NCTQ and Our Qualifications

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Who we are

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to encouraging fundamental changes in the policies and practices of teacher preparation programs, districts, states, and unions so that all children are taught by effective teachers. NCTQ focuses on the changes institutions must make to return the teaching profession to strong health and to prepare their graduates to teach to the high levels that provide all children with the education they need for a bright and successful future.

We are not a government or political organization. Our Board of Directors and Advisory Board comprise Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, all of whom believe that policy changes are overdue in the recruitment and retention of teachers. NCTQ receives funding from private foundations and donors and accepts no funding from the federal government.

NCTQ aims to help strengthen teacher education by rating programs on whether they are evidence-based, aligned with what science and experts say high-quality teachers need to know and be able to do.

NCTQ has a unique role; no one else evaluates teacher education nationally against the same evidence-based criteria.

  • In our state-oriented education system, the federal government has played little role in teacher preparation and has only recently released regulations strengthening their oversight.
  • The U.S. News & World Report only ranks graduate education schools, not undergraduate teacher preparation programs, and does not attempt to compare programs to scientific evidence-based techniques and content.
  • While states approve their own programs, standards are so low that 22 states and D.C. have never labeled any program as low-performing or at risk. 
  • Fewer than half of the 1,450 higher education institutions that prepare teachers have any accreditation.

Our Review

NCTQ's team of expert specialists, researchers, and consultants, which includes many former teachers, researched and wrote this Review with input from leading experts in education. NCTQ has reviewed thousands of teacher preparation programs in 2013 and 2014, making us the national experts on the state of the elements we examine: admissions, subject matter knowledge, and student teaching.

NCTQ bases our Review on the best available data. We examined public data from the institutions, went to court under the freedom of information laws, paid $250,000 in open records fees, and reached out to professors and students. Our experts analyzed the information, measuring how well each program aligns with what scientific research says teachers need to know. We rely on verifiable data, not subjective impressions.

Our criteria for grading programs are evidence-based. NCTQ set our standards to align with what research says are the best scientific methods of teaching and the right content for elementary school teachers. The analysis is not subjective, rather it is rooted in a program's own requirements and in such design documents as course syllabi, required textbooks, student teacher observation forms. (For more on the research and methodology, see the Understanding the Standard book for each standard.)

The Review measures whether teacher prep programs include instruction in research-proven content and skills by examining how the material on course syllabi and textbooks measures up to what experts agree new teachers need to know and be able to do. In addition, we look at: student teaching placement information, student teaching observation forms, admissions standards, and course requirements and descriptions.

Our Review helps teacher preparation programs see how they compare to others and encourages states to do more to oversee program quality. The grades show programs what aspects of their preparation can be improved and how they can adopt research-proven practices. The ratings also provide critical guidance for aspiring teachers choosing a program and school districts looking to hire teachers—so that they can become more strategic consumers.