National Council for Teacher Quality Teacher Prep Review: A Stacked Deck?

Screen-Shot-2012-04-05-at-9.10.20-AMNational Council for Teacher Quality Review: A Stacked Deck?  In this post I am going to show that the make up of the NCTQ review of teacher prep panels represents a “stacked deck.”  Instead of working with teacher educators directly, the NCTQ uses deceptive and inadequate methods to investigate teacher prep.

Who are these people who have signed on to participate in this type of review?  What is in it for them?

If you were to design a study of the medical profession, do you think it would be a good idea to involve directly and in significant proportions professionals who are out there practicing medicine, whether they are physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, technicians, and the many other professionals who make up the medical field?

Would include visits to clinics, “doctors” offices, hospitals and labs, or would you rely on websites, and documents as the data for your investigation? Who would you ask to check your report before it was published?

The NCTQ has appointed itself as the evaluator-in-chief of teacher preparation in the nation’s public and private colleges and universities, and those few alternative teacher prep programs.   The group, which was created as a spin-off of the Thomas Fordham Foundation has used spurious methods to acquire information that they used to write a review of the nation’s teacher preparation infrastructure.

In general, teacher prep is carried out in hundreds of the nation’s public and private colleges and universities.  The NCTQ has created a partnership with many private foundations and corporations that support them (including the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, & Walton Foundation) and the U.S. News and World Report.  They did not visit the universities to become involved in the clinical approaches to teacher prep that permeate teacher education. Instead, they used university catalogs, and course syllabi (when can get them) as their data source.

Rather doing a scientific inquiry into the nature of teacher prep, the NCTQ has launched an assault on the teacher education profession, much like the assault that is being made on American classroom teachers.

I wondered at first who was involved in the review, other than the big gun at NCTQ, Kate Walsh.  I was interested to find out who their analysts were, and what positions they held.  Did they include an adequate representation of teacher prep? Did the NCTQ hire analysts that had a direct connection to teacher prep in the nation’s colleges and universities. Or did they stack the deck with those that agree with NCTQ’s view that teacher education is inadequate and failing the nation’s public schools?

To find out, I went to the Who We Are page on the NCTQ website.  According to this page, the review team comprised ten in-house and 75 more general and expert analysts.  My analysis differed somewhat, as I found that there were more than 20 NCTQ staff working on the report.

The NCTQ Who We Are membership analysts include:

  • Technical Panel
  • Audit Panel
  • Advisory Groups
  • General Analysts

According to my count, there were 79 people involved in the NCTQ review. The first question asked was how many of these people were teacher educators?  Figure 1 summarizes the membership of the study teams.  More than 27% of study teams were employed by NCTQ, while teacher educators represented only 2.5%.  When we include administrators (some of whom were education deans), professors of education, adjuncts, only 17% of the analysts work in the field of teacher prep.

Figure 1. NCTQ Study Teams for the 2014 Teacher Prep Review
Figure 1. NCTQ Study Teams for the 2014 Teacher Prep Review

Teacher educators are like physicians, nurses or physician assistants. They see and work with students or clients (patients) in the real world. A teacher educator’s role is to teach, advise, and clinically involve undergraduate and graduate students in either initial teacher prep or the continuous professional development of teachers through courses, institutes, and degree programs. Teacher educators, by and large are also researchers inquiring into the nature of teaching and leaning.

Research scientists, mathematics or economics professors, corporate executives, philanthropists, consultants who own private educational companies or administrators are not teacher educators, any more than pharmaceutical drug reps are medical practitioners.

Figure 2 is a bar graph comparing the number of teacher educators who were directly involved in the NCTQ review to the number of non teacher educators. The comparison shows us that the teacher prep profession is greatly underrepresented in the NCTQ review.

Figure 1. Comparison of Types of Analysts Comprising the NCTQ Study Teams
Figure 2. Comparison of Types of Analysts Comprising the NCTQ Study Teams

Are the conclusions that are made by the NCTQ valid based on this comparison?

Figure 3 is an another bar graph showing the distribution of “professions” and organizations of members of panels identified by the NCTQ, e.g. Technical Panel, Audit Panel, Advisory Groups, General Analysts. The chart clearly shows that corporate and foundations executives and employees of the NCTQ make up the largest numbers of participants in the review.

Figure 3.  The Stacked Deck of Who Performed the NCTQ of Teacher Prep Review
Figure 3. The Stacked Deck of Who Performed the NCTQ of Teacher Prep Review

It’s not surprising that 22 of the 79 people listed were employees of the NCTQ. Many of these persons were trained to read catalogs and syllabi and to rate teacher prep against their own standards, standards that are not grounded in teacher education research.

There were a number of professors hired by NCTQ to lend credibility and ability. Why were most of them either professors of mathematics or economics, or research associates from one school (University of Oregon)?

The membership roles also include eight corporate executives and 12 foundation executives. When I looked more carefully at their bios, it was clear that they shared the same core values of NCTQ, and a number of them sat on each other’s boards.

