On Tuesday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its second report on the quality of teacher-preparation programs nationwide. If you didn’t notice, that’s probably because, compared to the release of last year’s report, there has been virtually no controversy about this one.
Nor has there been a heck of a lot of change in the ratings, with one exception: Stand-alone alternative certification programs — that is, those that operate independent of colleges and universities — fared poorly.
While some half a dozen Teach for America preparation sites fell into this category, the vast majority were private programs and the majority were in Texas, which allows for-profit certification programs.
No bottom-line takeaway
Overall, the report is so nuanced it’s impossible to give you one bottom-line takeaway. There are multiple measures, and individual schools can do quite well on some and very poorly on others. Also, institutions’ quality can vary widely by individual program.
One of those measures: Graduate passage rates on teacher licensure exams. This spring, MinnPost published this data for Minnesota institutions, many of which were pushing for an end to the test.
For general takeaways this year, public-education advocates might do well to look at the outcomes by policy topic. For instance, most of the state scored quite poorly in student teaching. Also weak: Colleges’ willingness to use student outcomes to evaluate their programs’ effectiveness.
Some programs independently have taken great strides in this department — particularly the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. And a bill that would have mandated the placement of student teachers in classrooms helmed by teachers rated effective died during the 2014 session of the Legislature.
Pitched battle before 2013 report
You don’t remember the 2013 report? Perhaps that’s because it was downright anti-climactic in comparison to the pitched battle that preceded it.
When virtually none of the state public teacher-prep colleges agreed to participate voluntarily, the NCTQ sought syllabi and other information through state freedom of information loss. With the exception of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and St. Cloud State University, the public institutions dug in.
The whole mess ended up in the courts. A Ramsey County District Court judge agreed with NCTQ, which got documents describing what the colleges taught.
The resulting report wasn’t kind to Minnesota overall. And much of the ensuing din had some of the schools protesting that they were evaluated using insufficient information.
Of course, Minnesota education colleges were not used to being evaluated based on their outcomes, much less challenged by some upstart outfit that did not hail from a state so proud of its education system.
After the release of the first report, NCT Q held a forum in which schools could challenge the ratings. The group could then respond publicly. No Minnesota institution chose to participate, according to NCTQ.
Two submitted materials this time
Two public programs did volunteer to submit materials for the 2014 ratings, however. Minnesota State-Mankato submitted new materials, and its scores for student teaching went up. Winona State’s outcomes increased as well after it supplied materials.
Since the first report, the White House has begun calling for a teacher-prep program ratings system that would use student outcome data. If President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have their way, eventually schools will have to gather and publicize data on effectiveness.
In this year’s report, six Minnesota institutions earned “top ranked” status, a distinction bestowed on 107 institutions across the country. They were the University of Minnesota – Duluth, the University of Minnesota – Morris, the University of St. Thomas, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Olaf College and University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
Of the 39 Minnesota teacher-prep programs evaluated, 15 scored high enough to have some national ranking.