I think most of us would like to see national accreditation an option in Iowa. Good to see that Charles Edwards, a member of our Iowa Board of Education, also agrees in his Des Moines Register op-ed. His essay was published on Saturday, 28 June.
A recent op-ed by Jonathan Wilson in the Des Moines Register called for the “Big Four” (Drake, ISU, U of Iowa, and UNI) to seek national accreditation. The respective deans,
Iowa colleges and universities that prepare teachers have been responding to demands for accountability for many years. The state of Iowa requires accreditation of all programs including annual reports and accreditation reviews on a 5 to 7 year cycle. Requirements include adherence to national and state standards of teaching performance. Programs must demonstrate that their graduates can teach. In addition, all programs have assessment systems designed to provide program improvement data as well as candidate proficiency. Accreditation reviews involve careful documentation that the program meets or exceeds standards and includes a three to five day site visit by a team of 8 to 10 trained reviewers. Detailed results of accreditation reviews and annual reports are a matter of public record. Standards and procedures are also reviewed for improvement. It has been a good system and has served Iowa well. All programs are required to meet published standards.
On June 17, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published the 2014 Teacher Prep Review. The report purports to assess the quality of teacher preparation among the traditional college and university programs by ranking them on the basis of several nebulous criteria. This year, NCTQ promised and delivers national rankings of programs.
In a society seemingly dedicated to the concept of always being “Number one”, the ranks arouse interest as is the case with US News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities and hospitals. Newspapers invariably pick up the “story” and identify the high flyers, particularly if they are local institutions. Typically, there are a few paragraphs devoted to critics of such rankings but these reports endure. They are well-supported by magazine sales (in the case of US News) and by wealthy plutocrats and foundations (in the case of NCTQ).
Our national organization, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), has described the current NCTQ review as providing “unhelpful recommendations… based on questionable methodology. Most, if not all, would agree with a colleague who described NCTQ as “a non-accredited, self-appointed, antagonistic rater of traditional teacher training programs.”
NCTQ was funded in 2000 by the Thomas b. Fordham Foundation to promote alternative certification of teachers. Since then, the organization has been lavishly funded by the US Department of Education and a number of private foundations. NCTQ claims to advocate for “rigor” in teacher preparation but helped create a short-cut to certification by passing a test. Take their $2000 test and you can become a teacher in 11 states. (Thankfully, not Iowa.) Notably, NCTQ has advocated for alternative teacher prep programs but this year’s review included some alternative programs and called them “weak”. NCTQ also does not rate Teach for America (TFA) as a preparation program. TFA provides temp teachers for high-poverty districts in a preparation program of five and a half weeks. TFA is also funded by most of the same supporters as NCTQ.
The rating of over a thousand programs is accomplished primarily through the review of course syllabi. As some have described it, it’s like rating restaurants on the basis of their menu.
For additional background on this group, see a review of their last 2013 Review by the Think Tank Review site at the University of Colorado.
Another source is Mercedes Schneider, author of the just published A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. Chapter 18 is devoted to NCTQ. Much of the material on the history and supporters of NCTQ are documented on her Ed blog.
The NCTQ report will get media attention. The basis for their ratings and rankings are not well-documented. The agenda does nothing to advance teacher quality but only serves the agenda of promoting alternative certification and privatization of teacher education.
While it is easy to poke holes in the reports and agenda of NCTQ, it would better serve us to bring out and expose the positive benefits of a genuine accreditation process. I know that we value the state accreditation process that is in place, but how might we use it to better inform the public as well as policy makers? It’s an opportunity to give a much better accounting of what we do. Are there possibilities? Love to know your ideas or reactions to the idea. Include them in comments below!
- Barry J. Wilson