The NCTQ website also lists the names of people and organizations that endorse the 2014 report.  A few superintendents are listed, as well a number of organization that support the corporate reform model that NCTQ and its sister organization, The Thomas Fordham Foundation work to push onto schools, and now onto teacher prep institutions.  You can see the list of endorsers here.

In the week ahead, be on the look out for reports written by other bloggers and educators on the NCTQ.

What do you think about the make up of the NCTQ panels?

Here is How Private Funding is Affecting Scientific Research and K-12 Education

Latest Story

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 4.56.33 PM

An article in the New York Times by William J. Broad got my attention and in this article, I want to use Broad’s research to show how education is being harmed by private funding. The article by William J. Broad is entitled Billionaires with big ideas are privatizing American science.  It is a very important and revealing article about the future direction of scientific research.  I believe the conclusions that Mr. Broad reaches in his article on the field of science, applies to K-12 education.

Synopsis of William J. Broad’s Article on American Science

Broad starts by telling us that budget cuts in Washington have devastated the nation’s research complex.  In a recent article on this blog, I discussed Why Scientists are Abandoning their Research.  Based on research reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Paul Basken and Paul Voosen, they concluded that for more than 10 years the budgets of NIH and NSF have been reduced, resulting in serious problems for research scientists and their students.

Not discussed in the Basken and Voosen article is the back story that Broad makes visible to us in his article.  He explains how science is going to be paid for in the future.  He said this:

Absent from his narrative, though, was the back story, one that underscores a profound change taking place in the way science is paid for and practiced in America. In fact, the government initiative grew out of richly financed private research: A decade before, Paul G. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, had set up a brain science institute in Seattle, to which he donated $500 million, and Fred Kavli, a technology and real estate billionaire, had then established brain institutes at Yale, Columbia and the University of California. Scientists from those philanthropies, in turn, had helped devise the Obama administration’s plan ($100 million Brain Initiative project). Broad, William J. “Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.

An important point in Broad’s article is this sentence:

American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise.

Because of budget cuts in Washington, the amount of money being directed to basic research in science has been reduced.  He quotes Steven A. Edwards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) who explains:

For better of worse, the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.

You might think that the private money is filling the gap for science by providing a source of funds that has been cut from national research budgets (NIH, NSF).  It’s not as simple as that, because the motivations of the private funders are not necessarily in the interests of national research.  Broad points out that this new scientific philanthropy is “practiced according to its individualistic, entrepreneurial creed.”

He says this about the entrepreneurs,

The donors are impatient with the deliberate, and often politicized, pace of public science, they say, and willing to take risks that government cannot or simply will not consider.  Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research — the kind that investigates the riddles of nature and has produced centuries of breakthroughs, even whole industries — for a jumble of popular, feel-good fields like environmental studies and space exploration.

Privately funded research is usually not done with the common good in mind, but the more often to meet the expectations of the funder for a quick solution to a pressing problem (diseases such cystic fibrosis, melanoma, and ovarian cancer), which Broad suggests is done along racial lines.  But there are also those who make the claim that privately funded scientific research has many positive sides by simply increasing the overall support for scientific research.

Broad cites research at M.I.T. by Fiona E. Murray who survey recipients of private funding, and found that at 50 leading science-research universities, private funding accounts for about 30% of their research money.  Murray explores the history of philanthropy in science, and shows that it has along history.  She also distinguishes between fundamental research and mission-driven research.  Indeed, many of the so-called leading universities are attracting big donors, and have established $100 – $700 million research centers.  This is a lot of money.  For example, the annual National Science Foundation budget is in the neighborhood of $7 billion, and it would be impossible for the NSF to fund such large enterprises without sacrificing further basic scientific research.

Let’s take a look at how Broad’s article might be applied to the kind of research that is and isn’t done in the field of K-12 education.  Can we see some links here?

Education Needs to Be Fixed: Call in the Donors

Broad’s article did not include any examples of research in the social sciences, especially education.  Yet, billions of dollars are privately pouring into K-12 education, to support the personal philosophies and beliefs of the donors.  Eli Broad and Bill Gates are two examples.

In each of these cases, Broad and Gates view education as something that needs to be fixed, like a disease.  In Broad’s case, his group has focused on a fast turnaround program that pumps out administrators who articulate the Broad approach to management.

I’ve investigated the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and found that they have invested about $2.3 billion into the Common Standards and related efforts.  Gates public speeches tell a glaring story of a person who believes he has the answers to the problems of K-12 education.  Most of claims about education are based on personal opinions, not on peer-reviewed research.  He does not consult leading educational researchers, and indeed, if he did, he would be rebuffed on nearly all of his claims.

For example, he says that paying teachers based on years of experience and advanced degrees has no impact on learning.  He has no evidence to support this.  Yet, he keeps saying this, and pretty soon people believe him.  For example, I talked to a former student of mine who is a professor in North Carolina.  He explained to me that starting in April, teachers will no longer be paid at the master’s or doctoral levels.  Thank you Bill Gates.

