Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What you need to know before you believe the sky is falling in DE teacher prep

I mean, the news is bad and tends to support everything the ed reformers say, doesn't it?

The National Council on Teacher Quality report released Tuesday described the nation’s teacher preparation system as “an industry of mediocrity” and called on policymakers to make changes in the higher education system. 
Nationally, very few programs rated highly on the report, which provided individual dataon more than 1,100 teacher preparation programs. About nine percent earned higher than three out of four stars. Four programs earned all four stars. 
None of the top-rated programs were in Delaware, but state officials say changes made in a law signed last week will change that.
According to the News Journal, you will discover that most Delaware programs earned either two or (occasionally) two-and-one-half stars in the survey.

However, as is usual, you will not find nearly the whole story in News Journal.

Here's why:

1.  NCTQ may be "nonpartisan" in a strictly political sense, but it is hardly nonpartisan in terms of its education orientation.  If you visit its web pages you will discover that the Rodel and Longwood Foundations are major funders of the study and long-term supporters of the organization.  If you bother to peruse the list of staff, board of directors, and board of advisors, you will find a compilation of all the people who have brought you high-stakes testing (many first cut their teeth in education with the standards movement in the 1990s and NCLB the next decade) like Chester Finn, Ira Fishman, Henry L. Johnson, Wendy Kopp, E. D. Hirsch, etc etc ad nauseum.  Individually, many of these folks have seen their pet theories, research, and programs discredited over the years, but because they are the "in" group in national GWBush BObama style ed reform they keep popping up.

What you need to realize also is that there is a complete lack of participation and input by the following organizations:  college/university accreditation organizations (e.g. Middle States) and content-area accreditation organizations (e.g. National Council of Social Studies).  There is no reference to teacher education programs having to meet existing accreditation program requirements for reasons we will soon note.

2.  This entire report is undermined by being a shil for the Common Core Standards.  Read it.  You CANNOT have your teacher preparation program place higher than two stars under any condition unless the NCTQ thinks that you have completely re-oriented all of your content instruction around Common Core.  This is a fascinating piece of circular logic, because of the following

(A) Common Core is supposedly a creature of the states (although we all know that's not really true), and 45 states have adopted it, but will not actually fully implement it until 2014-2015.  In fact, not all of the Common Core standards HAVE EVEN BEEN WRITTEN YET.

(B) So NCTQ bases its ratings on a set of standards that is (i) NOT CURRENTLY IN USE; (ii) has no research base to back it up; (iii) has no training available for the people training teachers (because it isn't finished yet; (iv) and the standards aren't even being used AT ALL in several states.

(C) Thus the "state bottom up" initiative has now been elevated to the "top-down" national standard for evaluating teacher prep programs, even though it is not in force and there is no mechanism in place ANYWHERE to support teacher prep programs in adapting to it.

Makes sense to me.

3.  The report employs "shaming" tactics.  If NCTQ wanted it, they expected to get it, and damn near for free.  They published what are effectively "black lists" of some of the best universities in the country in order to try to intimidate them into playing.  Where they could, they sued universities for inclusion in their private study.  Yeah, these are people who play well with others.

4.  The News Journal somehow missed a lot of the story about Delaware.  For example, according to the report, only SEVEN universities in the entire country rated higher in special education than Delaware State University.  The report also shows that undergraduates in Delaware are twice as likely to have a high-quality student teaching experience than the national average.  Delaware's content-level preparation for secondary teachers is also fifteen points above the national average.  Delaware education majors are also twice as likely as national averages to receive a strong elementary math background.

You've got to ask yourself why neither the News Journal nor the Governor is reporting these pieces of good news about teacher preparation.  Could it be that it is more important to use this report, as today's WNJ editorial page does, to beat our colleges and universities over the head with being the cause of all of Delaware's education ills.

That's easier than actually holding a real, data-based discussion about education, isn't it?


Mike O. said...

For example, it had high praise for programs that give teachers more information about how their students are performing and how to use that information to help them improve.

This would be the Education Insight system, which doesn't give teachers one scrap more information than they already had. Delaware has yet to provide a demo or any information to the public demonstrating the claims for this system. All evidence so far points to this system being unused by teachers. This topic is worth a more detailed post which I may do on the system's one-year anniversary this fall.

Nancy Willing said...

I have added all this to my post on the subject.

This reporter is on the learning curve on how not to get OWNED by the Governor and go out and get a few counter perspectives for a story.

Nichole Dobo learned after getting killed on the blogs. I understand that John Young is communicating with Albright but we have yet to see him reach over to the alternative view for comment. Or enlightenment in this case.