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.

Nonsense.

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).

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 6.06.12 PM
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.

Next

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

A Letter to The Fordham Institute

Dear Colleagues at The Fordham Institute,

The American Education Research Association (AERA) developed a framework for Scientifically Based Research (SBR) in 2008.  The SBR definition described below was supported by the AERA Council as a framework that offers sound guidance to members of Congress seeking to include such language in legislation.  As you know Congress is inundated with partisan think tanks who offer their research results on issues close on their agenda.  I believe that you are one of those think tanks.

But here is the thing

Image 7-8-13 at 8.08 PMYou are part of the problem.  The rise of “think tanks” started with The Tobacco Institute, big tobacco’s industry think tank that mounted campaigns denying the growing body of scientific knowledge that smoking was linked to cancer.  To oppose science, The Tobacco Institute created their own research with bogus claims, and in the end launched a campaign of doubt, insisting that the scientific research on smoking and cancer was “junk science.”  The Tobacco Institute was a kind of mentor of yours, and other think tanks, especially those on the extreme right (like yourself, and your cousin, the National Council on Teacher Quality) or those on the extreme left.  The Tobacco Institute created a formula or modus operandi for advocacy groups. Attack real science, and create doubt about research on industry  issues.  In general, it was important for think tanks to assemble their own experts who were willing to support the party line, and indeed take part in questionable research practices.  Their goal was to attack scientific studies, lobby Congress and the states, pushing their own narrow agenda.  These organizations promote junk science under the guise of research that they do.  Let me be clear.  This happens on the right and the left.

In the last post on this blog, I provided some evidence that your research, the Fordham Institute’s Final Report on the Next Generation Science Standards was an example of junk science.  This conclusion was based on several investigations that I made of reports issued by the Fordham Institute on the science standards which you can read here and here.

Why is it that you continue to analyze science education without involving experts in the field of science education?  Yes, there were nine people with Ph.D’s in science, mathematics and engineering on your research team, but all of you lack the experiential and content knowledge of science education, science curriculum development, and classroom K-12 science teaching experience.

Why would biologists believe the results of research done by a group of people with degrees in history, political science, and communications, especially if they ignore or do not cite earlier studies in the field of biology?   And especially if they do not involve biologists in their research? I doubt whether your group would?  Why do you think we should accept the results of your research.  We don’t.

Given your credentials, it is surprising that you did not adhere to the principles of research that are outlined below by the AERA, which are no different from principles of research in physics, biology, geochemistry, mathematics or engineering.

Education research, just like research in the earth sciences, or the biological sciences, must be considered Scientifically Based Research (SBR) for its results to be considered credible and valid.  Accordingly, valid research requires (AERA, 2013):

1. The development of a logical, evidence-based chain of reasoning;

2. Methods appropriate to the questions posed;

3. Observational or experimental designs and instruments that provide reliable and generalizable findings;

4. Data and analysis adequate to support findings;

5. Description of procedures and results clearly and in detail, including specification of the population to which the findings can be generalized;

5. Adherence to professional norms of peer review;

6. Dissemination of findings to contribute to scientific knowledge;

7. Access to data for reanalysis, replication, and the opportunity to build on findings.

In my opinion your team fell short on these criteria for SBR.  Your research focuses on an examination of science standards.  In one study you assessed the content and rigor of the state science standards, and then in your latest report, you assessed the Next Generation Science Standards.  Yet your reports are not based on the scientific protocols  that are identified here.  The conclusions you draw are based more on ideology, than on the results of research.  They are biased, and narrow.

However,because of your lobbying efforts, and your  deep pockets, your reports on science standards have been accepted by the media as the last answer on the state of science education standards.  Unfortunately, the reports on the science standards have little credibility and are no different from reports issued by the U.S. Tobacco Institute.

Some Steps You Might Take

There are a number of steps that your organization can take if you plan to issue future reports on the state of science education in the United States.  For one, you might consult the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) or specific members of NARST for advice on how to conduct research in science education.  You might visit their journal website (Journal of Research in Science Teaching).  Another journal you might consider is the journal Science Education.  If you want to expand your horizons, you might consider these international journals of science education: International Journal of Science Education, and Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.  Two additional sources of ideas include the Handbook of Research on Science Education, and The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences.

In the meantime, we will push back against your aggressive indictments of science education.

