Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No grade inflation here: U.S. teacher education programs get mostly failing grades; Oregon university joins the Wall of Shame

A sure-to-be controversial report says that teacher education programs at U.S. universities operate in "an industry of mediocrity" that spits out graduates who are unprepared to teach in elementary and secondary schools.

The study uses a 4-star system. Oregon universities are certainly not in the top-tier. While the study puts it more delicately, the exclamation marks mean that the school's teacher education program is worthless (or even worse, does more harm than good).

The report, "Teacher Prep Review," (pdf) says the findings are part of an effort to rate the quality of programs at 1,130 institutions nationwide that account for about 99 percent of the nation's traditionally trained teachers. The report is the product of a partnership between the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report.

Look out for "learning styles"

The report seems to have one particular ax to grind. That's the notion that teachers should vary their instruction to accomodate various student "learning styles."

[O]ne element of consistency does emerge: the direction to teacher candidates to plan for instruction that considers students’ “learning styles.” Unfortunately, this recommendation has been thoroughly discredited by research as ineffectual26 and distracts the candidate from more productive planning considerations. Nonetheless, the "pseudo science" that learning styles be considered in planning lessons is advocated by three- fourths (74 percent) of programs. [emphasis in the original]

A mere coincidence?

I remember reading a week or so ago that Willamette University announced that it was shutting down its teacher education program. University President Steve Thorsett, said the Board of Trustees' decision was based in large part on a state and national trend in licensing and accreditation that has "pushed programs towards greater standardization and uniformity, and reduced the value the market places on distinctiveness or even program quality."

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if they knew something about the NCTQ Report and shut down the program in order to stay out of the report. Just wondering ...

Is there something to hide?

After a review of this publicly posted material, the researchers asked the institutions for materials such as syllabi for particular courses, information on graduate and employer surveys, and material related to student teaching placements.

The researchers submitted a public records request to institutions that did not volunteer the information. The researchers note, "However, 162 institutions demanded excessive, sometimes even exorbitant, sums for reimbursement." In many of those cases, the initial charge was reduced to $400 or less. Nevertheless, 42 institutions never reduced their quoted fees to an amount less than $400. The researchers make a point of calling out these intransigent institutions on a "Wall of Shame" in their methodology section.

It was somewhat disappointing to see The Largest University in Oregon listed on the Wall of Shame.  Seem odd that all the other public universities in Oregon could satisfy the request. You'd think they were all in the same system.  Just wondering ...