilliant, but they should certainly know more than their students. Most of the teachers I had in ES were OK, but my 5th grade teacher and my sixth grade science teacher were really….. weak.

    So that’s 1 1/3 wasted years, and I was pretty lucky because k-4 were in PA and with higher quality teachers.

    As far as smarter teachers improving outcomes, it depends on what you measure. I had some briliant teachers in HS, but probably the only test scores they raised wer my AP Calc and CS scores. On the other hand, I certainly learned a lot more about history of science, Biology. Chem, etc. than shows up anywhere. And my very good AP English teacher meant that I didn’t have to spend my whole first quarter of college rewriting Hum papers….. I nailed them on the first try when most other students needed extensive training.

    But that ‘smarter teacher’ benefit doesn’t show up anywhere, b/c people are looking at graduation rates and test scores.

    My guess is that, in general, the teacher should be as smart or smarter than the students……

  24. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Oh…. and my brother had a middle school SCIENCE TEACHER who prouddly announced that she graded “on the median” and then got mad when, out of 30 assignments, my brother got 100 on 16 and 0 on the other 14 (He was a tad lazy and liked to annoy…..)

    Then she graded on the mean. Because, as she explained to my mother, the two words meant exactly the same thing!!!!

    I think Cal may have gotten lucky— and when I taught HS, well, lets just say that while some teachers were bright, others were….. not…. and all the kids knew which was which.

  25. Mark Roulo says:

    “I do remember a big flap in MA, relatively recently, when large numbers of candidates failed the testing (when it was first begun, perhaps)”

    You are probably remembering the excitement from eleven years ago. Google for “59 Percent of Teacher Hopefuls Flunk Mass Competency Test” for a bunch of links.

  26. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Cal:As for GRE scores, if you break it down by Secondary and Primary, secondaries are about average, not below average.

    Do we have any reliable data on this? Even in California, only those teachers with Masters Degrees are likely to have gone anywhere near the GRE, and that seems like sort of a self-selected group out of a population that by and large isn’t going to have anything to do with that test. And other than the MA people, the only other teachers who would take it are those thinking seriously about grad school, which would again imply a certain amount of self-selection bias in any attempt to make claims about GRE scores for teachers as a class.

    Cal: And they have to pass a reasonably difficult test to become a teacher

    Well, you can say it’s “reasonably difficult”, but that don’t make it so.

  27. “My guess is that, in general, the teacher should be as smart or smarter than the students…”

    Teachers should be *better educated* than their students, at least in the areas they are responsible for teaching. The graph implies that either the Education major is significantly easier than other majors, or only the best and brightest even attempt an Education major, and they all succeed wildly. However, the overall success of teachers in classrooms doesn’t support the “all education majors are amazingly successful” interpretation.

  28. My kids went to school in one of the very pleasant DC suburbs where most of the kids in the school had parents with college degrees and many had grad degrees; one of those places where there are many applicants (publicly identified by the sup’t as A+ level) for every teacher opening. One of the MS science teachers assured her class that it took 4 hours for a mouthful of food to reach the stomach (among many other howlers); one kid was permanently on her **** list when he suggested that his classmates all take a large bite of very cold ice cream and time its descent to their stomachs. Another was the one I mentioned earlier that seemed proud of the fact that she couldn’t diagram sentences. I also saw uncounted numbers of memos, notes and teacher comments that displayed a very shaky grasp of spelling, grammar and composition. Either MD’s testing didn’t amount to much or MD didn’t pay attention to the results.

  29. In fairness, I should add that their HS teachers (all honors and AP level) were excellent and their math and science teachers were exceptional.

  30. I am not defending the honor of teachers, and I am personally unaffected by this. I am merely annoyed at the stupidity of those who think the evidence has any meaning.

    A reasonable rule of thumb: High school teaches come from the 60-75 percentile of college grads, with some who didn’t have to test coming in lower than that–but not much. Elementary school teachers come from the 30-50th percentile of grads, putting them above average for the general population.