Another of Gates claims is that class size makes no difference in the student learning.  He bases this on hearsay when he spouts that the best teachers actually want to take on more students.  Yet a meta-analysis of 100 studies in the 1980s by Gene Glass and others showed that smaller class size does affect student learning.  (See Berliner, D.C. & Glass, G. V & Associates, 50 Myths & Lies that threaten America’s Public Schools, Teachers College Press, 2014).

Nearly every claim that Gates makes about education is an outright myth.  Yet, with his foundation’s billions available for K-12 education, his foundation contributes more to education research than any other foundation.

It seems to me that he sees education the way he sees disease.  Clearly the Gates Foundation has contributed immensely to eradicating disease and improving health around the world.  In the Gates conception of education, however, K-12 public education can be fixed by developing the means to improve standards, weed out the bad teachers, and insert an accountability system that makes educators responsible for student learning.

GERM:  The Virus that Private Donors Spread Around

According to Pasi Sahlberg, there is a virus that is infecting schools, and he has named it the Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM).  In his view, the Global Educational Reform Movement

behaves like a virus in an epidemic just like diseases

And just like any disease, GERM has a number of symptom’s.  Unfortunately, these symptom’s guide the behavior of private donors such as Gates and Broad.  They believe that by feeding money into these symptoms, they will enhance educational reform.   And, clearly they are.

  • Focus on Basics–basic knowledge and skills in reading, math, and science
  • Prescription–setting clear, centrally prescribed performance standards for all schools, all students
  • Standardized testing–collecting data through standardized testing on students’ achievement in reading, math & science.
  • Test-based accountability–school performance is tied to promotion, rewards and punishments
  • Bureaucratic control–data collected results in evaluations and inspections, less flexibility

But here’s the thing.  GERM is a virus that infecting schools primarily in the Northern Alliance, e.g. Australia, Europe and North America.  Figure 1 is Pasi Sahlberg’s map of GERM.  As you look at the map, realize that in the Northern Alliance, K-12 educational reform follows the pattern identified above that are symptom’s of GERM.  In this context, Bill Gates and his foundation are actually providing resources to further infect the nation’s K-12 schools, and not providing a cure.  However, if you examine international test results (such as PISA), the Northern Alliance schools a grouped in the middle of the pack, and differ very little from each other.  Apparently, GERM is working well in these nations.

Figure 1. The Viral Map of GERM. Pasi Sahlberg, Centre for International Mobility, Finland, Extracted from Website: http://www.icsei.net/fileadmin/ICSEI/icsei_2012/Pasi_ICSEI_2012_web.pdf
Figure 1. The Viral Map of GERM. Pasi Sahlberg, Centre for International Mobility, Finland, Extracted from Website: http://www.icsei.net/fileadmin/ICSEI/icsei_2012/Pasi_ICSEI_2012_web.pdf

Is there a Cure?

Yes.  And it doesn’t have to be invented.  It’s already here.

In his writings and public appearances, Pasi Sahlberg explains that there is a cure for the Northern Alliance’s spread of GERM.  He suggests that there are four ideas that describe the Nordic Model of Education and that if taken together, would provide for real reform in Northern Alliance schools.  As you examine there ideas, you’ll recognize these as professional teacher’s practice when they are responsible for the learning of the students in their classrooms, and not held to some central command and authority that diminishes flexibility and local autonomy.

To Sahlberg, education will improve if we focus on:

  • Equity instead of excellence
  • Leadership instead of control
  • Collegiality instead of individuality
  • Pedagogy instead of technology

One more thing

Most of the beliefs that guide private donors such as Gates, Broad, Walton, and others are myths or lies.  I know that sounds strong, but there is evidence to back up such a statement.

In David C. Berliner’s and Gene V. Glass’s newest book, the real crisis in education is the perpetuation of Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools (public library).  The authors refute many of the claims that private donors and many legislators make about education.  Take a look at their book to find the evidence to those claims that you never believed about public education in the U.S.  It will make you feel good.

So, what do you think about the role of private donors in the field of science and public education?

 Photo : Stellwagon Bank National Marine Santuary, NOAA Fisheries, C.C. 3.0.

Why Are Scientists Abandoning Their Research?


Copyright All rights reserved by Dartmouth Flickr
Copyright All rights reserved by Dartmouth Flickr

Why are scientist abandoning their research, and if they are what does this say about the looming STEM crisis that the nation faces, at least according to the Obama Administration?

In Chronicle of Higher Education survey of American university research scientists, authors Paul Basken and Paul Voosen report that Strapped Scientists Abandon Research and Students.  Since the article is behind the subscription wall, I’ll include a few quotes.

A survey was sent to 67,454 researchers holding grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF).  According to the Chronicle study, 11,000 responded.  Many said they didn’t have the time to fill out the questionnaire because they were too busy writing grant proposals.

Basken and Voosen asked researchers to complete the survey to find out if the research community was downsizing their ability to do basic research and why.

