Controversial rankings slam college teacher ed programs

June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM EDT

By Dan Miner, Business First


Controversial rankings slam college teacher ed programs

June 19, 2013 Updated Jun 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM EDT

A much-anticipated but controversial ranking of teacher preparation programs has been unveiled — and local colleges did not fare well.

In fact, not many organizations did.

The National Council on Teacher Quality was highly critical of the teacher education system in the United States, finding "they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms with ever-increasing ethnic and socioeconomic student diversity."

NCTQ uses a ratings system that consists of four stars, and determined that more than 90 percent of the country's colleges earned two stars or lower. SUNY Fredonia's undergraduate education was the only local program to receive even 2.5 stars, while Medaille CollegeNiagara University, SUNY Buffalo State and theUniversity at Buffalo all had programs that garnered a warning symbol (indicated by an exclamation point inside a yellow triangle).

Read the NCTQ report here.

The pushback, from both national and local organizations, has been immediate. Particularly, criticism has been directed at the NCTQ methodology, which relies mainly on examination of college syllabi, program offerings and admissions standards, and does not include any on-site visits, interviews with college officials or students or analysis of test data.

NCTQ's system "does not consider the actually quality of instruction that the programs offer, evidence of what their students learn, or whether graduates can actually teach," wrote Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, in a lengthy takedown of the rankings published in the Washington Post.

Niagara University was one of many private universities which did not participate in the rankings but were nonetheless included. The university published a pre-emptive letter about the NCTQ rankings on its website earlier this month by Debra Colley, dean of Niagara's College of Education.

Colley echoed the general criticisms, that NCTQ focuses on superficial "inputs" rather than the program results, and pointed out Niagara's numerous accreditations, from the New York State Department of Education, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and several Canadian entities.

"We embrace accountability and high standards – standards that are research-based and transparently discussed and debated by the profession," Colley wrote. "Our focus is to prepare teachers in areas such as the Common Core and data-based instruction – working in partnership with P-12 schools to ensure comprehensive clinical practice for beginning teachers and enhanced student learning."

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