Archives for category: Teacher Education

Educators disagree about the value, validity, and reliability of the Pearson EdTPA, which is mandated in many states as the gateway to entering teaching.

Some states have lowered the passing score. Some are wondering whether to abandon it.

The debate occurs at a time when enrollments in teacher education programs have dropped by a third.

While many agree on the importance of high standards for new teachers, it’s by no means clear that the EdTPA encourages better teaching or merely rewards teachers who are good at the demands made by Pearson.


At last! The leaders of 350 teacher education programs have issued a bold statement in collaboration with the National Education Policy Center denouncing attacks on teacher education and market-based “remedies.”

The group calls itself Education Deans for Justice and Equity.

Their efforts contrast with those of a group called “Deans for Impact,” funded in 2015 by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which supports charter schools (such as KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools), Teach for America, Educators for Excellence, New Leaders, TNTP, Conservative Leaders for Education, Teach Plus, Stand for Children, and a long list of other Corporate Reform ventures. Deans for Impact has 24 members. The founder and executive director of Deans for Impact is Benjamin Riley, former director of policy and advocacy at the NewSchools Venture Fund, which is heavily endowed by billionaire foundations to launch charter schools and promote education technology.

The statement of Education Deans for Justice and Equity criticizes such disruption agents as Teach for America (which places inexperienced, unprepared college graduates into challenging urban and rural classrooms), the National Council on Teacher Quality (which pretends to evaluate teacher education programs without having the knowledge or experience to do so and without ever setting foot in the institutions they grade), the Relay “Graduate School of Education” (a program intended to grant master’s degrees to charter teachers that lacks the necessary elements of a graduate institution, such as scholars and research), and Pearson’s EdTPA (which seeks to replace human judgement of prospective teachers with a standardized tool).

Their statement begins:

Teachers are important, as is their preparation. We, Education Deans for Justice and Equity, support efforts to improve both. But improving teaching and teacher education must be part of larger efforts to advance equity in society.

Whether crediting teachers as the single most important factor in student success or blaming and scapegoating them for failing schools that only widen social and economic dispari- ties, many of the stories that circulate about education presume that it’s all about the teacher. Concerned less with the system of education and more with the individual actor, this rhetoric tends to reduce the problem of education to the shortcomings of individuals. The solution correspondingly focuses on incentives and other market-based changes.

Without a doubt, teacher-education programs cannot and should not operate as if all is well, because it is not. Several current efforts to reform teacher education in the United States, however, are making things worse. Although stemming from a wide range of actors (includ- ing the federal government, state governments, and advocacy organizations), these trends share a fundamental flaw: They focus on “thin” equity.

In their recently published book, Reclaiming Accountability in Teacher Education,1 Marilyn Cochran-Smith and colleagues contrast two understandings of equity. “Thin” equity defines the problem as the curtailing of individual rights and liberties, and the resulting solutions focus on equal access and market-based changes. In contrast, “strong” equity defines the problem as the legacies of systemic injustices, and the resulting solutions focus on increas- ing participatory democracy. Because thin-equi ty reforms obscure the legacies of systemic injustices, and instead focus narrowly on student achievement, teacher accountability, re- wards, and punishments, improving teacher education requires moving away from these and toward strong-equity reforms.

Below, we identify seven current trends impacting teacher education (including at many of our institutions) that are grounded in thin-equity understandings. In a number of ways, these approaches lack a sound research basis, and in some instances, they have already proven to widen disparities. Following a discussion of these trends, we present our alternative vision for teacher-education reform.

First, marketizing teacher education. Most teacher education in the United States happens at universities, and with much variability. Nonetheless, the long-touted claim that higher education’s “monopoly” over teacher education results in mediocrity and complacency has resulted in increased competition by way of “alternative” routes—some that meet state stan- dards (and some that do not), and some that involve little to no formal preparation via fast- track programs. These include non-university-based programs like the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence; programs that partner with universities, like Teach For America; and programs that identify as institutions of higher education, like the Relay Grad- uate School of Education. Such faith in the market to drive improvement frames Congress’s recent rewrite of Title II of ESSA, which allows for public funds to support both non-profit and for-profit alternative certification programs and routes. The problem? Merely expand- ing competition without building the capacity of all programs to prepare teachers has led not to improvement, but to widened disparities among students and increased corporate profiteering off of education.