Among the key findings: Nearly half have already abandoned an area of investigation they considered central to their lab’s mission. And more than three-quarters have reduced their recruitment of graduate students and research fellows because of economic pressures.  Basken, Paul, and Paul Voosen. “Strapped Scientists Abandon Research and Students.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

For more than ten years, the budget of the NIH has been reduced, and the budget of the NSF has not done well, either.

As a result, the total amount of research dollars has shrunk, and this has created serious problems for research scientists and their students.  As Basken and Voosen report,

Depression, discouragement, and stress were common words in the comments that accompanied responses to the Chronicle survey. Researchers expressed concern both for themselves and for their counterparts, including students who they had hoped would become the nation’s next generation of scientists.

Take those who have worked under Patrick S. Moore, a professor of microbiology and medical genetics at the University of Pittsburgh. Twenty years ago, Dr. Moore and his team discovered the viral cause of Kaposi’s sarcoma, one of the most common cancers in AIDS patients. More recently, his lab found the viral cause for most Merkel-cell carcinomas, which kill several hundred Americans each year.

But now the three postdoctoral researchers who led the Merkel-cell discovery and then helped identify a promising possible cure are all unable to find permanent academic jobs, Dr. Moore said. Perhaps they’ll find work in a corporate setting, doing applied research, he said. But they “should be doing exploratory science to find the cause of the next cancer. Basken, Paul, and Paul Voosen. “Strapped Scientists Abandon Research and Students.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

I was particularly interested in this study because of the emphasis the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has put on STEM related fields, and the increased funding (especially in Race to the Top grantees) that is being earmarked for science and related fields.  Further, the Obama administration has called for training 10,000 new engineers each year, and 100,000 STEM teachers by 2020.  These figures are based on predictions of the need for more than 1 million STEM workers over the next decade.  But as Robert Charette reports,

And yet, alongside such dire projections, you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs. One study found, for example, that wages for U.S. workers in computer and math fields have largely stagnated since 2000. Even as the Great Recession slowly recedes, STEM workers at every stage of the career pipeline, from freshly minted grads to mid- and late-career Ph.D.s, still struggle to find employment as many companies, including Boeing, IBM, and Symantec, continue to lay off thousands of STEM workers. Charette, Robert. “The STEM Crisis Is a Myth.” – IEEE Spectrum. N.p., 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

STEM Crisis or Cyclic?

The Chronicle survey reported various opinions of scientists on the question, Is there a STEM crisis?  They put it this way:

One important question that underlies such statistics but often evades rigorous analysis is whether the country and the world really need all those highly trained scientists and their studies. The Chronicle’s survey turned up at least a dozen researchers who felt that talk of crisis was overblown. Some suggested that smaller budgets would help researchers concentrate on the most important elements of their work, or bring a needed culling of a bloated scientific establishment.

According the Chronicle authors, Michael S. Teitelbaum, in a new book–due in March, (Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent) says that the current downturn is the fifth “alarm boom bust” since the late 1940s.

The survey shines a light on the belief schools need to produce more STEM students, graduates, and workers.  Charette’s article, The STEM Crisis is a Myth” is worth a read if you want facts and figures to counter state officials and the U.S. Department of Education who claim we have a STEM crisis.

What connection do see between the reduction in funds for basic research, and reports that there is a national STEM crisis in the supply of STEM workers?

 

Do MOOCS Serve Schools or Corporations?

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) seem to be following the historical trend of our infatuation with how technology can solve many of our problems in teaching and learning.  Since 2008, MOOCs have emerged not only as individual and free online courses (such as those offered at universities such as MIT, Stanford and Harvard, but have been packaged together as degree programs at Udacity, and at for-profit universities such as Ashford University, Capella University, Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix.

There are a number of research issues including effectiveness, cost, and the nature of corporate/education partnerships.

These online courses and degree program didn’t drop out of the sky.  There is a long history here.

A Bit of History

Although the example in this article explores online courses and degrees at the college level, the content is relevant to K-12 burgeoning use of online courses, especially for middle and high schools.

SOOHCs

In 1980, I purchased my first computer and modem, and later that day connected to a very primitive Internet (CompuServe, and BRS After Dark).  E-mail followed by using Bitnet, a university computer network founded in 1981.  By the late 1980s, I began using SOOHCs (Small Open Online Hybrid Courses) at Georgia State University utilizing e-mail and electronic bulletin boards for students to post and respond to comments and ideas of other students in the same course.  Many colleges and universities ventured into the application of these new technologies for teaching and learning.   Although the first virtual courses (online courses for middle and high schools) were developed at this time by the Concord Consortium, it was the creation of hybrid courses that blossomed during this early period in the 1990s.  These courses developed at the middle and high school levels, as well as at universities.

Teachers use several methods in creating a hybrid course.  Some include building WebPages and placing the course syllabus and its various elements on the web, or making use of a course management systems.  Course management systems have built-in tools that create an interactive online component such Blackboard, Nicenet or WebCT.

By building a Website or using a course management system, teachers used the resources of the web as an assistant in their approach to teaching.  This enabled them to carry out web-based teaching strategies in a seamless way.  The course website becomes a learning hub that organizes the work for teachers and students.  The course website included links to the course syllabus, an online bulletin board, and links to an assignment page, activities, and collaborative projects.

