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?

About Jack Hassard

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