Archives for category: National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

In 2013, the National Council on Teacher Quality offered its advice on how to fix Philadelphia’s financially beleaguered public schools. Retired teacher Lisa Haver reviewed its counsel to the city. Haver is a founder of the grass-roots advocacy organization Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.

In this article, Haver wrote:

“”Thank heavens,” you’re thinking. The district is so broke it’s looking for loose change in the corner of desk drawers; thousands of students and teachers whose schools will close forever in June don’t know where they’ll be in September; parents wonder whether their children will have access to a nurse or counselor, or remember what a school librarian is; Harrisburg says don’t call us – we’ll call you.

“What does the Council [NCTQ] recommend that the district do to solve these problems? Crack down on teachers who get too many sick days, don’t deserve collective-bargaining rights, are too hard to fire and waste time getting advanced degrees in their field.”

This is the same organization that recently “rated” the nation’s teacher preparation programs without going to the trouble of visiting the campuses.

Jack Hassard, professor emeritus of science education at Georgia State University, here reviews the ratings of the National Council on Teacher Quality and declares them to be “junk science.” He looks at the Georgia institutions of teacher preparation and finds that the ratings are haphazard, spotty, and inaccurate. The he gathers some of the major critiques by others and concludes that the ratings as a whole are bogus, nothing more than propaganda to undermine teacher preparation and force it into NCTQ’s political framework. He calls the NCTQ ratings an “assault on teacher preparation.”

Professor Hassard taught science education at GSU for 33 years. He notes that 21 institutions offer 269 programs for teacher preparation in Georgia. Of those 269, the NCTQ reviewed 39, not by visiting them but by reading course catalogues and syllabi, which reveal nothing about the quality of the programs. He calls the Georgia ratings “feeble and incompetent.”

The ratings were assembled, writes Hassard, by unqualified reviewers: “We analyzed the make-up of the NCTQ people, and discovered that it represents a “stacked deck.” Only 2.5% of the participants in the review were teacher educators–active professors out there doing teacher education. The NCTQ was stacked with corporate executives, foundation executives, and employees of NCTQ. It was far from representing the field of teacher education.”

He adds: “The “methods” used include sources including: syllabi (when they can get them), textbooks, catalogs, handbooks, evaluation forms. We show that the NCTQ report on teacher preparation is junk science. The method that they employed in their study avoided data from the very sources that could help uncover the nature of teacher preparation. These sources are faculty, administrators, students, and cooperating school districts and educators. Without interviewing and observing teacher preparation programs directly, and without establishing a cooperative relationship with the these institutions, the NCTQ condemns itself to false claims, outright opinions that have little bearing on the nature of teacher preparation.”

Katherine Crawford-Garrett, a literacy professor at the University of New Mexico,wrote on this blog about how the rating system used by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) affected her own ability to assign readings; her dean warned her that her syllabus might offend them. After her post appeared, it was criticized by Arthur McKee, who directed the NCTQ review of teacher preparation institutions. He ridiculed Crawford-Garrett for ignoring “the science of reading.”

This is Crawford-Garrett’s response to McKee.

Dear Dr. McKee,

I just read your response to the blog entry I posted on Diane Ravitch’s website earlier this week. I interpret your response to mean that you are, perhaps, paying attention to the onslaught of critique your organization is receiving.

I decided to reply in the interest of exposing yet another layer of inaccuracies put forth by NCTQ about the teaching of reading.

I wonder, Dr. McKee, what you are actually referring to when you mention “the science of reading”? I suspect it has something to do with the National Reading Panel (NRP) report, which was released over a decade ago, relied on an extremely limited number of studies to substantiate its claims, has been critiqued widely and led directly to the Reading First debacle during the George W. Bush administration. I have spent countless hours in kindergarten classrooms in urban Philadelphia that rely on the “scientific approach” to reading instruction recommended by the NRP. In most of these classrooms there were no children’s books but plenty of phonics workbooks featuring decodable texts. Are these children learning to decode? Maybe. They were certainly learning to sit still and be quiet and also learning that reading had no relevance to their lives. This is injustice, Mr. McKee. I have never seen a kindergarten class in a wealthy area employ this “scientific approach” to reading instruction. Not once.

