The Curious Duplicity of NCTQ

NCTQ fashions itself as a leading think tank on promoting teacher quality in K-12 education. NCTQ adopts a relatively extreme position that teacher quality is the one and only thing that matters! Teacher quality is THE determining factor of school quality.

I also believe that teacher quality is very important. I also agree with NCTQ on the point that content knowledge, at the middle and secondary levels especially, is particularly important and that simply being listed as “qualified” to teach specific content is no guarantee.

As part of their effort to improve teacher quality, NCTQ has been going around doing “studies” and applying ratings to the quality of teacher preparation institutions. Now, I noted on my previous post that NCTQ and others may actually be missing the boat on who is actually preparing teachers. But lets set that aside for a moment. One would think that if NCTQ is so interested in teacher quality as the primary determinant of school quality and student success, and teacher expertise as an important part of that equation at higher grade levels, that any analysis of the quality of undergraduate or graduate programs to train teachers would have to place significant emphasis on faculty quality and expertise? right? It would make little sense to simply review which textbooks are used or what the course descriptions say, or what the curricular sequence happens to be? Right?

Out of a multitude of indicators on teacher preparation institutions, NCTQ includes only 1 – yes 1 – regarding faculty quality, which is described as follows:

In our evaluation of programs, we examined teaching responsibilities for all faculty members, as indicated by course assignments in course schedules, excluding all clinical coursework. We looked for two specific examples of inappropriate assignments: 1) an instructor teaching across the areas of foundations of education, methods and educational psychology; and/or 2) an instructor who teaches both reading and mathematics methods courses. Other inappropriate assignments may well be made but were not included in our review.

Yep, that’s it. All that they address is whether a faculty member appears to teach across two areas that no faculty member, in their view, could be sufficiently prepared to teach. The rest is based largely on textbooks chosen, syllabi and course descriptions, regardless of faculty expertise. Clearly this was a matter of data convenience. It’s hard to figure out whether individual faculty members truly possess expertise in their fields, short of evaluating their individual academic backgrounds, research and writing on the topic.

But it is absurd for an organization that believes teacher quality in K-12 education paramount, and content expertise critical, to ignore outright faculty expertise in their evaluations of teacher preparation institutions.

Here’s their FAQ on the long-term project of evaluating teacher preparation programs:

Related reading (actual research):

Wolf-Wendel, L, Baker, B.D., Twombly, S., Tollefson, N., & Mahlios, M. (2006) Who’s Teaching the Teachers? Evidence from the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty and Survey of Earned
Doctorates. American Journal of Education 112 (2) 273-300