Regards,

Jack Hassard

 

 

 

Fordham Institute’s Evaluation of Next Generation Science Standards Rated as Junk Science

Fordham Institute’s Final Evaluation of Next Generation Science Standards (Fordham Evaluation) Rated as Junk Science.
In this post I am going to provide evidence that the Fordham Evaluation of Next Generation Science Standards is junk science, and does not meet the basic standards of scientific research.  Figure 1 is the Junk Science Evaluation and Index Form that I designed to assess the Fordham Evaluation.  The ten categories are definitions of junk science that emerged from a study by Michael Carolan (2012).  He  assessed ten years (1995 – 2005) of newspaper articles that included the words junk science in the title by systematically analyzing and coding the articles according to how the term was used.  I’ve used the ten definitions as the categories as shown in Figure 1.

Disclaimer: I have major concerns about using national science standards for every school student, K-12.  I also do not subscribe to the rationale or policy upon which the standards movement is based.  The rationale for science described in the NGSS is not related to the conception or philosophy of a sustainable planet, but is instead science in the service of the economic growth of the nation, job training, and economic competitiveness in a global society. The science standards were designed by scientists and engineers, and so there is a heavy emphasis on scientific process and content instead of thinking about science curriculum that would be in the service of children and adolescents.  I have written extensively about this on this blog.  Never-the-less, I have major concerns about the Thomas Fordham’s biased assessment of science education, and write this blog post in this context.  In no way do I endorse the NGSS.

Each category is an indicator that the study under review might be considered junk science.   When partisan or advocacy organizations issue reports, they are often done outside the normal context of scientific research.  In many cases, the reports are written by in-house organizational employees who indeed may have advanced degrees, but who isolate themselves from the research community at large.  Often the reports are not peer-reviewed.  One of the most obvious defects in these reports is that they tend to use methods that are not reproducible or are so murky that the results are clearly suspicious.

I’ve left the form in Figure 1 blank if you would like to reproduce it.

Strongly Disagree (1) Disagree (2) Neutral (3) Agree (4) Strongly Agree (5)
1. Based upon bad policy
2. Experts with agendas
3. False Data
4. No data or unsubstantiated claims
5. Failure to cite references
6. Uses non-certified experts
7. Poor methodology
8. Too much uncertainty to arrive at conclusions
9. Reveals only that data that supports conclusions
10. Non-peer reviewed

Figure 1. Junk Science Evaluation & Index Form

How Does the Fordham Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards Stack Up?

Image 7-7-13 at 9.38 PMThe Fordham Institute evaluation of the NGSS is a flawed report based on my assessment of their published document using the Junk Science Evaluation & Index Form.  After reading and reviewing the Fordham report I rated each criteria using a 5 point scale. For each item, I’ve included brief comments explaining my decisions.  As you can see, the overall assessment of the Fordham report was 4.7, which meant that this reviewer strongly agreed with the ten definitions that show that the report is an example of junk science.

 Junk Science Definitions Strongly Disagree (1) Disagree (2) Neutral (3) Agree (4) Strongly Agree (5)
1. Based upon bad policy  X
The policy upon which the Fordham Evaluation of the NGSS is underscored by a strict adherence to their traditional view of science content.  Their own set of standards, against which they evaluated the NGSS and the state science standards, is a list of low-level science goals.  In short the policy of the Fordham Institute and the authors of the report is an unchanging fealty to a conservative agenda and a canonical view of science education.
2. Experts with agendas  X
 The experts of the Fordham Institute seem to have an agenda which dismisses any inclusion of inquiry (practices in the NGSS), and pedagogical advances such as constructivism and inquiry teaching.
3. False Data  X
 There is no attempt to include false data.
4. No data or unsubstantiated claims  X
 Although the authors include written analyses of each content area, (physical, earth and life science), they go out of their way to knit pic standards written by others (NGSS and the states) and fail to realize that their standards which they use to judge others’ is inferior.
5. Failure to cite references  X
There were 17 footnotes identifying the references the authors cited in their analysis of a national set of science standards.  There are no referenced citations of any refereed journals or books.  Most footnotes were notes about the report, or citations of earlier Fordham Institute reports.  The only four citations were outside Fordham Institute such as by Ohio Department of Education, and ACT.
6. Uses non-certified experts  X
 There were no teachers, or science education experts.  Although all the authors hold advanced degrees in science, mathematics and engineering, they do not seem qualified to rate or judge science education standards, curriculum or pedagogy.
7. Poor methodology  X
 The authors claimed to check the quality, content, and rigor of the final draft of NGSS.  They used this method to rate the state science standards two years ago.  The grading metric uses two components; 7 points are possible for content and rigor; 3 points for clarity and specificity.  Content and rigor is evaluated against their content standards, which I have assessed using Bloom’s Taxonomy.  72% of Fordham’s science standards were at the lowest levels of Bloom, while only 10% were at the highest levels on Bloom.  In order to score high on the content and rigor part of the Fordham assessment, the NGSS would have to meet their standards–which I have judged to be mediocre.  The NGSS earned 3.7 (out of 7) on content and rigor, and 1.5 (out of 3) for clarity and specificity, for a total of 5.2 (out of 10).  Using these scores, the Fordham Institute used their earlier report on the State of the State Science Standards, and classified the states as clearly superior, too close to call or clearly inferior compared to the NGSS. According to Fordham, only 16 states had science standards superior to the NGSS.  The problem in my view,is  that the criteria Fordham uses to judge the NGSS and the state science standards is flawed.
8. Too much uncertainty to arrive at conclusions  X
 The Fordham report was written by people who seem to have an axe to grind against the work of the science education community.  The fact they failed to involve teachers and science educators in their review shows a disregard for the research community.  And this is surprising, given their credentials as scientists.
9. Reveals only that data that supports conclusions  X
 The conclusions that the Fordham group reports boil down to a number and then is translated into a grade.  In this case, the NGSS scored 5.2 out of 10 which converts to a grade of C.  This is what the media pick up on, and the Fordham Institute uses its numbers to create maps classifying states as inferior, superior or too close to call.
10. Non-peer reviewed  X
 This report is a conservative document that was never shared with the research community.  It’s conclusions should be suspect.

