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Forthcoming NCTQ Report Already Controversial

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The National Council on Teacher Quality hasn't released its big study of education schools in Texas just yet—it's due out later this month—but traditional prep programs in the Lone Star State are already on the defensive.

News reports about preliminary ratings have been trickling out since last fall. Now, NCTQ has an FAQ up on its Web site to put out its reasoning behind the report, its standards, and the methodology the council used to collect and analyze the information.

"During the process of conducting this study, quite a few schools started to ask questions about about what we were doing and why," said Rich Shea, the communications director for NCTQ and a former executive editor of EdWeek's Teacher Magazine. "We wanted to clear the air before the report comes out. We're trying to be as transparent as possible."

In Texas, around 70 ed school deans have already protested the study, according to this news report. And they object to the fact that the council had students provide some of the materials that were reviewed, such as course descriptions and syllabi. (The council's reviewers also went through the textbooks and readings used in each course.)

But NCTQ's main point, in its FAQ, is that state higher ed accreditation or national accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education are not in and of themselves representative of quality.

The council feels that those bodies' standards are not high enough in some areas. Absent any other nationally agreed-upon norm for teacher preparation, it decided to craft its own list of standards. They include:

• Preparing teachers in the five components of "scientifically based reading research" identified by the 2000 National Reading Panel report;
• Preparation in key areas of mathematics such as number operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and probability; and
• An exit examination stronger than what's generally required by the Praxis II and other common state licensing exams.

Apparently, a lot of the universities the council reviewed didn't agree with these standards, thought that the NCTQ review was too shallow, or wouldn't agree to submit their materials for review.

Some of the initial reviews have garnered attention because of the high profile of those schools. The much-lauded UTeach program at the University of Texas-Austin, for instance, received a low preliminary rating, which prompted this rather sarcastic response.

This isn't the first time NCTQ has been criticized for its methodology. Some researchers and teacher-educators faulted the council's study of preparation in elementary reading instruction for its focus on SBRR. At least one program studied got a grade change.

The fireworks are sure to fly when the final report comes out on April 29. We'll keep you posted.

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