Second, shaming teacher education. The assumption that shaming will spur effort to com- pete is another way to place faith in the market to drive improvement. Such is the approach of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) in its annual Teacher Prep Review, which scores (and, for the most part, gives failing grades to) teacher-education programs using an eight-dimension framework. Since its inception, the vast majority of programs nationwide have opted not to participate and share materials for review, citing NCTQ’s faulty methods of review and the lack of research basis for its framework.

Third, externally regulating teacher education at the federal level. The twice-proposed, Obama-era Teacher Preparation Regulations were never implemented, but their “value-add- ed” logic reverberates in other reforms, including NCTQ’s review and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accreditation. Measurement experts warn that the use of value-added modeling to determine the effectiveness of teachers to raise test scores, and in turn, the effectiveness of programs to prepare teachers to do so, are neither reliable nor statistically valid.

These are three of the seven malign trends they discuss. Open the link to read the statement in full. It is short and won’t take more than five minutes of reading time.

It is very encouraging to see the leaders of teacher education stand up for professionalism and research-based practice, and to take a stand against quackery.

Rob Levine, a Resistance-to-Privatization blogger in Minneapolis, reports here on the failure of the Bush Foundation’s bold “teacher effectiveness” initiative, which cost $45 million. All wasted.

The foundation set bold goals. It did not meet any of them.

Levine writes:

Ten years ago the St Paul-based Bush Foundation embarked on what was at the time its most expensive and ambitious project ever: a 10-year, $45 million effort called the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative (TEI). The advent of the TEI coincided with the implementation of a new operating model at the foundation. Beginning in 2009 it would mostly would run its own programs, focusing on three main areas: .

  • “developing courageous leaders and engaging communities in solving problems”
  • “…supporting the self-determination of Native nations”
  • “…increasing the educational achievement of all students”

Bush foundation president Peter Hutchinson told a news conference that the initiative would “increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go to college.”

The Teacher Effectiveness Initiative was the foundation’s real-world application of its broad educational philosophy. Peter Hutchinson, the foundation’s president at the time, told a news conference announcing the plan that the initiative would “increase by 50 percent the number of students in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota who go to college.” How was this miraculous achievement to be done? By “[enabling] the redesign of teacher-preparation programs” at a range of higher educational institutions where teachers are educated in the three-state area.

The foundation also said that, through “Consistent, effective teaching” it would “close the achievement gap.” It would achieve these goals by “producing 25,000 new, effective teachers by 2018.”

Not only was the Bush Foundation going to do all these things, but they would prove it with metrics. It contracted with an organization called the Value Added Research Center (VARC) to expand its Value Added Model (VAM) to track test scores of students who were taught by teachers graduated from one of its programs. The foundation, which paid VARC more than $2 million for its work, would use those test scores to rate the teachers ‘produced’ – even giving $1,000 bonuses to the programs for each ‘effective’ teacher.

10 years later: Fewer students in college, ‘achievement gap’ unchanged

By just about any measure the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative was a failure. Some of the top-line goals were missed by wide margins. The promise of 50% more college students in the tri-state area over the 10 years of the project? In reality, in Minnesota alone the number of post-secondary students enrolled actually dropped from almost 450,000 in 2009 to 421,000 in 2017 – a decline of about six percent.

Just one more example of the complete and utter failure of the hoax of “reform,” which was always about privatization and union-busting, not improving schools or helping students.



Paul Thomas Taught for nearly 20 years, then became a teacher educator at Furman University in South Carolina. He often writes about the media and its misperceptions of teaching. In this post, he laments the fact that the media is constantly in search of a scapegoat for whatever goes wrong in education.

The latest scapegoat, he writes, is teacher education, and the latest lamentation is that teacher educators fail to teach the “science” of education.

The scapegoating deepened because of Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top. If every child was not 100% proficient, someone must be blamed. First, the outcry was “blame the teacher,” but when VAM backfired, it became blame the teacher educator.


Eric Blanc has covered the wave of teachers’ strikes that started in March 2018. He has been on the ground at everystrike, talking to the rank and file to get their perspectives as working teachers.

In this article, he describes the big lessons of the strike on Los Angeles.

He begins:

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this victory in the country’s second-largest school district. Against considerable odds, Los Angeles teachers have dealt a major blow against the forces of privatization in the city and nationwide. By taking on Democratic politicians in a deep-blue state, LA’s strike will certainly deepen the polarization within the Democratic Party over education reform and austerity. And by demonstrating the power of striking, LA educators have inspired educators nationwide to follow suit.