    Anyone who doesn’t think that this is about right is pretty ignorant, anecdotes aside.

    Even in California, only those teachers with Masters Degrees are likely to have gone anywhere near the GRE, and that seems like sort of a self-selected group out of a population that by and large isn’t going to have anything to do with that test

    Um, do you realize that most secondary school teachers get credentialed through a master’s program? This is a profoundly ignorant statement.

  31. Stuart Buck says:

    Cal — the mental abilities of education majors aren’t the point, and in any event they aren’t nearly high enough to explain why education majors would get grades so far above people studying academic subjects.

  32. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Cal: Um, do you realize that most secondary school teachers get credentialed through a master’s program? This is a profoundly ignorant statement.

    While I don’t have any evidence citations, I’m fairly certain that your claim here is just false. My understanding is that most secondary school teachers get credentialed through a post-baccalaureate credential program. Many of the Cal State schools don’t even have joint credential/master’s programs. I could be mistaken about this, but I’m not going to be convinced simply because Cal tells me so.

    Which isn’t to say that teachers are stupid. It’s just to say that I seriously doubt that the GRE statistics you (don’t really) cite can function as proof to the contrary.

  33. I’m with Cal. The GRE is not a requirement to get into education school; either the CBEST or the Pre-Praxis is required. If you talk with the school, they’ll openly tell you the CBEST is the easier test.

    I took the pre-Praxis (whatever it is called these days) and the results roughly mirrored my SATs from almost 30 years earlier–very high in English (I maxed out the writing score) and significantly lower in Math.

    It’s clear that most of the commenters here haven’t a clue about how teachers are actually credentialed, as well as advancing through the credentialling regime. Most of you lack first-hand knowledge and are relying on talking points, what you’ve read in some study/article somewhere that is either old or incorrect, or simply doing superficial research.

    What is true for initial certification does not necessarily hold for later license renewal. I’m here to tell you that the path of least resistance is to get your Master’s degree, whether elementary or secondary. If my school is any example, my initial post-baccalaureate credits only applied toward a Master’s for seven years; after that you have to retake a lot of stuff. So the school outright suggested/required a Master’s in seven years after the initial post-baccalaureate program. Considering that was two class plus a thesis or project that might last at most two to three terms, it was stupid not to do it quickly.

    Some of the private “pay to play” schools such as University of Phoenix do combine the Master’s and post-baccalaureate programs.

    I doubt that my program was that unique as far as the incentive to complete a Master’s program quickly after the licensure. Essentially, with that little work to continue on to finish the Master’s, even though it’s not “officially defined” as a combined program, given the licensing requirements, in all essence, it’s a Master’s program.

  34. Peace Corps says:

    joycem said: “It’s clear that most of the commenters here haven’t a clue about how teachers are actually credentialed, as well as advancing through the credentialling regime. Most of you lack first-hand knowledge and are relying on talking points, what you’ve read in some study/article somewhere that is either old or incorrect, or simply doing superficial research.”

    Since many commenters here are teachers, you might consider that different states have different credentialling regimes. I don’t know about other states, so I haven’t commented on them, but I know that my state is different than what you and cal describe.

  35. (Joycem): “It’s clear that most of the commenters here haven’t a clue about how teachers are actually credentialed, as well as advancing through the credentialling regime. Most of you lack first-hand knowledge and are relying on talking points, what you’ve read in some study/article somewhere that is either old or incorrect, or simply doing superficial research.
    “Most”? You know this how? I have a BA in Math and a PD (fifth year certificate) in Secondary Math Education.

  36. I’m not sure what my state requires now. I took a Praxis, which I remember as being easy, but then again I found the GRE and LSAT easy, too. Like, whatev. I’m sure you all are Very Very Smart compared to me.

  37. Deirdre Mundy says:

    The praxis I is easier than the SATs if I recall— my siblings and I took it once for laughs, and even the second grader hit a ‘passing’ score. Which did NOT increase his respect for teachers, so I advise against letting kids take it! 🙂