Bad Teacher Education Is To Blame, NCTQ Study Concludes

07/21/2011 05:33 pm ET | Updated Sep 20, 2011

The problem with the education system may be a trickle down effect.

Three-quarters of teacher education programs nationwide were ranked “weak” or “poor” in new study released from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

According to the report released Thursday, most schools provide an inefficient student teaching component -- the capstone portion of any educator's education: actual classroom experience. Teaching candidates are paired with an experienced mentor within a participating school district and given 10 weeks to teach a class. At the end potential teachers receive a pass-fail grade. If found satisfactory, they continue toward certification.

Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education, explained her feelings to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"The tradition has been that people believe that if you just get student teachers out there in classrooms for 10 weeks, they'll get experience and they'll learn what to do," Ball told the Chronicle of Higher Ed. "But if that were true, then we would have an amazingly skilled teaching population."

What's the problem?

According to the NCTQ's standards, an effective mentor must have 3 qualities: experience, instructional effectiveness and mentoring ability. Out of the 134 programs reviewed, only 3 in 25 were up to par.

The NCTQ report also criticized the role of school principals in the student teaching process, noting that candidates were often shuffled into whatever classroom happened to be convenient. Of those studied, 54 percent had no criteria when pairing potential teachers with mentors.

Furman University in Greenville, SC was one of only 10 schools to receive a “model” rating.

“The student-teaching experience keeps people going—or not," Nelly Hecker, director of teacher education at Furman, told Education Week. "A horrible student-teaching experience is not going to motivate a young person to stay in the field, so the role of the cooperating teacher is very important.”

The report also argues that schools are flooding the market with too many candidates, especially at the elementary school level, resulting in a worse experience all around.

A number of poorly rated schools have expressed their disapproval with the study, The Chronicle reports. Institutions argue that research methods were never explained, and others claim that they felt coerced into participation at the risk of receiving a bad ranking. Some schools refused to participate but were included the the NCTQ's use of public records.

The NCTQ gave its defense of the practice in the study itself.

"It is the responsibility of any publicly approved teacher-preparation program, whether located in a public or a private institution, to be transparent and responsive," the report reads.

NCTQ President Kate Walsh told The New York Times that while many would consider student teaching critical to teacher training, standards in the practice are lacking.

"The basic accrediting body doesn’t even have a standard for how long a student teacher needs to be in the classroom," Walsh told The Times. "And most of the institutions we reviewed do not do enough to screen the quality of the cooperating teacher the student will work with.”

The school rankings will be used to determine letter grades that will appear in U.S. News and World Report.

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