In case you missed it, the National Council on Teacher Quality is launching a partnership with US News to grade every single college of education across the country. Using comprehensive grading criteria (all of which are based on research of best practices in the training of teachers) that they’ve field-tested in Texas and Illinois, NCTQ will be sending surveys to every school of education, downloading course syllabi and other materials available online, and assessing policies on everything from textbooks used to classes required to student teaching.
This is yeoman’s work, and it will certainly be a valuable contribution to the field. But each of these measures rely on the institutions themselves to be the arbiter of quality. And, absent some objective outcome measures, NCTQ will only be assessing inputs to teacher quality (NCTQ does ask colleges of education whether they survey recent graduates and the employers of recent graduates, but there is no guarantee this information will be accurate). There will be no mechanism to determine if all of the box-checking that NCTQ will be assessing has actually produced effective teachers.
Officials at 37 colleges have written a letter objecting to the new rankings. Many of the objections are procedural, and NCTQ has already addressed them. But this one, buried near the end, sticks out:
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the NCTQ evaluation did not assess what teachers know and can do, or whether what they do impacts student learning. Rather, judgments appear to be based on what content is included in syllabi gathered. It is not clear how the syllabi were reviewed, coded, or rated. Furthermore, there is little evidence given that the content NCTQ sought on syllabi affects teacher effectiveness.
These problems are flaws in the design of the evaluation: The evaluation method leaves out the role of the state. States are the units of government that license teachers and certify programs that are able to produce licensed teachers. Through state longitudinal databases, states have the data necessary to evaluate their colleges of education. The potential for this data, combined with state regulatory authority, make states the most important player in regulating the quality of teacher preparation programs.
It’s not as if NCTQ doesn’t know this. Their State Teacher Policy Yearbook has long documented what policies states have, and have not, put in place to assess teacher quality.The new ranking system aims to take the conversation from states to institutions, but in the process it loses the outcomes focus of the State Policy Yearbook in favor of an inputs-based grading scale.
For more on good ideas for reforming teacher preparation, see our report here.