Dean's Corner

Dean Snyder Comments on Teacher Education Ratings

Posted by Bank Street on July 12, 2013

On Tuesday June 18, U.S. News and World Report published rankings of university-based teacher education programs with each program receiving a grade on a four-point scale. The grade was based upon information collected by the National Center for Teaching Quality (NCTQ). Based in Washington DC, according to their website, “The National Council on Teacher Quality was founded in 2000 to provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations.” 
 
As anticipated, NCTQ has pronounced that colleges of education are an “industry of mediocrity.” Bank Street did not receive an overall ranking but did receive a ranking in three of NCTQ’s 18 standards. We received two stars (out of four) on our selection criteria (because we do not require our applicants to take the Graduate Record Examinations test); and zero stars on “Common Core Elementary Mathematics” and “Common Core Elementary Content.” All ratings were based on a review of publicly available syllabi and similar documents. In our case, to the best of our knowledge, the review did not include syllabi, but rather course descriptions in our catalog and no knowledge of the extensive undergraduate transcript review the state and the college require — that address the Common Core standard for which we received zero stars.

I have to admit I find mind boggling the notion that it is a good idea to rank the preparation of the adults who are entrusted with the care of those we love most (our children) as well as the future of our democracy in the same manner as we rank restaurants and hotels. Setting aside that notion upon which the entire enterprise is based, it seems unusual for one to rank a restaurant solely on a menu (perhaps a menu that is three years old), never to eat a meal at the restaurant or stay a night in the hotel, or even talk with someone who might have eaten a meal at the restaurant or stayed at the hotel. NCTQ ranked the programs by looking at the syllabi (or often, even less); never visited the sites, and never spoke with anyone who had gone through the programs or anyone who had hired any of the graduates.

The professional preparation of teachers and the growth and development of the children who will be in their care is much too important to spend our time worrying about an attempt to assign a single letter grade to our work.

We have many other, and much better, sources of evidence. Among the other sources of information we gather and use to hold ourselves responsible for our outcomes are two public and transparent accreditation processes (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and Middle States Commission on Higher Education).  As part of these processes, we conduct entry, exit, and graduate surveys of our candidates, ask candidates to rate each of their courses, and assess our candidates throughout our programs on the standards provided by the two accrediting agencies. In addition, we have contracted with Stanford University to conduct a methodologically sound and independent evaluation of our teacher education programs. This extensive study is in its first year and will be completed in summer 2015. (I want to offer a note of sincere gratitude to those graduates who have completed the host of surveys that we use to hold ourselves responsible.)

So, when the NCTQ/U.S. News grades came out, my interest was piqued and I certainly did take a look. But frankly whatever grade they gave to us, it is neither a cause for celebration nor grief. We choose to be truly responsible for the quality of our programs as opposed to joining in the ideologically driven cacophony of false debates and information that is, at best, of questionable value.

We, with you, will continue our efforts on behalf of teachers and children. Please feel free to contact Virginia Roach (vroach@bankstreet.edu) or me (jsnyder@bankstreet.edu) if you have any questions.

Sincerely, 

Jon Snyder
Dean of the College

tagged evaluations, ratings, teacher preparation,
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