After years of reform, California education schools fall short on new ranking system

Jun 19, 2013 by

California has been trying to reform how it educates teachers for more than a decade, and some of its ideas have become a model for the rest of the country. But the vast majority of teacher preparation programs in California are still failing to adequately prepare teachers, according to a controversial new report released Tuesday that rated more than 1,200 schools of education across the nation.

The ratings, compiled by U.S. News and World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a pro-accountability advocacy group, are part of an effort to spur improvements in teacher quality. The hope is that if education schools are pushed to do a better job of preparing teachers in the first place, the country can solve many of its academic problems.

“Students in an elementary teacher preparation program at California State University Northridge participate in a lesson prepared by a classmate. Northridge’s undergraduate education classes were rated highly in several categories, but the program overall received a low score.” (Photo by Jackie Mader)


Students in an elementary teacher preparation program at California State University-Northridge participate in a lesson prepared by a classmate. Northridge’s undergraduate education classes were rated highly in several categories, but the program overall received a low score. (Photo by Jackie Mader)

“We have scratched an inch deep into the surface of these programs. Just going that deep we find fundamental flaws and weaknesses,” said Kate Walsh, NCTQ’s president. “I wonder if you went a lot deeper what you would find.”

Education schools across the country fared poorly, but California, which is among the top six producers of teachers in the nation, was identified as one of the three worst states at training teachers. Ninety percent of the state’s elementary education programs included in the review received the lowest rating possible.

The ratings left schools of education reeling. Some of the nation’s biggest producers of teachers, like Illinois State University and the California State University system, were rated poorly on the review’s scale of zero to four stars.

The ratings were based on standards such as how the program teaches classroom management and whether it prepares teachers for the new Common Core State Standards. For the 162 programs identified as the weakest in the nation, the common thread was low admission criteria and poor student teaching requirements.

But critics say that had NCTQ dug deeper, the group might have made different conclusions.



“Unfortunately, the answer to the question of what we can learn about teacher education quality from the NCTQ report … is ‘not much,’ ” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University and chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, in a statement. “Without reliable data related to what programs and their candidates actually do, the study is not useful for driving improvement.”

In particular, Darling-Hammond said, the report did not accurately reflect the results of ongoing reform efforts in California.

In 1998, the state passed an ambitious law aimed at improving teacher preparation. The law allowed for multiple ways for teachers to earn a certificate and required that aspiring teachers take a performance test—which includes videotapes and extended essays—to prove they are ready to teach. One of those tests is the model for a new national exam adopted by 25 states.

Still, educators at some of California’s most popular schools of education have admitted there is little data showing their programs are any better. Some aspects of teacher preparation, like student teaching, still vary greatly by program and the state cut score for program admissions is low, just 123 out of a top score of 240 on a basic skills test.

The release of the rankings has many questioning how to evaluate teacher preparation programs, and if it is even possible.

via After years of reform, California education schools fall short on new ranking system | Hechinger Report.

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