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

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.

Mercedes Schneider argues that corporate reform is driven by ideology and greed, not evidence or the pursuit of better education.

She looks at the recent NCTQ report, which had no evidence for its large claims, and at vouchers and course choice in Louisiana. Vouchers have failed, but their champions won’t admit it. Course choice is ll about dollars, nothing more.

Without big money on offer, she writes, corporate reform would disappear: “If there were no six-figure salaries to accompany their ideological push, the likes of John White would be out of the door.”

Tim Slekar is a teacher educator and a fearless firebrand, known for his work @the chalkface and for some very pointed videos. He recently became dean of teacher education at a college in the Midwest. His college president asked for his opinion of the recent report of the National Council on Teacher Quality, which lacerated teacher education in America by reviewing course catalogues and reading lists, not by personal campus visits.

Tim gave the president his candid opinion. Read what happened. It will surprise you.

Mercedes Schneider here reviews the controversial NCTQ report.

Having reviewed the members of the board, she concludes that NCTQ is uniquely unqualified to pass judgement on the nation’s colleges of education.

NCTQ is not a research organization. It is not a think tank. It is not a professional organization. It is an advocacy group and few of its board members have ever taught or have any direct knowledge of teaching or teacher preparation.

Ed Fuller has been conducting research on education policies in Texas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere for many years. His published work is careful and peer-reviewed.

Here he analyzes the recent report of the National Council on Teacher Quality and finds it woefully weak. To begin with, it looked only at inputs (catalogs and syllabi), not outputs like whether teachers got jobs as teachers and how long they remained in the profession. He is critical of their research methods.

And he notes that they did not review any of the alternative certification programs that are producing significant numbers of new teachers. The failure to include non-traditional routes is significant. Not even Teach for America or the proliferating online teacher prep programs were studied. Wonder why.

Please remember that NCTQ is not a think tank. It is an advocacy group.

A teacher responds to the rankings by the NCTQ:

Ok. I have a degree in accounting. I was an accountant for 15 years. I switched to teaching in 2008 and was thoroughly shocked that teaching was so different than I imagined and also that it was so difficult. When I was an accountant, I remembered thinking that getting off at 4pm sounded like a dream since I worked until 6pm as a general rule. However, on the first day of being an instructional assistant I looked up at the clock at 3pm and wondered how it could only be 3pm. I was exhausted. Teachers have no down time. I was lucky to get to use the restroom let alone have a real lunch. Since then, I have acknowledged that I am just “on” from 7:30am until 4:00pm. There isn’t any leisurely talk at the coffee pot, or walk around the building to wake up, or even personal phone calls to set an appointment. There isn’t any “zoning out” at your desk like so many other professionals do. It is exhausting. I love working with the kids and teaching gives me so much more than I ever thought that it would, but it is VERY different than the non-teaching public will understand. My first year was a wake-up call. I wouldn’t go through that again for anything and I went through Indiana University (one of the schools that made decent marks in this sham of a study).

This teacher-to-be read the report of the National Council on Teacher Quality on teacher preparation and was disappointed to realize that its research methodology was so flawed.

Here is her insightful comment:

As a current teacher candidate in an initial certification program I was very, very concerned with the NCTQ’s report. My institution was among the 90% of colleges and universities that did not participate in the study and after reading the report I can clearly see why. Curious to see what research method was used to conclude that most of the schools are failing in their programs; I sought out their methodology and was very dismayed with what I found. After reading the methodology NCTQ clearly did not complete its research to make the resulting report quantified. I say that because where are the teacher candidate surveys, observations, interviews, faculty interviews, teacher placement data and subsequent student achievement data? No information was given on the thoughts, opinions, and achievement of both pre-service and in-service teachers after year one, year two, etc.

None of this information was retrieved yet NCTQ published a report that says teacher preparation programs are ineffective. As I can see, they made no visits to any schools for qualitative data yet clearly deduced that universities are failing in their teacher preparation. I found the report to be slanted, horribly incomplete, totally inconclusive from the data gathered and very detrimental to the teaching field. I can only hope the public is critical enough to read the report which in itself will reveal its lack of validity.

Aaron Pallas is a sociologist at Teachers College, Columbia University, who is one of our nation’s best scholars of education. He is quick to spot Bunkum.

He said this about the report on teacher preparation programs by NCTQ:

“To be sure, few of us relish being put under the microscope. But it’s another matter entirely to be seen via a funhouse mirror. My institution, Teachers College at Columbia University, didn’t receive a summary rating of zero to four stars in the report, but the NCTQ website does rate some features of our teacher-prep programs. I was very gratified to see that our undergraduate elementary and secondary teacher-education programs received four out of four stars for student selectivity. Those programs are really tough to get into—nobody gets admitted. And that’s not hyperbole; the programs don’t exist.

“That’s one of the dangers of rating academic programs based solely on documents such as websites and course syllabi. You might miss something important—like “Does this program exist?”

Pallas noted that the Washington Post published an editorial praising the report. He commented: “I look forward to the Post instructing their restaurant reviewer, Tom Sietsema, to rate restaurants based on their online menus rather than several in-person visits to taste the food.”


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