I also wonder, Dr. McKee, whether you make it a point to read any of the top journals in the field of reading research including Reading Research Quarterly or the Journal of Literacy Research? Or whether you have read the policy statement issued by the Literacy Research Association that deems NCTQ’s textbook list “damaging to teachers and children”? There is a wealth of peer-reviewed research in my field, Dr. McKee. As an expert in that field, I am quite familiar with it. I suggest if you are going to continue to make pronouncements about the “best ways to teach reading” that you familiarize yourself with it as well.

Before becoming a literacy professor, I taught at an innovative, arts-focused charter school in Washington, DC. We consistently had some of the highest literacy scores in the city, and we did it all without relying on corporate, scripted programs to teach our students to read. Instead, we read real books and wrote real documents that were often sent to public officials or used in other authentic capacities. This is high-stakes accountability in the field of literacy- when reading and writing matters in the world.

Now, I know one of your primary concerns, Dr. McKee is whether I teach phonics in my reading methods class. I assure you that I do (it’s even featured quite prominently on my syllabus). Code-breaking is a fundamental aspect of learning to read. However, these skills mean very little outside a framework of meaning-making. If students don’t have a purpose for decoding a text, then why on earth would they do it?

Contrary to the claim you make on your blog, I do teach vocabulary and fluency in my classes- they just happen not to be listed as headings on my syllabus partly because it feels artificial to separate them out from other parts of the reading process.

This is the fundamental flaw in your organization, Dr. McKee. You make assumptions based on a piece of paper. You have not seen my classroom and you do not know about the opportunities and challenges we face in New Mexico or how literacy operates in a culturally and linguistically diverse community. The primary assignment in my reading class – the class NCTQ deemed “unacceptable” – requires students to study a child’s literacy practices through extensive observation, multifaceted assessments and consultation with their cooperating teachers. They then design an instructional plan to improve that child’s reading abilities. Students have reported to me time and again how helpful and generative this assignment is. But perhaps I should replace it with “quizzes” to increase the “rigor” of my class as your organization suggests.

I may not win this battle, Dr. McKee, but I’m not going to stop fighting it. I will continue to do everything I can to protest my institution’s involvement with your organization. In the meantime, please feel free to visit my classroom. I have a feeling you might learn something.

Sincerely,

Katherine Crawford-Garrett

Ed Fuller, a professor of education policy at Pennsylvania State University, analyzes the many flaws of the NCTQ rankings of teacher education programs. His is the most thorough and devastating critique of these ratings. He strips them of any legitimacy.

Read his blog here.

Read his full critique in the Journal of Teacher Education here.

What’s wrong with the NCTQ report: says Fuller, almost everything. The methodology, the research base, the lack of evidence supporting the standards, the focus on inputs rather than performance, and much more.

Katherine Crawford-Garrett, a professor of literacy at the University of New Mexico, found out recently just how powerful the National Council on Teacher Quality is. As a professor in a university, she thought she was free to assign the books of her own choosing. that’s academic freedom, right? As she describes below, she was recently summoned to the dean’s office to hear a critique about her reading list. How dare she assign books that were not approved by NCTQ? When I read her account, I was reminded of a speech I gave last spring to the AACTE (American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education). I described the NCTQ ranking system, in which the scores of teacher-preparation institutions were based on a review of course catalogues and reading lists. The highest rankings went to the institutions that taught phonics and that had courses to prepare teachers for the Common Core. I advised those present tat they should review their course catalogues and insert those two phrases generously throughout their offerings: “Common Core” and “phonics.” Voila! Their rankings will automatically rise.

Professor Crawford-Garrett writes:

“Last year, I published a book about Teach for America corps members attempting to work for social change in the midst of an autocratic school reform environment. A primary theme of the book concerns the ways in which these young teachers, widely recruited for the intellectual and problem-solving capacities, were subsequently treated as automatons required to read scripts, enforce draconian disciplinary systems and deliver instruction without ever questioning whether it was working and, if so, for whom. I sympathized with these tensions but my role as an instructor at a prestigious university precluded me from experiencing any true sense of empathy. From my privileged position in higher education, I could plan engaging curriculum, select texts that I found salient and compelling and pose questions or suggest inquiries that pushed students’ understandings in new directions.

