Rankings of college teaching programs irk some

Jul 15, 2013 by

Prospective students can easily find guides that rank medical, law and engineering schools.

But aspiring teachers or principals who want such assistance on colleges and universities with good programs are out of luck.

“I definitely would have looked at a guide if there had been one,” said Arizona State University elementary-special-education major Elizabeth Clemons, who primarily relied on word-of-mouth recommendations when she enrolled in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Her classmate, Rae Crozier, did the same.

“Older friends of mine who were already in college highly recommended it,” she said.

While the Arizona State Board of Education evaluates and certifies colleges of education, it does not collect or publish data about the schools for prospective students.

A newly published guide, the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Prep Ratings, has been a disappointment to those who thought it would help the public understand how the nation’s teachers colleges stack up.

“All universities are under scrutiny now,” said Mari Koerner, dean of ASU’s teachers college. “People are investing their money and want to know what the outcomes are. It’s a legitimate question to ask whether colleges of education are preparing people to become good teachers. But this report is not a solid evaluation.”

The guide was published in June as part of U.S. News and World Report’s more comprehensive online colleges guide.

Koerner admits her criticism is ironic. The report gives both her college and the University of Arizona’s program three out of four stars and places them on its “honor roll.”

The report in particular praises iTeachAZ, ASU’s popular yearlong student-teaching program.

But Koerner says other parts of the guide were compiled using information that was out of date. That led to inaccurate conclusions, she said.

For instance, ASU was criticized for not requiring teachers to incorporate the Arizona Common Core Standards in lesson plans. That conclusion was based on course catalogs and program descriptions from 2010 — months before Common Core was adopted in Arizona.

Unlike most other college guides, it does not give numerical rankings to the 1,200 teacher-prep programs it evaluated.

It also does not provide narrative description of the schools because it did not send evaluators to any of the colleges.

Koerner believes the report might have been more successful if it had completed more comprehensive evaluations on what it considers the top 100 education colleges in the nation instead of providing a small amount of information about more than 1,000.

The deans of the education colleges at Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon universities echoed Koerner’s views. Both schools received low marks from the National Council on Teacher Quality, including criticisms that the evaluations their student teachers receive are weak.

“I believe the report is inaccurate,” said NAU’s Michael Roy Sampson. “Having worked in four states, I have reviewed NCTQ ratings of some programs I know very well, and NCTQ misses the mark on the quality of the programs. Additionally, their evaluation of the NAU teacher-preparation programs is flawed, with numerous inaccuracies, including the rating of student teaching.”

Kimberly LaPrade, dean of Grand Canyon University’s College of Education, said she was “dismayed” by the report. “The methodology of their work has some great flaws,” she said.

Karen Butterfield, Arizona Department of Education associate superintendent of academic achievement, would like the state to provide more information for prospective Arizona education majors.

“We are at a critical crossroads with this,” she said.

She said board researchers, for instance, evaluate student-teaching programs, the quality of faculty, and the goal and vision of teacher colleges before they are certified.

But that information is not easily accessed by the the public, she said.

The state would have to allocate funding to make the information available in brochures or on a website, she said.

via Rankings of college teaching programs irk some.

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