For teachers, however, the hybrid approach (SOOHCs) is a very practical alternative in which the teacher combines online and face-to-­face activities. Thousands of teachers are using this approach by creating their own interactive website which has aspects of the course syllabus, activities, projects and evaluation. Interactive websites can be easily created using free software to create your website. Blog software, such as WordPress, or Blogger, or wiki software such as Wikispaces are easy to use, and have features that enable you to create not only interactive, but powerful websites for your courses.  You can also use Google Docs or Soho Docs to manage your own files, and also make these available to your students and colleagues.

But probably more significant here is the fact that your students can be great agents and co-­collaborators in the development of websites, digital video of class projects, creators of Wikispaces, participants in Google Docs, generate Google Readers and Delicious links, perhaps for the benefit of younger students that they might indeed teach.  Follow this link for details about these Web 2.0 tools.

Network Science

One of the areas of Internet research and development that emerged during period this was “network science,” or, pooled data analysis.  Network science brought meaning to the concept of  “community of learners,” and because of the Internet, these communities were global in scope.  It was this construct that created such high interest among teachers and students.  The idea of communicating with students thousands of miles away motivated students and created intense interest with the school.

Network science projects involves students in real problems, including the study of soil erosion, chemical and biological pollution of streams, acid rain, and ground-level ozone.  Often, these problems have societal implications, and students take action based on their research.  Network science follows a cycle of learning and classroom activities that make it a compelling approach to science teaching. Table 1 outlines the cycle of learning that was worked out to design network projects (Hassard, J. 2009, Science as Inquiry, Goodyear).

Table 1. Network Science/Pooled Data Analysis

Data Collection at Local Site Teachers introduce the network project; schedule of local observations is established
Data Sharing Observational data is submitted via web forms.
Data Analysis Teachers work with students to analyze local data, aswell as data available on the network science website. In most cases, the data on the project’s website can be downloaded and into Excel or similar programs to create graphs and charts to help students with their analyses.
Taking Action The last step is for students to take action on their analyses.  At one level, students can publish/share their findings and conclusions by posting them on a website that they design. At another level, students can take action locally by sharing their findings and conclusions with the community with a conference, a presentation, or a fair.

Web-Based Projects

From the mid-1980s, nearly a dozen web-based projects were developed and field-tested within traditional courses, grades 5 – 12 in many countries.  For examples, through the Global Thinking Project (GTP), teachers from the U.S. and Russia designed a series of projects that were carried out using the pedagogy of network science.  Some examples can be found here.  At TERC and the Concord Consortium, which established the field of network science, many projects were developed, but more importantly, as with the Global Thinking Project, the projects were investigated through a variety of research programs.

MOOCs

MOOCs are the rage, especially when you consider that these courses can reach thousands, if not millions of students.  For example, to give you an idea of the range of MOOCs that are available, here is a link to a list of Top Ten Sites for Free with Elite Universities, courses offered at Blackboard and Udacity.

For years, universities have outsourced many of their technology courses and programs.  But in recent years, universities, realizing the potential and reach of the Internet, began offering many of their courses online–free.

But universities and K-12 schools have delved head first into developing courses and programs online as a replacement for face-to-face courses.  At the college level, for-profit schools have not only developed courses, but now make available degree programs online.

According to the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE), an advocacy group that raises questions about affordable higher education, and what voices should be included in changes being made to the design and structure of courses and programs at the university level.   As is the case in K-12 education, a corporate type of reform is taking place in higher education resulting in reduced funding, high costs for students, and a call for accountability and efficiency, which some claim reduces the quality of student learning experiences.  And, as many of you will agree, many of “technology reforms” are going forward with little or no research about the quality and effectiveness of online learning.

In a paper by the CFHE, entitled The Promises of Online Higher Education, the authors ferret out conclusions indicating that online courses will not cut costs for higher education, and in fact will probably be more expensive in the long run.  Although MOOCs are typically free, investors, according to the CFHE paper realize that a healthy profit could be realized if only a few of the thousands that take these course pay for them.  The authors of the report question the motivation for these “massive” courses.  They write:

According to venture capitalist John Doerr (one of the main backers of the MOOC provider, Coursera) if a sufficient number of people out of “millions of learners” pay for premium services MOOC providers could easily make a healthy profit.[10]  As this observation suggests, the corporate provider and investor  enthusiasm for the “massiveness” of MOOCs may not be so much about spreading knowledge as it is about getting a big enough set of potential consumers to generate profits.  Campaign for the Future of Education. (October 16, 2013). CFHE Working Papers. In The “Promises” of Online Higher Education: Reducing Costs. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://futureofhighered.org/workingpapers/.

There is another line of questioning that resonates with K-12 education reform, and that is to whom are these reforms (such as MOOCs and Charter Schools) directed.  According to the CFHE report, MOOCs are focused primarily on middle and lower-income students, and non-elite institutions.  And there is some evidence that a traditional higher education (face-to-face courses) is the “real deal,” and employers favor this.  Who has the advantage here?  The advantage is for those who attend traditional universities, and the “more privileged students who attend them.”