“I was immune. I was protected. In the world of public schooling, academia seemed the last stronghold of creativity and freedom.

“On a recent afternoon, I was summoned to the dean’s office of my college (situated within a large public university in the Southwest) and asked to account for a reading syllabus I had created. Our university is in the midst of being evaluated by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), the highly suspect political organization widely known for having an agenda aimed at dismantling colleges of education nationwide.

My syllabus was deemed unacceptable for a number of reasons. 1) I did not explicitly mention the words “fluency” or “vocabulary” 2) I did not have my students take a final exam and 3) I did not use a textbook listed on the NCTQ “approved” book list. During the meeting I was told to “fix” my syllabus and to add one of the textbooks NCTQ deems appropriate. These books have titles like “Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties” and “Teaching Struggling and At-Risk Readers: A Direct Instruction Approach” which suggest that teaching someone to read is simply a matter of “remediating” her/his deficiencies with neutral, skills-based instruction. Not surprisingly, this mirrors the approach to reading instruction currently at place in schools across the U.S., which remains highly unsuccessful in producing literate students capable of participating in a democratic society.

“None of the books on diversity, social justice or even writing instruction were marked as relevant. Nor were any of the books written by the most prominent scholars in the field of literacy including Peter Johnston, Richard Allington or JoBeth Allen. The book I currently use in my course entitled “Reading to Live: Teaching Reading for Today’s World” by Lorraine Wilson is listed as “not acceptable” even as a supplemental text. And while it provides a useful framework for thinking about literacy instruction, countless instructional strategies for early reading, and a focus on making-meaning, I may have to remove it from syllabus in order to receive “points” from NCTQ.

“This is what teaching and teacher education is becoming: a system that demands compliance and obedience at the expense of rigor and creativity. Unfortunately, my college has not followed other public institutions like the University of Wisconsin-Madison or the University of Indiana in taking a stand against NCTQ’s sham of an evaluation. In fact, when a colleague of mine attempted to initiate a discussion about our college’s willing participation with NCTQ, she was censured for using our faculty listserv inappropriately and informed that we could use it only to communicate about logistics.

“What logistics could be more critical than the fate of our college?

“In attempting to be a truly reflective practitioner open to considering alternative perspectives, I dedicated some time to exploring NCTQ’s website and, in particular, the sample reading syllabi posted as “exemplars.” One of the examples, which came from Gordon College, focused entirely on phonics and phonemic awareness, provided no framework for defining literacy, did not touch on issues of diversity and did not include any engagement with children’s literature. These are the kinds of approaches to teacher education that reduce teaching to a technical skill and undermine autonomy and professionalism. Moreover, while NCTQ docked my syllabus for not mentioning vocabulary or fluency (which affected the score of our entire institution), their sample syllabus did not mention these terms either.

“While I would never claim to be a perfect instructor, I am a professional with nearly 10 years of experience teaching literacy to students in Boston and Washington, DC. The majority of students in my 4th and 5th grade classroom struggled with some aspect of reading. Many had been identified as needing special education services. About half of my students were English Language Learners and recent immigrants fleeing civil unrest in places like El Salvador and Sierra Leone. Some of my students were non-readers when they arrived in my classroom, having aptly “faked” it through other grades. Others hated to read and saw no use value for their lives. Through meaningful instruction on compelling topics relevant to my lived experiences like the legacy of the civil rights Movement in Washington, DC and the types of pollution affecting our local watershed, every student in my class made significant gains in reading. Moreover, every year our classroom became a community of readers. I watched students share books, discuss literature in sophisticated and nuanced ways, and request to stay in for recess to savor the last few pages of a favorite novel.

