An Art of Teaching Science Inquiry
The assault on teacher education is being led by neoliberal and conservative ideologues who want to de-professionalize teaching, and one of the places to do this is by attacking the nation’s colleges and universities that prepare teachers.
Although not isolated just to higher education, the assault is also tied to the ground swell that paints an ugly picture of America’s K-12 schools. And we trace the assault to the standards-based and high-stakes accountability movement that began with the publication of the A Nation at Risk in 1983.
More than 300 national committees emerged as a result of the false claims in the Nation at Risk report, and this led to the increasing surveillance of our nation’s schools, teachers and students under the banner of school accountability. By the year 2000, the nation had been convinced that America’s schools were a mess. George Bush to the rescue with his No Child Left Behind Act, which required high-stakes testing and standardization of the school curriculum.
The nail in the coffin was the present administration’s Race to the Top Fund, and the establishment of competition among states, cities and schools to choose winners an losers. Then, Secretary of Education Duncan seduced states into the ESEA Waiver Program (Flexibility Request), which, to the public, appeared as if the states might be able to be in charge of their education system.
The Flexibility Request burdened the states by requiring them to adopt the same set of college and career ready standards. States also are required to provide meaningful information about school performance, student achievement and graduation rates, closes gaps for all schools across the state, and targets schools that need help. Priority schools (the lowest performing), and Focus schools (schools that contribute to the achievement gap) will be targeted. And, Reward schools—you guessed it, schools that have exceptional performance, will be compensated. And the third one is devastating to the professionalism of teaching. Fundamentally, it means that teacher and administrator evaluation will be tied in some way to student progress on achievement tests. Using student progress on achievement test scores as a measure of teacher effectiveness is riddled with problems, and inconsistencies. The tests themselves are developed by testing corporations that have little or no vested interest in the local school and its curriculum, students, teachers, or parents.
See my discussion of the Waiver Requests here.
The Assault on Teacher Education
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has published in recent review of teacher preparation. The NCTQ is well-financed (Gates, Walton, Broad, New Ventures Fund, and many more), and the Fordham Foundation’s creation. Together, their goal is destroy teacher prep by convincing the nation that teacher preparation in the nation’s public and private colleges is failing. And to prove it, they’ve developed a set of standards, that Dr. Tom Slekar, Dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College (Madison, WI), says are so bad that “if our teacher education programs were evaluated “highly” by NCTQ we would be violating our mission/values and all the research on child development and teaching and learning.” (Interview published on Living in Dialog by Anthony Cody, May 27, 2014).
NCTQ’s Assault on Teacher Education. According to the head of the NCTQ, Ed schools don’t give teachers the tools they need. Whose tools? What tools? The NCTQ is stuck in a 19th century version of teaching, and a 21st century push to quantify learning about student achievement tests. To the NCTQ, if teacher preparation is not focused on academic achievement, then it is not giving teacher candidates the tools that the NCTQ thinks it needs.
Those Nonsense Annual NCTQ Ratings Are Coming on June 17. In this piece, the author reminds readers that the NCTQ ratings are coming (they are here now). Dr. Schneider has written several articles on the NCTQ which you can reach here. Schneider, M.K. Deutsch29 Blog, June 16, 2014.
Why the NCTQ Teacher Prep Ratings are Nonsense. Dr. Darling-Hammond explains that “NCTQ’s methodology is a paper review of published course requirements and course syllabi against a check list that does not consider the real quality of instruction that the programs offer, evidence of what their students learn, or whether graduates can actually teach.” As she pointed out in her article, those states whose students score high on NAEP had teacher prep programs with the lowest ratings, while states like Alabama, that scored low on NAEP, had high NCTQ ratings. She also says that the NCTQ is out of sync with current teacher education programs, most of which are graduate level. Darling-Hammond, L. National Education Policy Center, June 19, 20123.
