The Glaring Hypocrisy of the NCTQ Teacher Prep Institution Ratings

Posted on June 18, 2013

I’ve already written about this topic in the past.

But, given that NCTQ has just come out with their really, really big new ratings of teacher preparation institutions… with their primary objective of declaring teacher prep by traditional colleges and universities in the U.S. a massive failure, I figured I should once again revisit why the NCTQ ratings are, in general, methodologically inept & vacuous and more specifically wholly inconsistent with NCTQ’s own primary emphasis that teacher quality and qualifications matter perhaps more than anything else in schools and classrooms.

The debate among scholars and practitioners in education as to whether a good teacher is more important than a good curriculum, or vice versa, is never-ending. Most of us who are engaged in this debate lean one way or the other. Disclosure – I lean in favor of the “good teacher” perspective.  Those with labor economics background or interests tend to lean toward the good teacher importance, and perhaps those with more traditional “education” training lean toward the importance of curriculum.  I’m grossly oversimplifying here (perhaps opening a can of worms that need not be opened). Clearly, both matter.

I would argue that NCTQ has historically leaned toward the idea that the “good teacher” trumps all – but for their apparent newly acquired love of the Common Core Standards.

Now here’s the thing – if the content area expertise of elementary and secondary classroom teachers and the selectivity and rigor of their preparation matters most of all – how is it that at the college and university level, faculty substantive expertise (including involvement in rigorous research pertaining to the learning sciences, and specifically pertaining to content areas) is completely irrelevant to the quality of institutions that prepare teachers? That just doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a snapshot of the data collection framework used by NCTQ to rate teacher preparation institutions:


Seemingly most important of all is whether the teacher preparation institution teaches teachers how to teach/adopt the Common Core Standards.  The vast majority of this information seems to be derived from documents such as syllabi and course catalogs.  In fact, the majority of items in this framework are about curriculum as represented in whatever documents they decided to/were able to collect and how they then chose to interpret those documents.


Culling key words in syllabi and catalogs is no way to determine the quality of teacher preparation institutions any more than one can evaluate the quality of a high school by looking at the list of graduation requirements and courses offered (theoretically offered by their existence in a course catalog).

Heads up for future NCTQ reports – nor is it particularly useful to try to rank teacher preparation institutions by the test scores of students of their graduates.

Yeah… it’s relatively convenient. Yeah… it allows NCTQ to subjectively tweak their ratings for their own political purposes.  It’s not only a largely pointless endeavor, but one that runs in complete contrast with what NCTQ claims is of central importance to improving the quality of our supposedly dreadful teacher preparation pipeline. It’s certainly easy enough to game this goofy methodology if we wanted to bother inserting common core “here” everywhere that NCTQ’s minimally trained minions might search.

There are numerous issues regarding teacher preparation that legitimately require our attention. I’ve pointed out previously that credential production for teachers is adrift.

I’ve pointed out in research a number of years back that ed schools are actually in an awkward position when it comes to recruiting faculty and building a team of faculty that bring to the table the diverse set of skills and expertise needed to provide teachers with balanced, rigorous preparation.  The faculty pipeline for teacher preparation is bifurcated between research and practice orientations and many preparation programs are imbalanced in one direction or the other, with the standards of their institutions shaping their preferences and practices in ways that don’t always support better teacher preparation.

These are complex issues that my colleagues and I at the University of Kansas (back in 2005) and many others have addressed and continue to address. They need real attention.

The new NCTQ report offers minimal guidance and a whole lot of misguided hype.

Related Articles

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

Baker, B.D., Wolf-Wendel, L.E., Twombly, S.B. (2007) Exploring the Faculty Pipeline in Educational
Administration: Evidence from the Survey of Earned Doctorates 1990 to 2000. Educational
Administration Quarterly 43 (2) 189-220

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