NCTQ; Take it With A Grain of Salt

Back in 2010, Charlie wrote a thread on this ed reform group and a report they had written about the Seattle teachers contract.

NCTQ - National Council on Teacher Quality - has now come out with another report, NCTQ Teacher Prep Review, and this one is about teacher preparation programs.  I haven't read all of it (it's 112 pages). 

Their premise is that the overwhelming majority of teacher prep programs aren't worth it to their students.  What's interesting is not that they say the programs' content is bad but

...that a vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars.

I may be splitting hairs but I'm not sure return on investment is the same as low-quality.

They also complain that most of the programs don't prepare teachers to teach Common Core.  For crying out loud, it's just barely coming online and hello! there is no "content", only the standards.  The content (the curriculum) is supposed to be created by the districts/states. 

Pushback on this report comes from several sources including other education blogs as well as Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University (and chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. 

Dr. Darling-Hammond says:

“NCTQ’s methodology is a paper review of published course requirements and course syllabi against a check list that does not consider the actual quality of instruction that the programs offer, evidence of what their students learn, or whether graduates can actually teach.  Concerns about the organization’s methods led most schools of education nationally and in California to decline to participate in the data collection… NCTQ collected documents through websites and public records requests.  The ratings published in this report are, thus, based on partial and often inaccurate data, and fail to evaluate teacher education quality.”

Well, that's not good.

Here's what NCTQ says of their research for this report:

Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the Review
finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity.

We were able to determine overall ratings based on a set of key standards for 608 institutions. Those ratings can be found on the U.S. News & World Report website,, as well as our own,, whewhere is is additional data on another 522 institutions.  

We strived to apply the standards uniformly to all the nation’s teacher preparation programs as part of our effort to bring as much transparency as possible to the way America’s teachers are prepared. In collecting information for this initial report, however, we encountered enormous resistance from leaders of many of the programs we sought to assess. In some cases, we sued for the public information they refused to provide. We anticipate greater cooperation for future editions of the Review, which will be published annually, resulting in more ratings for more programs.

You'll note that they did not say they talked or interviewed anyone so it would seem that Dr. Darling-Hammond is right about how they gathered and then assessed their information.  (I also have to wonder why they think colleges of education will be any more cooperative in the future.)  They have one section where they note the limitations of this report due to lack of access to many aspects of different teaching programs throughout the U.S.

Hilariously, they include Teach for America as a teaching program.  One, even TFA says, at their own website, that they are NOT creating a teaching corps for the U.S.  Two, comparing TFA training with most university and college teaching programs is comparing apples to oranges.

But one education blogger, Jan Resseger, who DID read the report talks about the "social class bias" that she believes is embedded into the report.  I found this interesting as there also seems to be a subtle bias in how people think about Teach for America (and not-so-coincidentally, Wendy Kopp, head of TFA, is on NCTQ's board).  

One interesting instance of social class bias in the report is this statement:  Should first-year teaching be the equivalent of fraternity hazing, an inevitable rite of passage?" 

That's a bit of bias because the majority of people who attend college do not ever join fraternities or sororities but apparently the people who wrote this report think hazing is widely-known (fraternities or otherwise).   They actually repeat this phrase twice in the report.

To their credit, the report's authors point out that Finland radically reshaped their teaching program to make it highly sought-after and competitive.  (It is also the main teaching program for the entire country.)

Resseger quotes Mike Rose, a professor of education at UCLA,:

In his recent post about the NCTQ report, Rose recommends a video about the late Harriet Ball, a graduate of Huston-Tillotson University, a small Historically Black College in Austin, Texas.  On its website Huston-Tillotson boasts a 90 percent acceptance rate; its mission is to serve as the antithesis of the kind of the kind of elite university where Teach for America is noted for seeking its recruits. 

Rose writes: “What is worrisome is that in the drive for improvement, reformers can narrowly define “quality” as, for example, the pedigree of a prospective teacher’s undergraduate institution, or the selectivity of that teacher’s education program. We need to throw a wide net in recruiting teachers, tapping a range of backgrounds and talents.”