“Since finishing my doctoral degree in literacy, I have taught reading and writing methods courses at three institutions. Interestingly, most of my undergraduate students came of age during No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and many of them admit to hating reading (or at the very least, tolerating it), even as they prepare to become teachers. Many do not consider themselves to be capable readers. Thus, part of my course inevitably hinges upon showing them that reading instruction can be substantially different than what they experienced as students. Thus, children’s literature figures prominently into my instruction as does authentic inquiry, curriculum planning and other experiences aimed at revealing the relevance of literacy to our daily lives.
My students are often surprised when we begin my course reading an excerpt by Paulo Freire (NCTQ didn’t even bother to include his book on their list). They expect a course, perhaps, that conceives of literacy as a “thing” that can be neutrally passed from one person to another. But by the end of the semester, they get it: Literacy is contextual, cultural and political. It has everything to do with power. If it didn’t, NCTQ wouldn’t bother creating a list of what we can and cannot read.

“These are dark times indeed.”

With the release of the NCTQ ratings of teacher preparation programs, this is a propitious time to review its origins.

It was created by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. It floundered, then was rescued by a grant of $5 million from Secretary of Education Rod Paige in the early days of the Bush administration. It is not a research organization. It is an advocacy organization.

Its judgments about Ed schools rely heavily on course catalogues and reading lists, not site visits. Its criteria for success include evidence of teaching phonics and preparing to teach the Common Core. If Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones are preparing to teach in a state that did not adopt the Common Core, why should they be prepared to teach it?

When I spoke to the AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education), I advised them to insert the words “Common Core” and “phonics” liberally in their catalogues. The key to higher ratings.

Mercedes Schneider wants to give you a heads-up about the NCTQ scorecard, and she does it here.

Learn about the organization and its board in this post.

As she concludes:

“NCTQ remains a well-funded, well-advertised, corporate-reform-promoting facade. Its bogus teacher training program ratings will appear in Mortimer Zuckerman’s US News and World Report, complete with search engine headed with this statement:

“Becoming a successful teacher requires good training.

“The height of hypocrisy for an organization replete with TFA influence.”

What a mess in Connecticut!

Robert A. Frahm writes in the Connecticut Mirror about how teachers and principals are struggling with the state’s test-based evaluation system. Teachers waste time setting paperwork goals that are low enough to make statistical “gains.” If they don’t, they may be rated ineffective.

Every principal spends hours observing teachers—one hour each time—taking copious notes, then spending hours writing up the observations.

Connecticut, one of the two or three top scoring states in the nation on NAEP (the others are Massachusetts and New Jersey), is drowning its schools and educators in mandates and paperwork.

Why? Race to the Top says it is absolutely necessary. Connecticut didn’t win Race to the Top funding, but the state is doing what Arne Duncan believes in. Stefan Pryor, the state commissioner, loves evaluating by test scores, but that’s no surprise because he was never a teacher; he is a law school graduate and co-founder of a “no excuses” charter school chain in Connecticut that is devoted to test scores at all times. The charter chain he founded is known for its high suspension rate, its high scores, and its limited enrollment of English learners.

Researchers have shown again and again that test-based accountability is flawed, inaccurate, unstable. It doesn’t work in theory, and it has not worked in five years of experience.

The article quotes the conservative advocacy group, National Council for Teacher Quality, which applauds this discredited methodology. NCTQ is neither an accrediting body nor a research organization.

Our nation’s leading scholars and scholarly organizations have criticized test-based accountability.

In 2010, some of the nation’s most highly accomplished scholars in testing, including Robert Linn, Eva Baker, Richard Shavelson, and Lorrie Shepard, spoke out against the misuse of test scores to judge teacher quality.

The American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education issued a joint statement warning about VAM.

Many noted scholars, like Edward Haertel, Linda Darling Hammond, and David Berliner, have warned about the lack of “science” behind VAM.

The highly esteemed National Research Council issued a report warning that test-based accountability had not succeeded and was unlikely to succeed. Marc Tucker recently described the failure of test-based accountability.

But the carefully researched views of our nation’s leading scholars were tossed aside by Arne Duncan, the Gates Foundation, and the phalanx of rightwing groups that support their agenda of demoralizing teachers, clearing out those who are veterans, and turning teaching into a short-time temp job.

The article cites New Haven as an example:

“Four years ago, New Haven schools won national attention when the district and the teachers’ union developed an evaluation system that uses test results as a factor in rating teachers. Since then, dozens of teachers have resigned or been dismissed as a result of the evaluations. Last year, 20 teachers, about 1 percent of the workforce, left the district after receiving poor evaluations.”