With new walkouts now looming in Denver, Oakland, Virginia, and beyond, it makes sense to reflect on the reasons why LA’s school workers came out on top—and what their struggle can teach people across the United States. Here are the five main takeaways.

Strikes Work: For decades, workers and the labor movement have been on the losing side of a one-sided class war. A major reason for this is that unions have largely abandoned the weapon of work stoppages, their most powerful point of leverage against employers. Rallies, marches, and civil disobedience are good, but they’re not enough.

Like the red state rebellions of 2018, the depth of the victory in Los Angeles underscores why the future of organized labor depends on reviving the strike. LA also shows that the most powerful strikes, particularly in the public sector, fight not only for the demands of union members, but on behalf of the broader community as well—an approach the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) calls “bargaining for the common good.”

The Status Quo Is Discredited: LA’s educator revolt is a particularly sharp expression of a nationwide rejection of decades of neoliberalism. Unlike many labor actions, this was not primarily a fight around wages—rather it was a political struggle against the billionaires and their proxies in government.

Like the electoral insurgencies of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, the upsurge of Los Angeles rank-and-file teachers, and the overwhelming support they received from the parents of their students, shows that working people are looking for an alternative to business as usual. Work actions like LA’s will be an essential part of any movement capable of defeating Trump and the far right.

That’s only lesson number one and two.

Keep reading to learn the other lessons.

I posted a strong endorsement of Kelda Roys. She is a candidate in the Democratic candidate for Governor of Wisconsin. The leading candidate in the race is Tony Evers, who is currently State Superintendent of Education. Some people think that he would be a strong supporter of education. But, in fact, he has made teachers’ lives worse during his tenure in office. Teachers are deeply demoralized by the combination of Governor Walker and State Chief Evers’ policies.

Read what Tim Slekar wrote about Tony Evers’ record on education. It is very bad, almost as bad as Scott Walker.

From dean of education at Edgewood College and strong public education advocate Tim Slekar.

“Tony Evers has “name recognition.” He can beat Walker. Except…

I know that’s the “theory.” But on his own issue—education—there are serious problems. For me specifically (as dean of a school of education) his Leadership Group’s dismantling and deregulating of teaching licenses because of a refusal to understand the cause of the “teacher shortage” tells me that using sound research to make policy decisions will take a back seat to neoliberal market solutions that actually cause more damage.

Teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Making it easier to enter our classrooms as a “teacher” does nothing to stop the exodus. It actually adds to it by further demoralizing the teachers that are still teaching. And that’s the real reason teachers are leaving. They are demoralized.

Excessive testing, educator effectiveness bunk, continued accountability (reform word for teachers are to blame for the achievement gap), expansion of non-public charter schools, and a top down system that denies teachers professional autonomy. And a Broad Academy Fellow (Privatization) as second in command. These are all issues DPI have significant control over but for some reason remain silent or worse supportive of.

And the candidate to take on Walker will not win without the support of the teaching profession. Assuming teachers will support Tony is rejecting their moral compass. They know Walker is horrible but they are also quite aware of the fact that DPI has left them hanging.

Give me a candidate that understands “demoralization.” That candidate will fire up education voters.”

Tim Slekar is supporting Kelda Roys for the Democratic nomination for Governor. I hope you will too!

State Supreme Court Judge Debra J. Young ruled that Success Academy can’t certify its own teachers. The chain, New York City’s largest, has very high teacher turnover and wanted to bypass the normal standards and certification process to ease its teacher shortage. It gained the approval of the State University of New York charter committee, which consists of four businessmen appointed by pro-charter Governor Andrew Cuomo. The New York State Department of Education and the New York State United Teachers sued to block the lowered standards.

Judge Young rejected Success Academy and the SUNY charter committee.

“The judge’s ruling upends the plans of the city’s largest charter school network, Success Academy, and wipes out a legislative victory that New York’s charter sector thought it had won — though the decision will likely not be the end of the legal battle.

“The regulations, approved by the State University of New York in October 2017, were designed to give charter schools more discretion over how they hired teachers. They eliminated the requirement that teachers earn master’s degrees and allowed charter schools authorized by SUNY to certify their teachers with as little as a month of classroom instruction and 40 hours of practice teaching.

“Some charter networks argued their existing in-house training programs are more useful to new teachers than the training required for certification under state law.

