Resisting the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Propaganda

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has published in recent review of teacher preparation.  The NCTQ is well-financed (Gates, Walton, Broad, New Ventures Fund, and many more), and the Fordham Foundation’s creation.  Together, their goal is destroy teacher prep by convincing the nation that teacher preparation in the nations public and private colleges is failing.  And to prove it, they’ve developed a set of standards, that Dr. Tom Slekar, Dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College (Madison, WI), says are so bad that “if our teacher education programs were evaluated “highly” by NCTQ we would be violating our mission/values and all the research on child development and teaching and learning.” (Interview published on Living in Dialog by Anthony Cody, May 27, 2014).

The NCTQ’s effort is an assault on teacher education, and there is a need for a resistance to their propaganda.  In this blog post, I’ve rounded up a few articles that call the NCTQ out, and show how their method is nothing short of an assault on the nation’s teacher education infrastructure.


NCTQ’s Assault on Teacher Education.  According to the head of the NCTQ, Ed schools don’t give teachers the tools they need.  Whose tools?  What tools?  The NCTQ is stuck in a 19th century version of teaching, and a 21st century push to quantify learning about student achievement tests.  To the NCTQ, if teacher preparation is not focused on academic achievement, then it is not giving teacher candidates the tools that the NCTQ thinks it needs.


Those Nonsense Annual NCTQ Ratings Are Coming on June 17. In this piece, the author reminds readers that the NCTQ ratings are coming (they are here now).  Dr. Schneider has written several articles on the NCTQ which you can reach here.  Schneider, M.K. Deutsch29 Blog, June 16, 2014.

Why the NCTQ Teacher Prep Ratings are Nonsense.  Dr. Darling-Hammond explains that “NCTQ’s methodology is a paper review of published course requirements and course syllabi against a check list that does not consider the real quality of instruction that the programs offer, evidence of what their students learn, or whether graduates can actually teach.”  As she pointed out in her article, those states whose students score high on NAEP had teacher prep programs with the lowest ratings, while states like Alabama, that scored low on NAEP, had high NCTQ ratings.  She also says that the NCTQ is out of sync with current teacher education programs, most of which are graduate level. Darling-Hammond, L. National Education Policy Center, June 19, 20123.

Response to the New NCTQ Teacher Prep Review by Peter Smagorinsky, The University of Georgia.  Dr. Smagorinsky briefly responded to some of the claims that the NCTQ makes which rely on rhetorical characterizations about “success” and “achievement” that spuriously elevate their belief that standardized tests reflect the whole of learning, a claim that few teachers or teacher educators endorse. In contrast, most teachers and teacher educators believe that the NCTQ’s narrow focus on standardized “achievement” tests undermine an authentic education that prepares students for work or life.  Smagorinksy, P. The Becoming Radical Blog, June 17, 2014.

Market Forces

How Will Market Forces Transform Teacher Preparation?  This is an article by Anthony Cody gives meaning to the context within which the NCTQ has appointed itself as the purveyors of truth about teacher preparation.  As Anthony points out, teacher preparation is being challenged by corporate reformers who have backed a group of non-educators called the NCTQ.  Financed by the same groups that are pushing test-based accountability and charter schools, the NCTQ has started the ball rolling to crush teacher preparation as we know it.  Anthony has written many articles about teacher preparation and NCTQ and you can reach them here.  Cody, A. Living in Dialog, May 29, 2014.

Shaky Methods, Shaky Motives: A Critique of the National Council of Teacher Quality’s Review of Teacher Preparation Program by Edward J. Fuller.  In this peer-reviewed article, Dr. Fuller states that the NCTQ’s review of university-based teacher preparation programs concluded the majority of such programs were inadequately preparing the nation’s teachers. The study, however, has some serious flaws that include narrow focus on inputs, lack of a strong research base, missing standards, omitted research, incorrect application of research findings, poor method, exclusion of alternative certification programs, failure to conduct member checks, and failure to use existing evidence to confirm the report’s rankings. All of these issues give the NCTQ report less than useful in efforts to understand and improve teacher preparation programs in the United States. The article also suggests alternative pathways NCTQ could have undertaken to work with programs to actually improve teacher preparation. The article concludes by noting that the shaky methods used by NCTQ suggest shaky motives such that the true motives of NCTQ for producing the report must be questioned.  Fuller, E.J. Journal of Teacher Education 2014, Vol 65(1) 63–77 © 2013 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Feeble and Incompetent

The NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep in the University System of Georgia is Feeble & Incompetent.  An analysis of the NCTQ Review in the context of teacher preparation in Georgia’s 21 state universities that offer teacher education programs.  The NCTQ claims to have a handle on the state of teacher preparation in the nation, but the results of this investigation show that they have reviewed a very small percentage of teacher prep programs offered in America’s colleges and universities. Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, June 22, 2014.

