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Teacher Prep and ELLs: NCTQ's 'Strong' and 'Weak' Programs

Just seven out of more than 520 elementary teacher preparation programs earned a top score for the attention they pay to getting teacher candidates—in both undergraduate and undergraduate programs—ready to meet the needs of the large and growing population of English-language learners in public schools, according to a new and controversial review of teacher education programs published earlier today.

Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, California State University-Dominguez Hills, California State University-Northridge, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., North Carolina State University at Raleigh, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and the University of Maryland-College Park, each earned a top score of four stars for the instruction they provide to teacher candidates on ELLs in the newly published review of teacher preparation programs from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Thirty-five states are home to at least one elementary program in the NCTQ sample at either the undergraduate or graduate level that garnered four stars when it comes to ELLs.

The hotly contested review has gone viral today, and Ed Week's teacher policy reporter Stephen Sawchuk has a thorough description of the findings, along with a range of reaction.

NCTQ used 18 standards to judge the quality of teacher preparation programs. Standard 3 focuses on English-language learners, and specifically, whether teacher prep programs require reading courses for elementary teacher candidates that include strategies to meet the needs of ELLs. To score programs on the ELL standard, NCQT simply looked at whether syllabi for required courses included the presentation of literacy strategies for English-learners either through lectures or practice. That methodology is one of the major sources of criticism of the review.

Of the 527 teacher prep programs that NCQT judged on the ELL standard, more than three-quarters earned no stars at all. NCQT explains that the most common reason for programs failing to earn any stars on the ELL standard is because lectures and practice "inadequately address how to teach reading to English-language learners."

In its main report, NCTQ specifically calls out New Mexico and the "alarming" lack of preparation for teaching ELLs in most of that state's programs, noting that the state has the highest proportion of Hispanic residents in the country.

Curiously, a program like California State University-Dominguez Hills, which earned the highest possible marks on the ELL standard as well as a few other standards, falls short in NCTQ's overall methodology and is ultimately judged to be weak, as Stephen astutely points out in his story.

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