Online courses are also promoted as saving money.  This is a stance taken at not only university level education, but also at the k-12 level.  At the K-12 level, we need to be cautious about online course management companies that wedge themselves into states and school districts on the basis of political and financial premises, and not on a basis grounded in research.  Who is served by online learning courses?  When coupled with research, we can begin to answer such questions.

The money-saving argument according to some in higher education is “one of the worst reasons” to embrace online learning.  Designing, organizing, managing, and revising online courses and programs is an expensive venture.  If the courses are to be valuable learning experiences for students, then innovative online pedagogy must be developed and used in these courses.

As I mentioned earlier, the outsourcing of programs, courses, and other services has taken place for a long time.  But recently, partnerships have developed between universities and corporate entities such as Udacity and Coursera.  In the CFHE report, a partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology, AT&T and Udacity resulted in a contract to offer a Master’s degree program in Computer Science.  This program will be piloted during the Spring Semester, 2014, applicants have until October 27 to apply.  At this time 8 courses are in production.  The cost of the degree is $6,600.  For more details on this new program, follow this link.

According to the CFHE report, Udacity, AT&T and Georgia Tech will spend about $3.1 million for a projected 200 students during the first term at a cost of about $15,700 per student. (Note: This is a discrepancy based on the Udacity webiste that says the program will cost $6,600.  The Georgia Tech arrangement with Udacity, according to the CFHE report, is not outside the norm for MOOCs.  But it seems to me that this arrangement is not in the interests of faculty who develop the online courses in that they cannot make the courses available elsewhere, and they are the ones who are responsible for updating and revising the courses.

The partnership among GaTech, AT&T and Udacity hope to service 10,000 or more students, with 8 professors (new hires), and assistants that will work for Udacity to provide feedback to students.  How many assistants will it take to service 10,000 students?  Will the quality of this Masters Degree rival the face-to-face degree on the Georgia Tech campus?

At the K-12 level, especially for high schools where more online course development and curriculum development takes place, concern should be raised about the push for more online learning, especially when we hear politicians like Jeb Bush, who claim that parents should have the choice for their students, and that online education will be cheaper for school districts.  If you go to the Bush website, Foundation for Excellence, you will find that his organization uses the same language that appears in all of the Race to the Top (RT3) work plans that I’ve read, e.g. career readiness, digital learning, effective teachers and leaders, outcome based funding, school choice, and standards and accountability.

Online learning is relatively new to middle and high schools, and colleges and universities.  MOOCs are the latest form of online courses, and need to be studied to find out who takes these courses, how many students complete MOOCs, and how effective are MOOCs as teaching and learning platforms.  An article on Inside Higher Ed reviewed research the high MOOC dropout rate.  According to some reports, the dropout rate is as high as 90%, but that might be due to that anyone can register for free, look around, and for one reason or another not even pursue the course, let along complete it.

For example, I’ve registered for a MOOC at Udacity, Introduction to Computer Science.  There are 11 lessons in the course.  I am still on lesson 1.  Will I complete the course?  Maybe.  But the point is, I could be easily identified as a dropout.  Or perhaps, as reported in the Inside Higher Ed article, I could be either a lurker, drop-in, passive participant, or an active participant.

That said, online behavior is very different from in-class behavior, including attendance and course completion.  When we started working with online courses and projects, rates of participation varied.  For hybrid courses, the participation in online discussions was higher than in The Global Thinking Project.  Expecting schools from around the world to keep up with emails, electronic bulletin boards discussions, data uploading and analysis was more difficult.  Much of this had to do with access to technology that was seamless, and this didn’t happen until schools upgraded telecommunications, and provided enough computers for more student and teacher involvement.

Since the early 90s, when we began this work, the Internet has been transformed, but the Internet has also transformed the behavior of humans.  MOOCs are here, and many of them are high quality courses.  In addition to studying the quality of online courses, we need to find out what creates good experiences for students.

Do MOOCs and K-12 online learning courses serve students or corporations?  What do you think?

What’s the Formula for Designing Rigorous Standards for Teacher Preparation?

What’s the Formula for Designing Rigorous Standards for Teacher Preparation?

Read on to find out.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) published recommendations for Accreditation Standards and Evidence: Aspirations for Educator Preparation.  According to the CAEP website, “July 1, 2013, marked the de facto consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)making the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) the new, sole specialized accreditor for educator preparation.”

Who serves on this council?

On page two of the report is a listing of the CAEP Commission on standards and performance reporting.  Table 1 outlines the CAEP commission membership to revamp the standards for teacher education.  An analysis of the commission leads to some interesting statistics. The membership of the commission has a lot of administrators—deans, presidents, & superintendents, who make up 60% of the group.  Professors, the women and men that design teacher education programs and courses and are out with their students in schools makes up only 9.5% of the commission. But this is typical of national commissions in most disciplines.  The people making decisions tend not to be the “real” players in the field under consideration.

