Changing the Landscape

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We've made some changes compared to previous Reviews, but our mission is still the same.

NCTQ aims to strengthen teacher preparation by measuring how the programs stack up on a set of evidence-based standards and then sharing our findings with programs and the public.

These standards set a clear and reasonable bar for quality preparation in three key areas -- admissions (which includes the standard selection criteria), knowledge (early reading, elementary math, and other elementary content), and practice (student teaching and classroom management). Our experts review key program design documents, including syllabi, required texts, observation forms, handbooks, agreements with districts, degree plans, and other content through the lens of scientific research, the best practices of other nations, and consultations with superintendents and academic experts on teaching practice.

We summarize what we see in each standard with letter grades and the calculate an overall program percentile based on each program's standard grades and where each program stands relative to the others.

Our letter grades replace the "Harvey balls" (e.g.,  or ) used in the previous releases because they are more universally understood, reader-friendly, and certainly more appropriate to education. Using letter grades also aligns these Reviews with the grades on our Path to Teach website for aspiring teachers. We replaced "strong design" trophies with an A+ on most standards for programs that do something extra as spelled out in the A Closer Look findings reports.

Similarly, we switched to more readily understandable percentiles, instead of numbered rankings. To interpret rankings, you must know how many programs are included in the total as the same rank can be good or bad depending on the final count. For instance, being 99th out of 100 programs is vastly different from being 99th out of 1,000. And, because NCTQ plans to expand the number of programs we rank in each release, comparisons over time would become increasingly difficult.

Percentiles require less interpretation, showing where programs stand relative to others. In the example above, the first program is in the 1st percentile, while the second is in the 90th percentile.

There are three other important changes we'd like to point out.

First, each new Landscape report under the overall umbrella of the Teacher Prep Review will focus exclusively on a single type of program. This Landscape focuses on undergraduate programs that prepare elementary school teachers. Over the next two years, NCTQ will release Landscapes on undergraduate elementary (December 2016), undergraduate secondary (Spring 2017), graduate and nontraditional elementary (Fall 2017), graduate and nontraditional secondary (Spring 2018), and undergraduate and graduate special education (also in 2018).

Focusing each release on a specific program type enables us to convey the findings more clearly to the appropriate audiences. Prospective secondary teachers who are career changers and college graduates are very different from a high school senior choosing a college to study elementary teaching. Separate Landscapes can communicate the different standards at each level better to the appropriate audiences.

Next, we have trimmed the number of standards we use, examining each elementary program on just the six standards listed above. (Similarly, we will examine secondary and special education programs on a reduced number of standards in subsequent releases.)

This makes it easier for everyone to understand our analysis and see where a program does well and where it may need to improve.

And finally, for the first time, we sent programs their ratings several weeks in advance and invited them to contact us if they think that our evaluation does not accurately reflect their program. We will make any necessary changes before publishing the program's final results. We will do this with every future release.

An artist can paint many landscapes, showing different views, yet each painting will share the artist's individual vision, interpretations, and techniques. The Landscape releases, under the banner of the Teacher Prep Review, will convey different pieces of the overall picture of the state of America's teacher education programs with the same attention to evidence-based criteria. The changes from past Reviews clarify and streamline our reporting, making it easier for programs to see how they are doing and what more they can do to prepare the next generation of teachers to answer the many challenges they face.