• Report: Most U.S. Teacher Training Programs Are Still Awful

    A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has graded every teacher training program in the United States — and most have been found severely wanting.

    The group’s 2014 Teacher Prep Review ranked the nation’s hundreds of teacher certification programs by factoring their admissions standards, academic rigor, syllabuses, and other factors, rating them from Level I to Level IV. Those ranked Level IV were considered top-ranked, while those at Level I were decidedly subpar or even failing.

    At the elementary level, out of 788 evaluated programs, just 26 managed to hit Level IV, while a whopping 529 were were stuck at Level I.  Secondary programs fare somewhat better; out of 824 programs, 81 were Level IV and 319 were at Level I. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have no Level IV programs at all.

    A major reason for the low scores, the group said, is that schools continue to fail at training prospective teachers in scientific approaches to student learning, and fail to ensure teachers have mastered all of the content they will teach. While the vast majority of programs do ensure teachers have studied reading and composition, about half of all programs evaluated don’t have sufficient requirements in place to make sure teachers have mastered elementary math and science to the levels expected of teachers in nations with high-performing schools.

    About three quarters of programs don’t even meet the “modest academic standard” of requiring admitted students to be in the top half of their college class, the report said. A scant 5 percent have all the components the group views as useful for a strong educational training program.

    Singled out for a savaging are alternative-certification programs, especially those in Texas. Texas has no fewer than 40 alternative certification programs for teachers, and 29 of them received an F rating from the NCTQ. On the plus side, Texas also has several high-scoring teacher programs, including the top-ranked elementary teaching program at Dallas Baptist University.

    California is another punching bag in the report, due to its prohibition on certifying teachers from undergraduate programs (which generally rate highly due to their longer length). With most students taking single-year post-bacs to become certified, a “race to the bottom” effect is created that leaves new teachers with insufficient training.

    Not all news was bad, however. This is the second year of the report, and the NCTQ said significant strides had been made in many areas after only a year. In particular, it praised schools for improving instruction on managing the classroom, which it said is a particular challenge for many teachers.

    Also earning praise were new efforts by states to ensure higher-quality teachers. For instance, in the past two years 29 states have revised regulations so that teacher certification exams require teachers to perform well on each subtest, rather than allowing a high score in one area to offset severe weakness in another. Two years ago, not a single state had such a requirement.

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