Rose continues:  “How about this?  What if all the philanthropies that supported the questionable report from the Council on Teacher Quality contributed an equal amount to a less partisan organization to study excellent teachers who come from modest backgrounds and attend their local (and often less selective) colleges?  How did they get so good?  What did they bring with them and what did their programs nurture?  How can we recruit more like them”

Exactly.  When we hear complaints about not enough teachers of color could it be that we are looking in the wrong places?   Is GPA and college/university "name brand" important?

I think NCTQ is right to ask these questions.  Maybe there should be a more streamlined type of teacher preparation than what is currently out there. 

One factor that doesn't get much play is why would someone want to be a teacher today?  NCTQ complains that most of the students in colleges of education were not even in the top half of their class when they graduated. 

That may be true but just as Finland overhauled its system to make it more selective, they also brought back honor and professionalism to the profession.  Teachers today are denigrated over and over.  They ever new assessments, for both them and their students.  They have new standards, new curriculum and all the while, are trying to give individual attention and pay heed to the myriad of students that come to their classroom.

We need to elevate this profession if we want the best and the brightest to want to be teachers. 


Anonymous said…
NCTQ is a fraud. They call themselves the "National Commission on Teacher Quality," yet, nobody ever appointed any of them and there is no "commission." They are a private think tank, run by Kate Walsh and her cronies on their board, including Wendy Kopp, and they are funded by big Ed Reform's usual suspects. Their name is deliberately misleading to convince parents that they are some sort of official government, or government sanctioned panel, but they aren't and couldn't be further from it.

Furthermore, their publications and cartoons constantly and pathetically mock teachers and the teaching profession at every opportunity, evidencing the class-based arrogance of Big Ed Reformers in general.

Make no mistake about who they are and what they want: They are commodity loving union-busters through and through.

Anonymous said…
Council, not "commission." (My bad).
All else is accurate.

Hilariously, they tell students looking for a teaching program to "ask about NCTQ" ratings as if they are a non-biased group.
Anonymous said…
What WSDWG said. They are full of crap. Alas, the media takes to their reports like they are the definitive bible of teaching.

Anonymous said…
"What's interesting is not that they say the programs' content is bad but

...that a vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars."

Does this mean that the authors are saying teachers should be paid a lot more so that, by definition, their tuition ROI is better? :) Just dumb.

The Common Core reference is hilarious. It's like being critical that most schools aren't using Office 2013 yet.

** Poorly Trained?
mirmac1 said…
Amen. This kind of stuff bites the UW COE's Tom Stritikus in the butt because he's on board with all this BMGF crap, until it nails him for being a mediocrity. Anyway, thanks for the clarification Melissa.
Anonymous said…
I still remember that 60? 70? page 'teacher quality' drivel from the heydey of MGJ & Tolley was an enforcer down in the south part of town.

What is stunning is that of all the programs and initiatives and hoo-rah, how much turned into lasting help for kids who need help? Remember Charlie had those diaries detailing all those Prime Directives, or WTF they were called, and how zippity doo-da was getting done besides random power points and job title shuffling?

Oh yeah - for Double Jeopardy, the key electeds of those dark daze are also the supporters of Suzanne Dale Estey! We really need more NCTQ 60 page reports over supports for kids.

Charlie Mas said…
Garbage in, garbage out.
mirmac1 said…
When I look at Board Mtg agendas I see how much is Ed Reform crap. For everyone of these (partially) grant-funded FTE/programs, there are more $$seat$$ at JSCEE jumping through the Alliance's hoops. How much time do we waste on this crap? Trying to filter just how much our district will be on the hook once the "one-time" leveraged start-up grant funds go away. It gets really tiring.
Anonymous said…
It does get tiring, mirmac1. But thanks to the countless hours people like yourself invest, we at least have a sliver of transparency, and thus hope (albeit sometimes a garden hose on a bonfire), that so many of these "born to fail" initiatives die before reaching the classrooms and interfering with the meaningful learning still going on in SPS. God Bless all the great teachers and staff in this district, despite Ed Reform and it's Central "Adminions" in JSCEE.


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