National Council for Teacher Quality Review: A Stacked Deck?  In this study, we analyzed the make-up of the NCTQ people, and discovered that it represents a “stacked deck.”  Only 2.5% of the participants in the review were teacher educators–active professors out there doing teacher education.  The NCTQ was stacked with corporate executives, foundation executives, and employees of NCTQ.  It was far from representing the field of teacher education.  Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, June 20, 2014.

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

Results Are In: NCTQ Report on Teacher Prep Rated with Four Cautions.  In this article, the author analyses the 2013 NCTQ Review of Teacher Prep in the US, and using a junk science model developed by M.S. Carolan, concludes that this NCTQ study scored high on the junk science index, and therefore warrants 4 cautions–the highest rating possible in the model.  Readers should be extremely cautious about using the results of the NCTQ review of teacher prep. Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, July 1, 2013.

NCTQ Report on Teacher Prep: the Devil is in the Detail.  In this article we dig deep into the so-called methods used to evaluate university teacher prep programs.  The “methods” used include sources including: syllabi (when they can get them), textbooks, catalogs, handbooks, evaluation forms. We show that the NCTQ report on teacher preparation is junk science.  The method that they employed in their study avoided data from the very sources that could help uncover the nature of teacher preparation.  These sources are faculty, administrators, students, and cooperating school districts and educators.  Without interviewing and observing teacher preparation programs directly, and without establishing a cooperative relationship with the these institutions, the NCTQ condemns itself to false claims, outright opinions that have little bearing on the nature of teacher preparation.  Hassard, J. The Art of Teaching Science Blog, June 23, 2013




Messing with Georgia’s Social Studies Curriculum

According to the Governor of Georgia, now is the time to write a new social studies curriculum. Why now? Well, Mr. Deal has signed on to the Common Core, but rumblings from his own political party, especially the right-wing Tea Party have caused him to possibly reconsider the Common Core. But why the social studies curriculum?

In my opinion, Deal’s order to review and possibly rewrite the social studies curriculum is probably more of a political move than one that has any remote connection to a scholarly examination of what is taught in history, political science, geography, economics, and other “subjects” of the social studies.

A committee has been formed of parents, politicians, business types, and some educators. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution article entitled Social Studies Review Political?, members expressed these high-powered concerns:

  • students aren’t taught enough about geography
  • they don’t learn much about civil engagement
  • they don’t learn how to balance a checkbook
  • how to respect the flag
  • students don’t have a clue about the founding, the history of our country
  • they should learn more about fiscal responsibility

If these are some of the real concerns expressed by committee members, they clearly have not read the Georgia Social Studies Standards.

Don’t be fooled by Deal and other Republicans who insist on a review of the standards.  Their goal is to politicize the content of the social studies, much in the same way that politicians inflicted right-wing propaganda into the Texas social studies curriculum in 2010.

Bill Moyers analyzed the Texas “review” of the social studies.  He said:

In 2010, the board got a lot of attention when it approved over 100 amendments — many of which had a very clear conservative political agenda — to the social studies and economics curriculum standards.

You can read his analysis here, but here are three to gain your attention:

  1. They removed Jefferson from a list of great Enlightenment philosophers — including John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau — who inspired political revolutions from the 1700s to today. They also removed the word “Enlightenment” and added Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. After much criticism, they added Jefferson back, but left out “Enlightenment” resulting in a standard very different from the original.
  2. In perhaps the most blatant political move, the board passed an amendment requiring U.S. history students to learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” but not about liberal or minority groups.
  3. The board approved a standard requiring students to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX. Other attempts to change the way the civil rights movement was taught, including a provision that would require students learn that it created “unreasonable expectations for equal outcomes,” failed to pass.

Deal is opening the door to turning the curriculum into a political agenda, and not a scholarly pursuit of the nature of the social studies.  And, he is running for re-election, and realizes that he might have made a mistake endorsing the Common Core.  The review of social studies gives him an opportunity to gain the support of the Tea Party of Georgia who would endorse any of the analyses made by Moyers.

