On the news wires this week, U.S. News & World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) announce today the launch of a landmark survey.  The survey will consist of more than 1,000 schools of education across the country.  Unprecedented in its scope and comprehensiveness, the project will rate the quality of teacher preparation programs from which more than 200,000 new teachers graduate each year.

The article goes on to say:

The new rating survey, to be published in the second half of 2012, will be useful for both consumers and policymakers.  Teacher education is a critical national issue, and preliminary data indicates that there are wide variances in the quality of programs. Aspiring teachers will be able to identify which programs will best prepare them for the classroom, and school districts will know where they should target their recruitment efforts for new hires. Education leaders, including university presidents, state superintendents of education and state legislators, will be able to evaluate best—and worst – practices across all 50 states.

And from Kate Walsh, the President of NCTQ:

“We now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that teacher effectiveness is the single biggest school-based contributor to learning,” said Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ.  “Just like in every other profession, the quality of their training has a tremendous impact on how well teachers perform.  The only way we will meet the challenge of ensuring that all our country’s students get the excellent teachers they deserve is to transform teacher preparation.”

First of all, educators and parents know that how a teacher teaches is only part of the equation when it comes to educating our children.

There are many factors involved including the size of the class, whether all books and materials are available, how the student is feeling; are they hungry, cold, sick or having problems at home?, and the range of student ability within that classroom.

The idea that the teacher is the greatest contributing factor in a student’s success is naïve and shows a lack of understanding in how we learn.

What concerns me the most about this partnership is that the work so far that NCTQ has done in terms of evaluating colleges has come under scrutiny by the education community.

This from Kenneth Teitelbaum, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in an opinion piece Group’s Report Poorly Done, Lacking in Data:

Imagine an organization that decides to assess doctor preparation by establishing its own standards rather than those embraced by the American Medical Association. Or something similar for lawyers, engineers, nurses, police officers, etc. This is what NCTQ does. Whatever our own major professional associations subscribe to, or whatever the research shows, NCTQ assumes its own standards and then assesses our programs based on them. In addition, they do no direct observations of practice, no interviewing of students and school and community partners, and very little follow up of the factual errors that we call to their attention. They simply look at course syllabi, our website and the University catalog, all very limited indicators of what actually takes place in our courses and field experiences and intended as such. How can one come to grand conclusions about the quality of an elementary education or special education program from such limited information? Apparently NCTQ thinks you can. In my view, and those of my colleagues, their efforts would not be sufficient to pass an undergraduate research course.

Per the statement made by the following organizations that encompass all 53 Illinois institutions of higher education that prepare educators, Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI), Council of Chicago Area Deans of Education (CCADE), Illinois Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE), Illinois Association of Deans of Public Colleges of Education (IADPCE), Illinois Association of Teacher Educators (IATE), Illinois Association for Teacher Education in Private Colleges (IATEPC):

The following is a list of specific concerns about NCTQ’s study of Illinois preparation programs:

  • The process for selecting and analyzing data was simplistic and narrow in focus, and did not follow appropriate, credible research protocol.
  • The research base for the standards is scant, and the focus is on measuring program inputs rather than program outcomes, such as teacher candidate performance.
  • Recognized professional standards, such as those adopted by states and/or accrediting bodies, were not used in this review process.
  • The standards proposed by NCTQ were unavailable at the time institutions first started this process, and rubrics and/or decision rules underlying ratings continue to be withheld.
  • Archived websites/course syllabi were used for the review at some institutions, which resulted in NCTQ basing findings on misinformation.
  • In multiple instances, course syllabi or other materials from the wrong institutions were used as part of the review.
  • Within some institutions, NCTQ staff requested materials from programs not part of the original review.
  • Factual errors, including institutions’ names, were not corrected in subsequent NCTQ drafts.
  • Initial drafts submitted for review contained multiple errors, and, though NCTQ invited institutional responses, the final study fails to reflect all corrections to those errors.
  • It appears that reviewers had difficulty understanding the content of some course syllabi and how this content related to NCTQ’s required standards.
  • The credentials and experience of the reviewers were not disclosed, so it is difficult to determine the credibility of the reviewers.

A simplistic approach that shows a lack of knowledge of schools of education? Why might that be?

To answer that question, you must delve a little deeper into Ms. Walsh’s background. I searched online for her curriculum vitae but could not find one. The closest I got to her background in education was an excerpt from a book titled The Teachers We Need vs. The Teachers We Have by Lawrence Baines. In chapter 7 he writes:

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is another organization that promotes alternative certification while attempting to masquerade as an objective, research-focused agency.  The similarity of the name of the National Council on Teacher Quality to the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is no coincidence.

 Whereas NCATE advocates rigorous standards for teachers, including a full-semester or longer of student teaching and challenging and relevant course work, NCTQ advocates a student teaching experience of a few weeks and limited course work.  Unsurprisingly, the president of NCTQ is an alternatively certified teacher who started the first alternative certification program in Maryland. Chester Finn, who sits on the board of directors of the NCTQ also happens to be the President of ABCTE.

