Guest post: "After all, if we could develop a better program, why not?"

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Last Thursday, we were cc'd on this message to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education about the Teacher Prep Review from Dr. Patricia Schmidt of Five Towns College:

I am the Chair of Education at a small private college in New York State. When first contacted, before I knew there would be any wide controversy, I agreed to participate and forward any documents I could provide for our undergraduate elementary education program. At that time I had no idea of what metrics, benchmarks or standards NCTQ would use to rate our program. After I sent the documents I had several cordial e-mail interactions with Rob Rickenbrode, Kate Walsh, and Brian Kelly of US News to clarify some of the information I had sent to "be sure they understood our program." 

I was also invited to send additional information throughout this process, though mostly I did not have additional material. When the star ranking came out, I thought it was probably fair, but then did more research to find out what benchmarks were used, so that maybe we could improve. After all, if we could develop a better program, why not? (Ultimately, we did make some minor changes, which may or may not have improved the program or our current ranking.)

We were also invited to participate in an on-site visit, which we declined, as we didn't want to give any more resources to this project.

Although I agree a paper review alone cannot determine candidate readiness to teach, as a SPA (Specialized Program Reviewer) myself,  I know one can learn a great deal from "paper." (For example, a very poor lesson plan will very probably not lead to a great lesson. On the other hand a perfect lesson plan might not lead to a good lesson either.)

I also think it is somewhat unfair to blame NCTQ if institutions chose not to participate for insufficient data. I think we cooperated and were treated very fairly. The next steps at our institution will be to try and pinpoint areas we can improve our program whether for ratings and rankings or not.