Deal also knows that his Superintendent of Education, Dr. John Barge, has announced his intention of running against Deal in the Republican primary for Governor in 2014.

What do you think about the Governor messing with curriculum?

Intelligent Design Again in the News

Last Sunday (3/12/06), the Rev. Nelson Price of Marietta, GA wrote in his Sunday column in the Marietta Daily Journal, “Intelligent design infers there was a designer.” He brought up old arguments related to the issue: scientists are stifling free speech by not allowing intelligent design into the classroom of science; our youth are being protected from such dangerous concepts at I.D.; some things in nature are just too complex to have evolved by means of natural selection—a designer needed to step in and form these complex systems whole; the watch and watchmaker analogy; the orbit of the earth is just right because of an intelligent designer (this is a new one).

In response to Price’s article was one (3/15/06)by Ed Buckner, Southern Director, Council for Secular Humanism. The article, entitled Price wrong again about Intelligent Design claimed that Price’s column was nothing but old wine in a new bottle, and the wine had soured.

I submitted an article to the MDJ after reading Price’s article. Here it is:

Scientific Explanations need to underscore science teaching

I look forward to reading Rev. Price’s Sunday editorial in the Marietta Daily Journal. I generally find the discussions in his pieces thoughtful. I was, therefore, surprised at his piece last Sunday, entitled “Intelligent design infers there was a designer. I am surprised that Rev. Price does not see the religious basis for intelligent design, when interestingly he was arguing that it was a scientific idea, and that our youth were being prevented from learning about this idea.

Centuries before Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace (co-discoverers of the theory of evolution by natural selection), were born, the idea that an intelligent designer was responsible for an organism’s complexity was well know. The leading proponent of the idea was the English theologian Richard Paley creator of the famous watchmaker analogy, written in 1802, that Rev. Price referred to in his piece. Paley’s idea of an intelligent designer was replaced by the theory of evolution by natural selection about 50 years later when Darwin published his famous book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. In 2005, two books were published on Darwin’s contribution. Each book was edited by two well known scientists, James D. Watson and Edward O. Wilson. Each book contained four of Charles Darwin’s books, including his “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

The idea of intelligent design was revived in 1991 by U.C. Berkeley law professor Philip Johnson after he had a religious conversion, in his book, “Darwin on Trial”. Later Johnson joined with the Discovery Institute in Seattle to promote the idea by affecting change in the curriculum of the nation’s schools. Not through research (as they claim) but through press releases and propaganda. Johnson’s idea, known as “wedge theory” is designed to drive a wedge (as to split a log) into evolutionary biology. There is no research agenda; but there is a very rigorous public relations program.

The science education community has not been involved trying to hold our youth hostage or protecting them from ideas such as intelligent design. Instead our youth have been pawns in a game led by real activists—the Discovery Institute and the Thomas More Law Center whose goal is to wedge their way into science classrooms through intimidation and propaganda.

Rev. Price refers to a “ever-expanding cadre of academicians” that are associated with the intelligent design movement. An analysis of these academicians reveals that very few of them are in the field of science and most are lawyers, government employees, engineers, and theologians. There is no scientific basis for intelligent design, even though Rev. Price claims that there is. The Discovery Institute does not have a scientific research program, and the central concept of the intelligent design ideology, irreducible complexity (in lay terms, some things are so complex they came into being whole—e.g. requiring an intelligent designer). The example they use over and over again is that bacterial cells are propelled by rotary type engines called flagella motors. According to Michael Behe (I.D. proponent), the rotary motor is irreducibly complex, it couldn’t have come into being via natural selection; it must have come into being whole. The problem is that this is not true. Parts can be removed, and it still works. Flagella came into being through natural selection.

The flaw here is that I.D. proponents want to define intelligent design negatively, as anything that is not chance or necessity. Science requires positive evidence. And this is what Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace did independent of each other.

And finally, the orb of the Earth’s orbit that Rev. Price mentions was explained centuries ago for Sir Isaac Newton in his Universal Law of Gravity, or should we rename it the Theory of Gravity.

Darwin, like Newton, proposed a scientific rather than a religious explanation: the fit between organisms and environments is the result of natural selection. Like all scientific explanations, his relies on natural causation. And this is the kind of thinking that should be espoused in science classrooms.