 

Figure 1. Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Figure 1. Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Commission Composition Number of Representatives Comments
Deans, College Presidents, Superintendents

25 (60%)

Largely Deans, but also College Presidents, & Vice-Presidents
Policy Advocacy Groups

4 (9.5%)

New Schools Venture, Fordham Institute, Alliance for Excellent Education, EDGE Consulting LLC
Professional Associations

4 (9.5%)

AFT, NAESP, ATE, NEA
Professors of Education

4 (9.5%)

No content disciplines identified
PTA

1 (2.3%)

Florida
School Boards

1 (2.3%)

Pittsburgh
Teacher, K-12

2 (4.9%)

Math & History/Theatre
Teach for America

1 (2.3%)

VP for Program Design

Table 1.  CAEP Commission Membership

From my point of view, the commission lacks credibility among the nation’s colleges that offer teacher preparation programs.  If we want to develop standards that are realistic and will attract a range of people into the teaching profession, then standards need to show the research and experience of teacher educators who are involved in the day-to-day activities of preparing teachers and conducting teacher education research.

Overloading the group with administrators, many of whom are far removed from the day-to-day actions of professors is a disservice to the profession.  Any profession.  There needs to be at least a balance on commissions such as these to include more practitioners, and researchers.  Personally, I would tip the scale in favor of practitioners and researchers.

Teach for America and the Thomas Fordham Institute are members of this commission, as well as three more advocacy groups, New School Venture Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, and EDGE Consulting.  The fact that these groups are members of an organization writing standards for America’s institutions that prepare teacher is outrageous.  The Fordham Institute is a right wing advocacy group that has little use for colleges of education. But the real kicker for me was the inclusion a VP from Teach for America. Here is an organization with right-wing funding that has seduced superintendents and school boards with the idea that putting unlicensed teachers in the nations poorest neighborhood schools is a good idea. How does the CAEP leadership reconcile the position of TFA with their own about teacher preparation?

The report quotes a U.S. Department of Education Report on Equity and Excellence that says those who attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates school in developing nations, and now is a pivotal moment for the teacher education profession to reform itself.  But I smell some smoke here.

The same words to describe the standards for K-12 American education are found in the CAEP report: rigor, raising the bar, outcomes based, achievement scores, competing in the global economy, etc.

Providers, the name for teacher education institutions and the completers (students in the program), according to the Commission,  will benefit from the CAEP report.  Notice in the following quote from the report, the emphasis on data, better data, using better data, measuring and raising the bar:

CAEP accreditation will strengthen the quality of evidence measuring whether programs prepare effective teachers. It supports multiple measures. It judges programs by the impact that completers have on P?12 student learning and development. It requires providers to report their performance, discuss it with stakeholders, and use data to continuously monitor and improve their performance.

Commissioners are optimistic that advances in the quality of evidence are at hand, and CAEP must undertake substantial continuing responsibilities to upgrade the currently available data on which educator preparation providers and accreditation rely.  These involve several related activities to both develop better data and to use data better.

The Commission has set a high bar, ensuring that attaining accreditation status is a meaningful achievement providing a mark of distinction for educator preparation providers, and one that ultimately ensures that educators enter the classroom ready to have a positive impact on the learning of all students and prepare them to compete in today’s global economy. Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation, Commission on Standards and Performance. (June 11, 2013) CAEP ACCREDITATION STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: Aspirations for Educator Preparation Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/

The Standards

5There are five standards categories as follows:

Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge (Which is more important, content knowledge or knowing how to teach the content?)

Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice (Keep an eye on which partners become collaborators)

Standard 3: Candidate Quality, Recruitment, and Selectivity (Raising the Bar of Grade Point Average)

Standard 4: Program Impact (Value-Added Measures)

Standard 5: Provider Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement  (The Stock Market Analogy)

The standard categories have been part of teacher education for years.  However, in this Commission’s report, there is a creeping suspicion that teacher education institutions might be held hostage by this organizations acceptance of value added measures being used to “measure” the effect of a teacher’s preparation.  Institutions will also be held responsible for continuous growth.  How will continuous growth be ascertained?  Following candidates into the classroom and measuring their student’s achievement, that’s how.   Policy wonks have convinced schools that it the nature of schooling for achievement test scores to improve each year.  In an ecological world view, this is really not sustainable.  Isn’t enough enough?

Standard 1, which is about content and pedagogical knowledge is what arts and science professors, and content methods professors have struggled with for decades.  There is a great deal of research in their area of knowledge, but we must be clear about one thing;  simply knowing one’s subject is not enough to be a successful teacher.  Clearly, having teacher education programs in which candidates enter the program with a degree in science or history is one of the characteristics of some successful programs.  Another important part of teacher education with regard to Standard 1 is the collaboration among professors across university departments.  I do not mean simply professors of geology collaborating with their peers in science education.  I also mean that professors in educational foundations and special education working with their colleagues in curriculum and instruction departments.  And one other aspect that is important here is the involvement of elementary and secondary teachers in teacher education program courses, not just clinical experiences.  Having a high school chemistry teacher team teach with a professor of science education in a course on science pedagogy is a powerful approach to help “completers” experience pedagogical content knowledge.