Figure 2. Junk Science Evaluation & Index Form of Fordham Institutes Final Evaluation of the NGSS

Even though the Fordham review is junk science, the media, including bloggers on Education Week, have printed stories that largely support the Fordham reports. The National Science Teachers Association, which had a hand in developing the NGSS, wrote a very weak response to Fordham’s criticism of NGSS.

The Thomas Fordham Institute perpetuates untruths about science education primarily to endorse it conservative agenda. It’s time call foul.  In this writer’s analysis, the Fordham Institute report on the NGSS earns an F.

If you have a chance or the time, please use the form in Figure 1 to rate the Fordham Institute report on the NGSS. What was your rating?

Why We Should Reject The Fordham Institute’s Opinion of the Next Generation Science Standards

In this post I am going to give evidence that the Fordham Institute’s evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards should be rejected.

The Thomas Fordham Institute is a conservative advocacy think tank which issues opinion reports written by “experts” on science education (other education issues as well).  I have reviewed earlier reports released by Fordham, and have critiqued their reports on the basis of their obvious bias against science education, especially against professors of science education who advocate an inquiry approach to teaching science.

Fordham Review of State Science Standards

letterDIn 2012, the Fordham Institute published a report, State of the State Standards, which was a rating of the science standards written by the states.  They graded  the state science standards using A – F rankings, and according to their criteria, most states earned a D or F.  You need to understand that they, like many of the other conservative think tanks, believe that American science education “needs a radical upgrade.”  Their review of the state science standards was flawed, yet the media reported the results as if they were factual, and they are not.

When I first reviewed Fordham’s evaluation of the state science standards, I was shocked when I read the criteria that they used to analyze science education. In the Fordham report there is a section of Methods, Criteria and Grading Metric in which the authors report that they devised content-specific criteria against which the science standards in each state were evaluated. The authors divided the science content into learning expectations through grade eight (lists of statements divided into Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, and Life Science) , and learning expectations for grades nine through 12 (lists of statements for physics, chemistry, Earth and Space science, and life science).

The Fordham list of science content is a sham, and for states to be held to their standards is not only unprofessional, but a disgrace.

I found that the Fordham standards are low-level, mediocre at best, and do not include affective or psycho-motor goals. I analyzed each Fordham statement using the Bloom categories in the Cognitive, Affective and Psycho-motor Domain.  Ninety percent of all the Fordham science criteria fall into the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the cognitive domain. Indeed, 52% of the statements are at the lowest level (Knowledge) which includes primarily the recall of data or information. Twenty-eight percent of the Fordham science statements were written at the Comprehension level, and only 10% at the Application level. What this means is that the authors wrote their own science standards at a very low-level. In fact of the 100 statements only 10% were at the higher levels. No statements were identified at the synthesis level, which in science is awful. Only one science standard was found at the highest level of evaluation.

I also compared the method that Fordham used in their “study,” to the standards for educational research established by the American Education Research Association (AERA).  The Fordham report is a type of evaluation research, but does not meet the standard criteria for a research study.  In fact they only met two of the eight AERA principles.

When you assess the Fordham evaluation of the state standards, their report barely gets a grade of “D,” and perhaps should be graded “F.

