Peter Greene brings his sharp scalpel to the latest “research” by the National Council for Teacher Quality. This is the group created in 2000 by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation with the purpose of bringing down teacher education. As I wrote in an earlier post, NCTQ was sustained at the outset by a $5 million grant from Secretary of Education Rod Paige, when it had not yet figured out a way to destroy traditional teacher education programs.


Now NCTQ has issued a new “report,” claiming that it knows exactly what makes for successful teaching.


Greene writes:



The National Council on Teacher Quality is one of the great mysteries of the education biz. They have no particular credentials and are truly the laziest “researchers” on the planet, but I think I may have cracked the code. Let me show you their latest piece of “research,” and then we can talk about how they really work.


Their new report– “Learning about Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs To Know” (which is a curious title– do other teachers NOT need to know these things?)– is yet another NCTQ indictment of current teacher education programs. The broad stroke of their finding is that teacher education programs are not teaching the proven strategies that work in education.


That’s the broad stroke. As always with NCTQ, the devil is in the details. After all, that sounds like a huge research undertaking. First, you would have to identify teaching strategies that are clearly and widely supported by all manner of research. Then you would have to carefully examine a whooooooole lot of teacher education programs– college visits, professor and student interviews, sit in classes, extensive study of syllabi– it would be a huge undertaking.


Or you could just flip through a bunch of educational methods textbooks.


What Every Teacher Needs To Know


First, NCTQ had to select those methods that “every new teacher needs to know.” Here’s the methodology for that piece of research-based heavy lifting:


In Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning: A Practice Guide, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, identified proven practices that promote learning for all students, regardless of grade or subject, and that are especially potent with struggling students. Six practices stand out for the research behind them. There is little debate among scholars about the effectiveness of these six strategies.


Here are a few things to know about Organizing Instruction and Study To Improve Student Learning.


It was published in September of 2007. It was produced under a USED- IES contract with Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, a policy data-analysis business. It opens with a disclaimer that includes this:


The opinions and positions expressed in this practice guide are the authors’ and do not necessarily represent the opinions and positions of the Institute of Education Sciences or the U.S. Department of Education.


The IES paper does, in fact, appear to be a group of researchers checking to see how much research basis there is for seven ideas that they think will help teaching subjects “that demand a great deal of content learning, including social studies, science, and mathematics.” So, not actually “all subjects and grades” as NCTQ says. And they are based around a memory-based model of education.


More importantly, the IES paper rates the seven approaches according to strength of the research to support them. Four of the seven are rated “moderate,” two are rated “low,” and the seventh is rated “strong”.


NCTQ then peruses methods textbooks to see if they actually teach the methods identified in the 2007 paper. They also looked at course syllabi. NCTQ assumes that the 2007 represents the latest and best research. They do no research themselves. They don’t actually visit any ed schools or talk to any faculty. Based on the textbooks and course syllabi reviewed, they once again decide that teacher education is failing.


These are the great minds that publish ratings of education schools every year in US News & World Report.


Greene writes:


NCTQ depends on the reluctance of people to read past the lede. For this piece, for instance, anybody who bothered to go read the old IES paper that supposedly establishes these as “bedrock” techniques would see that the IES does no such thing. Anyone who read into the NCTQ “research” on teacher program difficulty would see it was based on reading commencement programs. The college president I spoke to was so very frustrated because anybody who walked onto her campus could see that the program NCTQ gave a low ranking was a program that did not actually exist.


But NCTQ specializes in headline research– generate an eye-catching pro-reform headline and hope that if you follow it with a bunch of words, folks will just say, “Well, there’s a lot of words there, so they must have a real research basis for what they’re saying.”


So, sixteen years later, NCTQ has fulfilled the purpose of its founding: It has become a giant wrecking ball aimed at traditional teacher education programs. What will come in their wake? Relay “Graduate” School of Education? Match “Graduate” School of Education? Places where there are no scholars, no research, just charter teachers teaching future charter teachers the tricks for raising test scores.