Standard 2, clinical partnerships is another example of an aspect of teacher education that is well established in most colleges of education.  In fact, this writer, who started his teacher education career in 1969, was mentored by science education professors who already were integrating their “methods” courses with field experiences, and not waiting for supervised field experiences or student teaching.  But field experiences have become ubiquitous with teacher education programs.  Yet, there are multiple ways to carry out clinical experiences, and various stages of teacher preparation. 

One aspect here is that a single dose of summer training does not prepare teachers to work in our nation’s schools.  Yet, this Commission was represented by Teach for America, the organization that attracts high status college students for a two-year stint in teaching, and convinces school districts to place them in schools that probably need more experienced teachers.  How does the Commission come to grips with the TFA model vs the intense “traditional” model of teacher preparation.  

Standard 3, which is about the quality of students recruited boils down in this report to grade point average.  Grade point average has been used to bash colleges of education for decades by claiming that those who go into teaching probably couldn’t cut it in other fields of study.  On the one hand, CAEP urges that teacher education providers admit a pool of teacher candidates that show the diversity of the nation.  Yet, they recommend raising the bar (why should I be surprised) for candidates to an average of 3.0 GPA.  They also suggest that candidates at first be in the top 50%, and then in three years to the top 33% on national tests such as the GRE, SAT, ACT.   There is a lot of misunderstanding about the quality of candidates that pursue careers in teaching.  Although the average GPA of education students may be a tad lower than say students in arts and science at admission, the GPA of education students upon graduation is no different from students across the university.

Admission to teacher education should include quantitative and qualitative data and other sources of information.  Candidates should be interviewed by a team of professors across departments and colleges, involving those that have a stake in the success of teacher education.  This is not simply a job for the colleges of education.

Raising the bar only means that there will be more failures, and perhaps less qualified persons as teachers.  You should read carefully the rationale on this particular standard, and especially follow the cited research.

Standard 4, dealing with program impact is the standard that needs to be discussed in more detail than I will give here.  However, the CAEP Commission is clear that they want to use growth measures (including value-added measures, student-growth percentiles, and student learning and development goals).  Value-added and student-growth percentiles are not supported in educational research, and indeed, these metrics have resulted in protest letters from professors of educational research pointing out the fallacies in the statistical use of student test scores within the context of the value-added model.  To use the value-added model to assess beginning teachers and then use this metric to check and then rate (yes, is what will happen) schools based on a number is outright unethical, and invalid.  There is little opposition from colleges of education to evaluating their programs.  But lets not fall into the trap being set by reformers such as CAEP and NCTQ to use and favor quantitative data. Watch out.

Standard 5, deals with the provider having a quality assurance system composed of valid data from multiple measures and to make sure there is continuous improvement.  According to the CAEP Commission, providers must set up evidence-based quality assurance systems and data in a process of continuous improvement.  Here is what they mean.  The Commission writes:

Measures of completer impact, including available outcome data on P?12 student growth, are summarized, externally benchmarked, analyzed, shared widely, and acted upon in decision?making related to programs, resource allocation, and future direction.  Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation, Commission on Standards and Performance. (June 11, 2013) CAEP ACCREDITATION STANDARDS AND EVIDENCE: Aspirations for Educator Preparation Retrieved July 16, 2013 from http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/

CAEP is setting up teacher preparation providers for a league standings approach to evaluation.  By using data such as value-added and student growth percentages, CAEP will translate these numbers into ratings.  Perhaps, like their friends at the Thomas Fordham Institute, or the National Council for Teacher Quality, they will use grades on a scale of A – F, or perhaps they will be more creative and give out Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals.  Or, perhaps they will use the star system that is a favorite of many state departments of education.

In the end, instead of carrying out research that is meaningful, reflective and qualitative, CAEP and its corporate partners will steer us toward quantitative methods. They will use these invalid data sets in ways that will be detrimental to teacher preparation.

The kind of research that is needed is being carried out now, and has for decades.  In a forthcoming book entitled Science Teacher Educators as K-12 Teachers: Practicing What We Preach,  Mike Dias, Charles Eich, and Lauri Brantley-Dias and their co-authors reported on their experiences in which 25 professors returned to teach in K-12 schools for different periods of time.  The book provides a rich and courageous examination of teaching and teacher preparation from the trenches.  At a time when education policy and practice are being radically transformed by so-called reformers, this group of professors challenged present corporate model of education, and showed that teaching and teacher education is about collaboration, and that the research that in the end is most meaningful is qualitative and reflective, and not simply the collection of student test scores.

The CAEP organization has written a detailed report outlining the standards for the teaching profession.  However, there are serious concerns with the make up of the Commission, as well as the emphasis of using quantitative data in recruiting, preparing, and evaluating providers and completers.

What is your opinion of the CAEP Commission’s report on standards for teacher preparation.