Thus, two organizations (NCEI and NCTQ) who provide the federal government and state agencies with data on alternative certification are also dependent upon the continuing proliferation of alternative certification for their survival.  Given this reality, it seems unlikely that either NCEI or NCTQ will ever have anything negative to say about alternative certification.

 Let’s review the facts.  The Chief Executive Officer of a business that provides alternative certification for a fee (Chester Finn, of ABCTE) is on the board of directors of the organization that provides the reports (NCTQ) that promote the benefits of alternative certification.  Not only has the federal government failed to launch an independent evaluation of teacher quality, it has relied upon NCEI and NCTQ to provide data about the quantity and quality of alternatively-certified teachers.

When a wolf is appointed to guard the sheep, one must expect that casualties will be heavy.  As teacher certification across the United States has gotten easier, quicker, and more profitable for the wolves, the sheep have started disappearing.

Eventually, one would hope that the rationale upon which the alternative certification business empire has been built—that unprepared, inexperienced students with poor academic records are somehow superior to well-prepared, experienced teachers with stellar academic records—will not stand.

And in an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune by Debra Meyer:

As chairperson of one of the teacher education programs earning “high marks,” I want to discourage high school students and their parents, who read the editorial “Teacher’s ed,” (Nov.) from using NCTQ’s report to choose a school of education.

The NCTQ report is not a “valuable resource.” NCTQ graded the quality of our programs primarily based on some (not all) of a program’s syllabi, which we mailed to them in Washington, D.C. No one visited our campus to review our programs, so we had to resubmit materials to correct factual errors as well as make phone calls to clarify misinterpretations. Even with these extra efforts, the published program analyses still contained mistakes and misconceptions.

Please do not choose a teacher education program using a “preliminary report” rooted in propaganda. Visit several schools and talk to students and graduates. Don’t evaluate a program by the textbooks listed on syllabi, rather observe education classes and meet professors. Ask challenging questions and base your decision on critically evaluated information from a variety of primary sources.

If your goal is to become a “great teacher,” then anchor your choice of a teacher education program in valid information. Find a program that prepares its graduates in establishing long, successful careers in education. Ignore media sound bites and glossy reports authored by self-proclaimed experts, especially if their conclusions about teacher quality are mostly drawn from course syllabi and college catalogs. Let’s not assume that all published reports from “nonpartisan groups” are unbiased and accurate. They aren’t.

I think that a report that refers to teachers as “Human Capital”, as all the NCTQ reports do, belies a viewpoint of teachers as just that and nothing more and those who use those reports to further their agendas as seeing our students as beans that can be counted for profit and nothing more.

When Kate Walsh came to Seattle to present her NCTQ report it was just before union negotiations were to begin with the Seattle Education Association. The terms that were introduced in the report were echoed by ed reform groups during that time, terms like “teacher effectiveness and “performance pay”, items that our Broad–trained superintendent had put on the table for negotiations six months earlier. The report was waved around in front of the press and community leaders by the faux roots ed reform organizations that were spawned by Gates and Broad causing many community organizations to sign onto a Community Values Statement. That statement was brought in front of the teacher’s union during negotiations as a way to make teachers feel that the entire community was demanding that they relent on the issues of merit pay and seniority.  It was a scam plain and simple and will be written about in detail in a future post. That document also made its’ way to Olympia and our state legislators who then thought that everyone wanted these measures put into place and from that our ed reform Bill 6696 was born and adopted. All of this done without anyone coming to the rest of us, parents, students and teachers, and asking us to participate in the formulation of our vision for education in Seattle.

It is also enlightening to see who is on the NCTQ Advisory Board, people who will benefit from cheap labor in the form of Teach for America recruits who are staffing charter schools throughout the country. The people on the board include Michael Feinberg, Founder of The KIPP Foundation , a charter franchise, Michael Goldstein, CEO and Founder of The Match (Charter) School in Massachusetts, Paul T. Hill, Director, Center for Reinventing Public Education which supports charter schools and is a recipient of Gates’ money, Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach For America, Michelle Rhee, Board of Directors for the Broad Foundation, a proponent of charter schools, Stefanie Sanford, Senior Policy Officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, another major proponent of charter schools, Laura Schwedes, KIPP charter schools and Deborah McGriff, Partner, the New Schools Venture Fund.

The New Schools Venture Fund states on their website “we have made portfolio-level investments in 35 nonprofit and for-profit organizations, including nonprofit charter management organizations (CMOs), school support organizations, accountability and performance tools and human capital providers“.

There’s that term again, “Human Capital”.

To read more about Kate Walsh, the NCTQ presentation in Seattle and her report, which probably looks like other reports that she has put together for other towns and cities as an introduction to the edicts of Race to the Top and ed reform, see The Alliance and the NCTQ Study.


By the way, NCTQ is funded by the Gates Foundation by way of TR3.

Post Script: June 4, 2014:

The link showing the Gates funding highlighted above as “TR3” has been taken down since this post was published.