Response to the New NCTQ Teacher Prep Review by Peter Smagorinsky, The University of Georgia. Dr. Smagorinsky briefly responded to some of the claims that the NCTQ makes which rely on rhetorical characterizations about “success” and “achievement” that spuriously elevate their belief that standardized tests reflect the whole of learning, a claim that few teachers or teacher educators endorse. In contrast, most teachers and teacher educators believe that the NCTQ’s narrow focus on standardized “achievement” tests undermine an authentic education that prepares students for work or life. Smagorinksy, P. The Becoming Radical Blog, June 17, 2014.
How Will Market Forces Transform Teacher Preparation? This is an article by Anthony Cody gives meaning to the context within which the NCTQ has appointed itself as the purveyors of truth about teacher preparation. As Anthony points out, teacher preparation is being challenged by corporate reformers who have backed a group of non-educators called the NCTQ. Financed by the same groups that are pushing test-based accountability and charter schools, the NCTQ has started the ball rolling to crush teacher preparation as we know it. Anthony has written many articles about teacher preparation and NCTQ and you can reach them here. Cody, A. Living in Dialog, May 29, 2014.
Shaky Methods, Shaky Motives: A Critique of the National Council of Teacher Quality’s Review of Teacher Preparation Program by Edward J. Fuller. In this peer-reviewed article, Dr. Fuller states that the NCTQ’s review of university-based teacher preparation programs concluded the majority of such programs were inadequately preparing the nation’s teachers. The study, however, has some serious flaws that include narrow focus on inputs, lack of a strong research base, missing standards, omitted research, incorrect application of research findings, poor method, exclusion of alternative certification programs, failure to conduct member checks, and failure to use existing evidence to confirm the report’s rankings. All of these issues give the NCTQ report less than useful in efforts to understand and improve teacher preparation programs in the United States. The article also suggests alternative pathways NCTQ could have undertaken to work with programs to actually improve teacher preparation. The article concludes by noting that the shaky methods used by NCTQ suggest shaky motives such that the true motives of NCTQ for producing the report must be questioned. Fuller, E.J. Journal of Teacher Education 2014, Vol 65(1) 63–77 © 2013 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Feeble and Incompetent
The NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep in the University System of Georgia is Feeble & Incompetent. An analysis of the NCTQ Review in the context of teacher preparation in Georgia’s 21 state universities that offer teacher education programs. The NCTQ claims to have a handle on the state of teacher preparation in the nation, but the results of this investigation show that they have reviewed a very small percentage of teacher prep programs offered in America’s colleges and universities. Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, June 22, 2014.
National Council for Teacher Quality Review: A Stacked Deck? In this study, we analyzed the make-up of the NCTQ people, and discovered that it represents a “stacked deck.” Only 2.5% of the participants in the review were teacher educators–active professors out there doing teacher education. The NCTQ was stacked with corporate executives, foundation executives, and employees of NCTQ. It was far from representing the field of teacher education. Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, June 20, 2014.
Results Are In: NCTQ Report on Teacher Prep Rated with Four Cautions. In this article, the author analyses the 2013 NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep in the US, and using a junk science model developed by M.S. Carolan, concludes that this NCTQ study scored high on the junk science index, and therefore warrants 4 cautions–the highest rating possible in the model. Readers should be extremely cautious about using the results of the NCTQ review of teacher prep. Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, July 1, 2013.
NCTQ Report on Teacher Prep: the Devil is in the Detail. In this article we dig deep into the so-called methods used to evaluate university teacher prep programs. The “methods” used include sources including: syllabi (when they can get them), textbooks, catalogs, handbooks, evaluation forms. We show that the NCTQ report on teacher preparation is junk science. The method that they employed in their study avoided data from the very sources that could help uncover the nature of teacher preparation. These sources are faculty, administrators, students, and cooperating school districts and educators. Without interviewing and observing teacher preparation programs directly, and without establishing a cooperative relationship with the these institutions, the NCTQ condemns itself to false claims, outright opinions that have little bearing on the nature of teacher preparation. Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, June 23, 2013.
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