“But the rule was quickly challenged by the State Education Department and the state teachers union, which filed separate lawsuits that were joined in April. They argued that SUNY overstepped its authority and charged that the rule change would lead to children being taught by inexperienced and unqualified teachers…

The ruling was issued Tuesday by State Supreme Court Judge Debra J. Young, who wrote that the new certification programs were illegal because they fell below the minimum requirements issued by the state….

“The state’s top education officials — Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa — have long seemed offended by the new regulations. On a panel last year, Elia said, “I could go into a fast food restaurant and get more training than that.””

SUNY plans to appeal.

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a conservative group created to make professional teacher education look bad. I was on the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation when it was started. It floundered a while, then got a $5 Million Grant from then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige to get its act together. It has done that. Now it is Gates-funded and is a darling of reformers, who yearn to replace the teaching profession with TFA temps and screen time.

Now the NCTQ has made itself the arbiter of “Standards” for teacher education, despite its lack of qualifications. It isssues an annual report for the media, informing them that very very few institutions meet their standards. Some major media take their ratings seriously, never asking who they are and how they have the chutzpah to rate every ed school in the nation, without bothering to visit any campuses. Linda Darling-Hammond described their first report stating that it was like a colllecyion of restaurant reviews based on menus, not on visits and tastings.

The National Education Policy Center reviewed the latest NCTQ report:

BOULDER, CO— The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently released its 2018 Teacher Prep Review. The report examines whether U.S. teacher preparation programs are aligned with NCTQ’s standards. This alignment, the report insists, will produce teachers “not only ready to achieve individual successes, but also [ready] to start a broader movement toward increased student learning and proficiency.”

The NCTQ report regularly garners generally credulous coverage from media outlets, including this year from Education Week and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Marilyn Cochran-Smith of Boston College, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe of Lesley University, Wen-Chia Chang of Boston College, and Molly Cummings Carney of Boston College reviewed the report for NEPC. The reviewers are all members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform), a group of teacher education scholars and practitioners who have been studying U.S. teacher education in the context of larger reform movements since 2014. Their review found the report to have multiple logical, conceptual, and methodological flaws.

The report determines that most teacher preparation programs are not aligned with the NCTQ standards. Accordingly, it finds “severe structural problems with both graduate and alternative route programs that should make anyone considering them cautious.”

However, the report’s rationale includes widely critiqued assumptions about the nature of teaching, learning, and teacher credentials. Its methodology, which employs a highly questionable documents-only evaluation system, is a maze of inconsistencies, ambiguities, and contradictions. Further, the report ignores accumulating evidence that there is little relationship between the NCTQ’s ratings of a program and its graduates’ later classroom performance.
Finally, the report fails to substantively account for broad shifts in the field of teacher education that are nuanced, hybridized, and dynamic. It also exacerbates the dysfunctional dichotomy between university programs and alternative routes. For years now, researchers and analysts have pointed out that this distinction is not very useful, given that there is as much or more variation within these categories as between them. Ultimately, the report offers little guidance for policymakers, practitioners, or the general public.

Find the review, by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, Wen-Chia Chang, and Molly Cummings Carney, at:

Find 2018 Teacher Prep Review, written by Robert Rickenbrode, Graham Drake, Laura Pomerance, and Kate Walsh and published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at:

Mitchell Robinson, a professor of music education at Michigan State University has published an urgent warning about ill-considered legislation that Michigan is considering in an attempt to punish teacher education programs.

Ironically, only days after the conservative journal published an article debunking the idea that teacher education programs should be held accountable for the test scores of the students of their graduates, the GOP-dominated Michigan legislature wants to require teacher education programs to give a “warranty” that their teachers will be effective…or else.

As Professor Robinson points out, the irony in this legislation is that the legislature is simultaneously trying to open additional paths to alternative certification to teachers who have no professional education at all.

Highlights include…

• House Bill 5598: This bill would require all teacher ed faculty to complete 30 hours of subject-specific continuing education per year. “Faculty members must demonstrate completion of these requirements to the satisfaction of MDE”.

Collegiate faculty are typically the persons who provide this instruction, so it is unclear how this continuing education requirement would be implemented, and by whom. Further, collegiate faculty already engage in significant professional development by attending research conferences and other events throughout the year–it is unclear how this requirement would impact those events.

