An Inquiry into the National Council on Teacher Quality

The Devil is in the Detail

This inquiry is an investigation into the behavior of two organizations that claim to have the inside track on understanding how teachers should be educated: The National Council on Teacher Quality, and it’s partner and founding organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  The findings are published and available as an eBook that is available free on the Art of Teaching Science blog.

In this eBook,  I argue that the reports issued by these organizations on teacher preparation and science standards are nothing short of conservative propaganda put out by organizations with ties to each other, and a common sources of funding from the leading donors of corporate-styled accountability.

I have included the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in this report because it founded the National Quality on Teacher Quality to push forward its agenda of dismantling teacher education to its own ends.

The eBook is divided into four parts as follows:

[restabs alignment=”osc-tabs-center” pills=”nav-pills” responsive=”true” icon=”true” text=”More” tabcolor=”#ea3410″]
[restab title=”Part 1″ active=”active”]The NCTQ.  Starting with an analysis by Anthony Cody, we delve into the type of reporting that the National Council on Teacher Quality carries out in the name of research. You’ll discover that the NCTQ is nothing but a well-funded assault agent on teacher education. It’s research is a sham, and in some cases they’ve had to resort to the courts to obtain course syllabi and other documents, although so far they’ve not been successful with the legal system. Maybe they should take a course in social-science research methods?[/restab]
[restab title=”Part 2″]It’s Junk Science. Rather than beating around the bush, I’ve analyzed the reporting done by the NCTQ based on peer-reviewed research about what makes up junk science. The NCTQ comes out a winner. [/restab]
[restab title=”Part 3″]NCTQ’S Review of Georgia’s Teacher Education. Since I was a teacher educator in Georgia for more than 30 years, I looked at the NCTQ’s reporting of teacher preparation in the state. I found, among other things, that the NCTQ reported on only a few of the many programs available throughout the state, and that the reports were without depth and quality. [/restab]
[restab title=”Part 4″]The Fordham Connection. As a science teacher educator, the Fordham Institute got my attention when they issued reports on the state of the state science standards, and when they reviewed the Next Generation Science Standards. The authors of the Fordham Institute reviews of science education seem to be biased against any research in the field of science education. This is unfortunate since the science education community is a world-wide community of scholars who’ve developed research methods to investigate science teaching in classrooms globally. The Fordham authors are stuck in a 19th Century conception of what should be taught in school science, and lack the credibility to report on the nation’s science education community in K-12 schools.[/restab][/restabs]

By way of introduction here are some things you might want to know about the NCTQ and the Fordham Institute.

National Council on Teacher Quality

The National Council on Teacher Quality issues reports on teacher preparation, in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. The NCTQ reports are more of an assault on teacher education and not an honest and ethical evaluation of teacher education programs.

Like the Fordham Foundation, they are research challenged, and cherry pick statements out of context from educational research.  Their research methods are not only challenged, but avoid the most important aspect of research in any field, and that is peer review.  The only peers that review their reports are in-house employees.

They claim that their reports on teacher preparation are an “exhaustive and unprecedented” overall rating of 608 institutions.  Don’t be fooled by the extensive graphs and tables.   The method used to generate these is essentially flawed.   Its standards are lumped into four buckets (their term): Selection, Content Preparation, Professional Skills and Outcomes. And their reports include a very small sample of teacher educations program in the United States.

But here’s a big problem.

Instead of working with its subjects of study, the universities that have teacher education programs, the NCTQ relied only on a paper trail discovered online or in catalogues.  It did not visit these campuses to find out about teacher education on the ground.  In fact, many of the schools simply did not want to coöperate with the NCTQ.  As a result, NCTQ used the open records law to get much of their information.  And as the report indicates, most institutions did not supply the “necessary syllabi” to do an adequate job assessing the institutions.  They also had trouble getting the institutions to give information on student teaching and student teaching policies. Indeed, an appeals court ruled against the NCTQ which demanded that professors at the University of Missouri should give up copies of their course syllabi. However, the court said that course syllabi are the intellectual property of their creators and not considered public records under Missouri’s Sunshine Law, a state appeals court ruled this week. NCTQ is appealing.

Can you imagine social science researchers taking legal action against students because they wouldn’t answer any of their interview questions?

The NCTQ has taken the liberty of evaluating the nation’s teacher preparation institutions without making site visitations, interviewing professors, students, and administrators.

Yet, the NCTQ claims to have done an independent review of teacher education in America.


The reporting overwhelms in terms of charts and diagrams.  The problem is that the research method is limited in terms of making valid and honest evaluations of teacher education.

Fordham Foundation Reports on State & Next Generation Science Standards.

The Fordham Foundation’s gang of seven (hired consultants with little or no K-12 teaching experience) has released it “Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards.”  The same group evaluated the Next Generation Science Standards when they were first published in June 2012.  The gang of seven does not seem to have 20/20 vision when it comes to research.  Instead they have an unchanging fealty to a conservative agenda and a canonical view of science education which restricts and confines them to an old school view of science teaching. Science education has rocketed past the views in two earlier reports issued by Fordham about science education standards, as well as the NGSS.

The Fordham reports are analogous to the NCTQ reports. They write reports to fulfill agendas worked out in advance that advance their own corporate think-tank goals.

For The Fordham Institute to have the audacity to continue its effort to promote an honest discussion of science education is a sham.  According to this last report, the gang of seven used the same criteria is used to check the science standards in the states.  They graded the states using an A – F rankings system, and according to their criteria, most states earned a D or F.

They, like many of the other conservative think-tanks, believe that American science education “needs a radical upgrade.”  The gang of seven has consistently kept to this mantra, and in this last report of the NGSS, they find that we are in the same state, and that the NGSS gets a grade of C+.

Fordham has their own set of science content standards (General expectations for learning).  Follow this link and then scroll down through the document to page 55, and you will find their standards listed on pages 55 – 61.  When I first reviewed Fordham’s evaluation of the state science standards and the NGSS, I was shocked by the criteria they used to analyze science education.

I found that the Fordham standards are low-level, to mediocre at best, and do not include affective or psychomotor goals. Each Fordham statement was analysed using Bloom’s categories in the Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor Domain (See Figure 1).

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Figure 1. The Pie Graph Shows that nearly 90% of the criteria the Fordham Institute used to evaluate everyone else was at the lowest two levels of Bloom!

In my analysis I gave the Fordham science standards a grade of D. For them to use these criteria to judge the NGSS is absurd.

Yet, they keep saying that science education is inferior, and after a while, people begin to believe them.  For me, the gang of seven is not qualified to evaluate science education.  Yes, they have credentials in science and engineering, but they are woefully inadequate in their understanding of science curriculum development, or the current research on science teaching.

Many of the creative ideas that emerged in science teaching in the past thirty years represent interdisciplinary thinking, the learning sciences, deep understanding of how students learn science, and yes, constructivism.

The Fordham Institute and National Council on Teacher Quality appears to have had their eyes closed while conducting their crack research.  Don’t believe their reports.


If you found what you read here, then you might want to download a free copy of the eBook: Investigating the NCTQ.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University