They’re At It Again: Evaluation of the NGSS

The Fordham Foundation’s science Gang of Seven has released it’s “Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards.”  The same gang that evaluated the state science standards is at it again.  This time they have applied their flawed research method to evaluate the Next Generation Science Standards.

Image 7-5-13 at 5.50 PMThe 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.

Cognitively, the Fordham standards are not much to write home about. And it is amazing, given the low-level of the Fordham standards that any state would score lower than their own standards.

You can read my earlier reviews of Fordham’s lack of knowledge about science education here and here.  For Fordham to continue its effort to promote an honest discussion of science education is a sham.  According to this final report, the Gang of Seven used the same criteria used to evaluate the state science standards.

The Gang of Seven has consistently kept to this mantra, and in this final report of the NGSS, they find that science education is in peril.  They grade the NGSS gets a grade of C+.  What this means is that most of the state standards are inferior to the NGSS, and of course to the Fordham science standards.  Using a color coded map of the U.S., Fordham reports that:

  • 13 States are Clearly Superior
  • 22 States are Too Close to Call
  • 16 States are Clearly Inferior

First of all, you need to realize that Fordham has their own set of science content standards (General expectations for learning).  Follow this link to Fordham’s Final Evaluation of the NGSS, and then scroll down through the document to page 55, and you will find their standards listed on pages 55 – 61. .  Then they used the same criteria to check the final version of the NGSS.  In my earlier 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, the Gang of Seven 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 group appears to have had their eyes closed during this period.  Anything they have to say about the NGSS should be rejected.

Is the Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards by the Thomas Fordham Institute junk science?  I’ll offer an answer in the next post on this blog.

In the meantime, what is your opinion of the Fordham methods used to evaluate the Next Generation Science Standards?

 

 

Warning: If You Believe the Fordham Foundation on Their View of Science or NCTQ’s View on Teacher Education, You Should Check Your Eyesight. Really.

Warning: If You Believe the Fordham Foundation on Their View of Science or NCTQ’s View on Teacher Education, You Should Check Your Eyesight.  Really.

On this blog, I have reviewed earlier reports put out by these two oxymoronic organizations, the Thomas Fordham Institute: Advancing Education Excellence (Fordham), and The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).  You need to know that these are ultra conservative organizations, and that the National Council on Teacher Quality was formed by the Thomas Fordham Institute.

In this blog post I want to argue that the reports issued by these organizations on the science standards and on teacher preparation are nothing short of conservative propaganda put out by organizations with ties to each other.

Fordham Foundation Report on Next Generation Science Standards.

Here we go again.  The Fordham Foundation’s gang of seven has released it “Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards.”  The same group evaluated the NGSS 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.  You can read my earlier reviews of Fordham’s lack of knowledge about science education here and here.

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

You need to understand that 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 final report of the NGSS, they find that we are in the same state, and that the NGSS gets a grade of C+.

First of all, you need to realize that 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 when I read the criteria that they used to analyze science education.

I found that the Fordham standards are low level, mediocre at best, and do not include affective or psycho-motor goals. I analyzed each Fordham statement using the Bloom categories in the Cognitive, Affective and Psycho-motor Domain.

Ninety percent of all the Fordham science criteria fall into the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the cognitive domain. Indeed, 52% of the statements are at the lowest level (Knowledge) which includes primarily the recall of data or information. Twenty-eight percent of the Fordham science statements were written at the Comprehension level, and only 10% at the Application level. What this means is that the authors wrote their own science standards at a very low-level. In fact of the 100 statements only 10% were at the higher levels. No statements were identified at the synthesis level, which in science is awful. Only one science standard was found at the highest level of evaluation. Cognitively, the Fordham standards are not much to write home about. And it is amazing, given the low-level of the Fordham standards that any state would score lower than their own standards.

Then they used the same criteria to check the final version of the NGSS.

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 group appears to have had their eyes closed during this period.  Don’t believe their report.

NCTQ Report on Teacher Prep

The National Council on Teacher Quality report on Teacher Prep is 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.

In this report on teacher preparation, the NCTQ is an “exhaustive and unprecedented” overall rating of 608 institutions.  Don’t be fooled by the extensive use of graphs and tables.   The methodology used to generate these is essentially flawed.   Its standards are lumped into four buckets (their term): Selection, Content Preparation, Professional Skills and Outcomes.

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 cooperate with the NCTQ.  As a result NCTQ had to 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.

The entire NCTQ report is based on “document requests.”  They even resorted to legal action to get forms from colleges and universities.  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.  Nonsense.  The report 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.

 What do you think about these two conservative think tank reports?  Do you accept the grade of C for the NGSS, and think that most of teacher education in America is anemic?