• House Bill 5599: would link teacher ed program approval to the effectiveness of their graduates in the schools by instituting a “warranty” program. While this may sound like a good idea in theory, it equates the process of education to that of a business transaction. A warranty may make sense when one purchases a car, but early career teachers are not commodities, and teacher prep programs are not automobile manufacturers, or car dealerships. Evidence suggest that most teachers who struggle in the classroom do so as a result of a lack of adequate administrative support and mentorship–not inadequate preparation.

Further, the MDE has stats that indicate fewer than 1% of MI teachers receive a rating of “ineffective” each year–suggesting that a “warranty” program like the one here may be a solution in search of a problem.

Finally, while it’s seductive to connect a young teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom to the quality of instruction that novice teacher receives in their undergraduate education program, the connection here is much more complicated and complex than that. Just as K-12 teachers should not be evaluated based on their students’ scores on standardized tests (, teacher educators should not be evaluated based on their students’ effectiveness upon entering the profession. Education is a relationship, not a business transaction–and conflating the two does a disservice to all involved.

• House Bill 5600: requires that all cooperating teachers who agree to work with a student teacher receive a stipend of $1000. Unfortunately, the bill does not mention where these funds would come from, and given the size of most higher education department budgets this requirement poses a significant challenge. For example, the program I teach in produces roughly 30 graduates per year, with a budget of around $3000. This bill would add an additional $30,000 per year to our responsibilities during a time when budgets across our university campuses are shrinking, not expanding. If the legislature wants to provide additional funding to meet this requirement, this would be a wonderful way to recognize the contributions of cooperating teachers. As it currently stands, this is simply another unfunded mandate.

Robinson concludes: If passed, this legislation will only hurry the division of the state’s teacher workforce into two castes–one, a group of hurriedly-prepared and hastily-certified edutourists for the state’s charter and private schools, and an increasingly small and dwindling number of hyper-scrutinized and continuously-monitored graduates of traditional teacher preparation programs. Neither is a pathway leading to a sustainable vision of professional success.

He urges everyone in Michigan to contact their legislators and tell them to oppose this effort to ruin the teaching profession.

Education Next is a conservative journal that can be counted on to support education reform in all its manifestations.

However, today it is releasing a new study finding that the most ineffective way to rate teacher education programs is by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. As we have often said, VAM (value-added measurement), beloved by Arne Duncan, is a sham. The now discredited rule was promulgated by the Obama administration.

Ranking teacher-prep programs on value-added is ineffective

New analysis finds program rankings based on graduates’ value-added scores are largely random

Last year Congress repealed a federal rule that would have required states to rank teacher-preparation programs according to their graduates’ impact on student test scores. Yet twenty-one states and D.C. still choose to rank programs in this way. Can student test performance reliably identify more and less effective teacher-preparation programs? In a new article for Education Next, Paul T. von Hippel of the University of Texas at Austin and Laura Bellows of Duke University find that the answer is usually no.

Differences between programs too small to matter. Von Hippel and Bellows find that the differences between teachers from different preparation programs are typically too small to matter. Having a teacher from a good program rather than an average program will, on average, raise a student’s test scores by 1 percentile point or less.

Program rankings largely random. The errors that states make in estimating differences between programs are often larger than the differences states are trying to estimate. Program rankings are so noisy and error-prone that in many cases states might as well rank programs at random.

High chance of false positives. Even when a program appears to stand out from the pack, in most cases it will be a “false positive”—an ordinary program whose ranking is much higher (or lower) than it deserves. Some states do have one or two programs that are truly extraordinary, but published rankings do a poor job of distinguishing these “true positives” from the false ones.

Consistent results across six states. Using statistical best practices, von Hippel and Bellows found consistent results across six different locations—Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Washington State, and New York City. In every location the true differences between most programs were miniscule, and program rankings consisted mostly of noise. This was true even in states where previous evaluations had suggested larger differences.

When measured in terms of teacher value-added, “the differences between [teacher-preparation] programs are typically too small to matter. And they’re practically impossible to estimate with any reliability,” say von Hippel and Bellows. They consider other ways to monitor program quality and conclude that most are not ready for prime time. But they do endorse reporting the share of a program’s graduates who become teachers and persist in the profession—especially in high-need subjects and high-need schools.

To receive a copy of “Rating Teacher-Preparation Programs: Can value-added make useful distinctions?” please contact Jackie Kerstetter at The article will be available Tuesday, May 8 on and will appear in the Summer 2018 issue of Education Next, available in print on May 24, 2018.

About the Authors: Paul T. von Hippel is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and Laura Bellows is a doctoral student in public policy at Duke University.