Four years later, can anyone say that New Haven is now the best district in Connecticut? Has the achievement gap closed? Time for another investigative report.

Once again, we are treated to a New York Times editorial on education that is a mix of good and bad.

Bottom line: The Times blames teachers for the U.S. scores on PISA. And once again, the Times assumes that the scores of 15-year-olds on a standardized test predict the future of our economy, for which there is no evidence at all.

On the good side, the Times recognizes that entry standards into teaching in this country are far too low. In many states, a college graduate may become a teacher with no professional training or with an online degree or with only five weeks of training (TFA). That is not what the much-admired nations cited by the Times do.

On the good side, the Times notes that Finland has extensive social services for children in its schools. Entry into teacher education programs in Finland is rigorous. Teacher education is a five-year program.

On the bad side, the Times fails to mention that state after state is busily dismantling the teaching profession by eliminating collective bargaining (which Finland has); teacher tenure; salary increments for masters’ degrees; and actively discouraging and demoralizing experienced teachers. To call for an improved teaching profession, as the editorial does, while demonstrating total indifference to the widespread attacks on the teaching profession shows an astonishing ignorance of the political realities on the ground.

On the bad side, the Times never acknowledges that Finland has NO standardized testing until the end of high school.

On the bad side, the Times never notes that nearly one-quarter of children in the U.S. live in poverty, as compared to fewer than 5% in Finland. The editorial completely ignores poverty as a cause of low academic performance.

On the bad side, the Times cites the NCTQ as if its review of course syllabi and reading lists made it a credible research organization, which it is not.

On the bad side, the Times assumes that Shanghai has included all the migrant children in its schools and in its PISA testing, when Tom Loveless has demonstrated that this is an aspiration for 2020, not a reality.

Here is Tom Loveless’s comment on the New York Times‘ gushing praise for Shanghai: “dumb and dumber.”

Here are some tweets from this morning:

  1. @chingos Draws causal conclusions from X-sectional data. And praises Shanghai for equitable migrant ed. Dumb and dumber.

  2. @pasi_sahlberg @nytimes NYT draws causal conclusions from X-sectional data. Praises Shanghai for equitable migrant ed. Dumb and dumber.

  3. @NeeravKingsland @nytimes Bold isn’t the right word. Too bad NYT didn’t do some reporting before it editorialized.

    •  More
  4. Amazingly uninformed! NY Times praises Shanghai for equity in migrant education. Why Other Countries Teach Better

According to the Providence Journal, Rhode Island won plaudits from the National Council on Teacher Quality. The newspaper, which is notorious for its inattention to background, describes NCTQ as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy group.”

This is not accurate. As I have described on this blog in detail, NCTQ was created in 2000 by the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Foundation at a time when I was a member of the board. It was created specifically to harass teacher-education institutions and to advance an agenda in which untrained teachers could win certification by passing a test.

As I explained in this post, NCTQ floundered about, seeking a strategy and was rescued in 2001 when George W. Bush’s secretary of education Rod Paige gave NCTQ an unrestricted grant of $5 million to keep it alive. The teacher test it created, called the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, eventually was turned over to another company that sells online certification for only $1995.00. Is that a high-quality way to prepare teachers for the nation’s children?

The board of NCTQ is dominated by corporate reformers. It may have members from both parties, but it is certainly NOT non-partisan. It is hostile to teacher education and infatuated with the idea that test scores are both the measure and the outcome of education.

Mercedes Schneider analyzed the board and the political agenda of NCTQ at great length on her blog; her posts have been widely reposted.

Its recent, widely heralded report on the nation’s schools of education–which found all but four to be inadequate–was based on a review of their reading lists and syllabi, not on actual visits to the campuses. This was supposed to show the power of “Big Data,” that is, making judgments without any personal interactions, but it really demonstrated that the NCTQ review was a hit job on teacher education. I always have been a tough critic of teacher education, but I also believe that you can’t grade an institution without ever setting foot in its buildings or interviewing its professors and students.

The Providence Journal should have done a few minutes of research on the Internet before lauding the findings of the NCTQ report on Rhode Island. What they have done here is journalism by press release. That’s not journalism. That’s lazy.

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