NCTQ: Teacher prep earns D+

Teacher preparation policies earned a D+ in 2012, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook. That’s up from a D in 2011.

The highest grade — B- — went to Alabama, Florida, Indiana and Tennessee. Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont made the most progress. Three states – Alaska, Montana and Wyoming – received failing grades.

Only a third of undergraduate teacher preparation programs are sufficiently selective, NCTQ finds. The majority “fail to ensure that candidates come from the top half of the college-going population.” Only 24 states require teacher preparation programs to use a basic skills test to screen applicants.

Standards are low for elementary teachers:

Teaching children to read is among an elementary teacher’s most important responsibilities, yet only 10 states appropriately assess teacher proficiency in effective reading instruction. And only 11 states adequately test new elementary teachers’ knowledge of mathematics.

Even though all but four states require some subject matter tests for elementary teacher licensing, the passing scores are extremely low. Every state (for which NCTQ has data) except Massachusetts sets the passing score for elementary teacher licensing tests below the average score for all test takers (50th percentile), and most states set passing rates at an exceedingly low level.

Only eight states– Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas – use student achievement data to hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the effectiveness of the teachers they graduate.

About Joanne


  1. From what I have heard and read, including el ed course requirements at several different colleges, there’s not only not much effort to require solid HS coursework and SAT/ACT (including SAT IIs and APs) scores for entry into el ed programs, there’s not much effort put into requiring content-rich college coursework across the disciplines. I didn’t find any programs requiring physical/political geography, US and comparative government, economics, statistics, survey courses in world, European and US history (as opposed to PC, multi-culti special topics), earth science, chem, physics, bio and math (AP and SAT IIs could be used to fulfill these), let alone English grammar, foreign roots/prefixes, suffixes etc, and how to teach composition, phonics and math and sciences.

    • Genevieve says:

      At my university all education students had to take either American Government or American History.

      • lightly seasoned says:

        Same at mine. I’d never taken it as an undergrad, so I had to go back and do it. I was annoyed at having to pay tuition for it, but I didn’t have to put in much effort, that’s for sure.

  2. TWS Garrison says:

    This statement “Every state . . . sets the passing score for elementary teacher licensing tests below the average score for all test takers (50th percentile)” is irritatingly useless. The report spends most of its time listing the 25 (!) states for which it does not have data to use (it’s not like anyone lives in New York or California anyway…) and says nada about whether the tests themselves are good or garbage. Since the people taking the tests are self-selected you would expect most to pass; I imagine most PhD defenses are also passed, but that fact doesn’t say anything about the validity of the PhDs. If they had pass rates on this test for, say, a random sample of 12th graders we might actually care about the pass rates for people who are paying to take a test solely for entering one specific field after, often, years of preparation for entering said field.

  3. I wonder if the reason we can’t get ‘secondary -quality’ teachers into the elementary schools is that at the ES level we tend to emphasize traits that have nothing to do with subject matter. ES education classes emphasize things like the ability to make a really nice bulletin board. They focus on externals “Look–here’s how to have a bright, cheerful class where it looks like learning is happening because adults look in and see pretty colors and displays of student work!!” Rather than ‘here is how to make sure every child can read and do fractions.’ Is there any scientific research that explores the effect of bright, cheerful bulletin boards on kids’ learning?

    Homeschoolers, for instance, tend not to have bulletin boards unless the mom is especially crafty. Kids in other countries? Not so much. But ES majors MUST master the Bulletin board and other such things…. You may be keeping teachers who’d be willing to work with K-5 and capable instructors out of the field with these other requirements…

    • Genevieve says:

      I agree. I strongly considered going back to school to become an elementary school teacher (back when I was teaching preschool at child care centers and private pre-schools). The main thing that dissuaded me was administration, bureaucracy and curriculum I didn’t agree with. However, the lack of a crafty bone in my body was not a minor consideration.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      LOL, yes. this:

      “Look–here’s how to have a bright, cheerful class where it looks like learning is happening because adults look in and see pretty colors and displays of student work!!”

      My sister-in-law has taught elementary art for nearly 20 years. The better part of her job is making sure the bulletin boards look “right”. They need to LOOK as if their school is a shiny, happy place. Nevermind that she will tell she’s not particularly fond of children and really actively resents the special ed kids (the require extra time and effort). But, she’s the art teacher, so – whatever.

      • At least for Art it makes a bit of sense… I mean, you want the art teacher to be able to…do art… but how bulletin boards like “Shapes in our world!” help fifth graders practice adding fractions and decimals?

        • When I taught HS, they didn’t care if I had bulletin boards or not. They just wanted me to be able to explain Math and Latin…

          • lightly seasoned says:

            I’ve never put up a bulletin board. Sometimes I hang stuff on the walls, but mostly it just falls down anyway.

    • A relative who is a recently-retired el ed teacher actually took TWO courses in beanbag, where aspiring teachers designed a game with beanbags, plus a number of equally useless classes. The ed school coursework actively filters out the brightest and most academically inclined, especially in el ed, by the sheer volume of edubabble, silly theories, PC-multi-culti nonsense and general BS. The ed school at my university was also universally regarded as having the worst teachers on the faculty. My secondary-ed roomie was far from the only grad who never entered teaching; she already had all of the edworld nonsense she could tolerate.