Schools of education across the United States are not sending teachers into the classroom ready to instruct, warns the National Council on Teacher Quality. When evaluated by the group’s 2013 Teacher Prep Review Report, numerous colleges fail to receive more than one out of four stars, creating a nationwide concern about the quality of America’s teachers.
“Frustration is caused by the quality of the programs. There are four buckets of standards and colleges don’t succeed in any of them,” NCTQ President Kate Walsh said in an interview with Mint Press.
Out of the 1,200 elementary and secondary education programs evaluated, four institutions were able to make the report’s “dean’s list” by receiving four stars. Furman University, Lipscomb University, Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University were awarded four stars for their secondary education programs.
Consumer alerts were given to colleges like Prescott College and University of Colorado-Denver that weren’t able to receive even one star. The alerts were given out to warn prospective students about colleges that are struggling to prepare aspiring teachers for the classroom.
Teacher training programs are a circle of life. The college student works with a school teacher to mentor them in the classroom. Practicum and student teaching creates hands-on learning experiences where the potential teacher can test the waters. Although student teaching is a beneficial experience, concern arises when the mentor isn’t a four-star teacher.
The student emulates the mentor and adjusts to their teaching style, repeating the misguided behavior. This creates a pattern where teachers aren’t improving, whether tenured or new.
Given the right education program and student teaching mentor, any student can become a highly skilled teacher. This is where the institutions come into the scene, not training students on the necessities such as classroom management.
Teacher prep report and controversy
The 2013 Teacher Prep Review Report caused controversy among colleges that took exception to their low ratings. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, a highly renowned school of education, was only given one star for its teacher education program.
“I thought the ratings were unfair and the fact that only four schools got top ratings signals a disconnect.There are multiple ways to be an effective teacher and one ranking can’t address them all.” a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, Carolyn Rucke, told Mint Press.
Rucke, a senior at Wisconsin-Madison, is double majoring in history and broad field social studies. She hopes to become a high school history teacher.
“I feel prepared [to be a teacher] because of the rigorous program [at UW-Madison] and the amount of time I spend in schools.” she said. “I believe you can learn just as much from ‘okay’ teachers as you can from ‘superstar’ teachers.”
The NCTQ’s report focused on two major areas, according to NPR: How colleges prepared their students for their time in the classroom, and whether that preparation time had any correlation with the students’ performance.
Studies show that preparation areas scored the lowest in student teaching and common core elementary content, according to the NCTQ report. These basic skills are the most important, but schools seem to be overlooking them.
In response, numerous training institution representatives have claimed the research was done poorly and inaccurately.
Do they really believe that their school deserved a higher rating or are they trying to cover up a poor rating?
“Our intention was to create a tool for consumers so that they would make different decisions based on the results. Our goal was to steer prospective students into a program with higher ratings. If programs want to have higher ratings, they have to perform better,” Walsh said.
Colleges are not looking deep enough into the problems in their programs. Instead of trying to find where there are mishaps, they are blaming the researchers and studies.
Failing to guide teachers in the right direction
Teaching will always be a highly sought-out career path and a rewarding experience. This doesn’t mean that the job will be an easy one. Teachers are expected to know their material, but they may not know the best way to teach it.
The NCTQ divided their evaluations of the programs into four broad categories: selection criteria, content preparation, professional skills and outcomes.
Selection criteria consists of the programs’ admission requirements. Education majors tend to enter college with the lowest GPAs and graduate with the highest. What does this say for institutions as a whole? It’s a nationwide problem, not just one institution. If colleges want their students to become highly skilled teachers, then they need to raise the standards and set the bar higher.
Content preparation, the second category, looks at the material that is being taught and whether it’s relevant to what children need to know. Studies found that the coursework being taught did not help address the needs of struggling readers. College classes like “kiddie lit” and educational psychology tend to be seen among students as an “easy A.”
This is a major reason teachers are not meeting the needs of children. Most of the time, teachers are handed a curriculum book, but the decision on how to teach it is left in their hands. Teachers can’t be blamed for failing to find the best ways to teach the material.
Professional skills, the third category, includes classroom management and engagement. While most colleges touch on this subject, they don’t dig deep enough on how to fully engage the class. This falls into how the material is taught. If teachers are having a difficult time engaging the class, then surely the students won’t retain the information.
The last and most important criteria is outcomes. This plays a huge role in teacher evaluations. Annual teacher evaluations are not a requirement in many states. Teachers are not aware of mistakes due to lack of guidance.
“The lack of successful teacher evaluations is often a problem, teachers aren’t getting enough guidance on how to improve,” Walsh comments.
They have the right to further their teaching skills and each teacher deserves a proper evaluation.
Educators are tasked with helping build a child’s future. They play one of the most important roles in a child’s life, and we as a society need to make sure they have the resources to improve.
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