Material from the Fall IACTE Conference:
UNI has been declared to be the “Harvard of the Midwest”. I was told by former Price Lab director Ross Nielsen that phrase originated in the 1950’s and was based on a simple declaration by one of the school’s administrators. I googled the expression recently and 7320 hits told me that declaring your college or university to be the Harvard of the Midwest is a common attribution for many colleges and universities. One notable exception was the University of Chicago, which was proclaimed as the “anti-Harvard of the Midwest”. As far as I know, no one at Harvard has declared Harvard to be “the UNI of the East” although I have seen it on a T-shirt at UNI. And that’s not an original acclamation either.
I don’t see any real harm in such claims and I’m not sure anyone takes them as factual. Individually and collectively we tend to aspire to be best or at least better. I once claimed to have come in second in a Robert Redford look-alike contest but made no claim other than there was more than one contestant. No one took me seriously. In this era of education reform, however, competition and comparison of individuals and institutions has evolved into a notable pseudo-science. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTM) is an excellent example.
Of late, NCTQ has been requesting information from all our IACTE members so that we can be judged by their self-appointed judge and jury. Many of our colleges and universities have declined to give them requested information. NCTQ has also contacted some of our students to obtain syllabi for courses.
All of the “data” that NCTQ collects for their ratings are paper documents or obtained on-line. It would be similar to rating restaurants on the basis of their menus as some have pointed out. Until recently, there was no one who attempted to validate any of the ratings that NCTQ dished out. That changed in May with a 2015 study of NCTQ by the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) as reported by blogger Mercedes Schneider, author of A Chronicle of Echoes.
Not surprisingly, the results of this review of NCTQ are underwhelming. In a nutshell, the reviewers found little or no relationship between NCTQ’s ratings and standards and the performance of teacher prep program graduates nor was there empirical support for the criteria they put forth to justify their grades. I don’t anticipate that this report will receive as much attention in the media as the goofball grades given by NCTQ on teacher quality.
I also anticipate that there will be some who will proclaim the glory of their NCTM rating as illustrated at right. I want to meet anyone who would take such claims seriously—perhaps they will also see my resemblance to Robert…