CTQ policy consultant Jon Eckert explains why the recent NCTQ rankings of teacher-education programs are misleading.

The below guest post is from Jon Eckert, an Associate Professor of Education at Wheaton College. Jon is a big fan of CTQ’s Collaboratory, a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow alumnus, and a career educator.
I realized how ridiculous things had gotten when my brother, a lawyer in Nashville, texted me yesterday to ask about the National Council on Teacher Quality’s release of ratings of teacher preparation programs that he had read about in his local paper. To help him understand the ratings’ lack of credibility, I reminded him of the 2010 law school rankings, that placed Thomas M. Cooley Law School second only to Harvard Law.

What? Never heard of Thomas M. Cooley Law School? Well, according to the twelfth edition of Judging the Law, based on metrics of their design, Thomas M. Cooley Law School beat out every law school in the country, save Harvard. It just so happened that Judging the Law is a publication of the lightly regarded Cooley Law—in other words, propaganda.

If NCTQ would have followed Cooley Law’s lead to its logical conclusion, its alternative route teacher certification offshoot, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, could have been the Number Two teacher prep program right behind Vanderbilt. ABCTE advertises on its website that you can become a teacher for $1,995.

The NCTQ rankings are deeply flawed and are succinctly and devastatingly critiqued here by Linda Darling-Hammond. Diane Ravitch is similarly concise in exposing NCTQ’s origins and motives here. I wrote a response yesterday comparing the NCTQ ratings to food critics judging a restaurant based on its menu—or in lieu of a menu, whatever they could dream up.

Today, only one day after the release of the rankings, I am done with any discussion of their implications.

Teacher preparation in this country does need to improve, and I want serious discussions with students, parents, educators, researchers, and policymakers about how that can happen.

I want thoughtful and innovative attempts that build on what works and imagine what could be—work that is being done at places like the Center for Teaching Quality in reflective, creative pieces like this one.

I want to study the impact and experiences of the graduates of the teacher preparation program where I am a professor. I am doing this through a mentoring initiative funded by our college. With faculty support, high quality teacher candidates from our program have tracked our graduates since 2010 and developed resources for our teachers and current students—see our team’s student-run site.

I want more. I want data from our state, the U.S. Department of Education, public and private schools where our students and graduates serve around the world, our graduates’ students and the families of their students—data that informs our program and increases the capacity of our teachers.

Until that is possible, I will continue to learn from my students and others who want to have serious conversations about improving outcomes for students through the work of great teachers. Who’s with me?

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