NCTQ releases study on Texas ed schools

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It seems only fitting that Texas, where everything is super-sized, should be the setting of NCTQ's biggest education school study to date. Ed School Essentials: Evaluating the Fundamentals of Teacher Training Programs in Texas looks at the 67 education schools in the state measured against 25 standards, ranging from admission criteria to exit exams.

To the surprise of few, the results indicate that the kinds of traditional training programs operated in Texas are, as Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, has said, in "need of revolutionary change."

The deans of many schools NCTQ reviewed are not happy with the rigorous standards we applied, most of which are focused on program design or those components essential to equipping high-quality teachers for the classroom.

The deans argue that their programs adhere to both state regulation and accreditation standards. But here's the thing: both regulation and accreditation have proven insufficient, because neither process does enough to show the "consumers" of education schools--aspiring teachers and hiring districts--how good one program is compared to another. Surely we can agree they are not all equally good and, by no means, all equally terrible.

Even when the regulations seem to be on the mark, compliance is a problem. For example, Texas legislation requires that programs fully prepare elementary teachers in the science of reading. Yet only one out of every four of the schools we studied bothers to mention that there is a science to reading to prospective teachers. Sooner or later states are going to figure out that what doesn't get tested--in this case scientifically based reading--isn't going to get taught.

Here are some more of the major findings from the study:

  • The most consistent feature of teacher education in Texas is a lack of consistency. Program after program, even when they're operating within the same university system, such as UT or Texas A&M, rarely agree on what constitutes a well prepared teacher. A middle school candidate seeking social studies certification at one institution, for example, is required to take only four history courses, while a candidate at another institution is required to take twelve. For middle school science, teachers might take one biology course, or they might take nine.

    We also found six wholly different models for the preparation of elementary teachers in mathematics--different amalgamations of specialized mathematics, or any college math course and occasionally math methods thrown in. As we have found in all of our reading studies, we counted no fewer than 256 textbooks used in 198 evaluated reading courses. More than two-thirds of these texts are used in only one course. Only 17 of these books convey the components of scientifically based reading instruction in a fair and accurate manner.

  • Texas schools are failing to ensure that elementary teachers are broadly educated in the subjects they will be teaching. We could not identify a single institution in Texas that requires its elementary teacher candidates to take coursework across all the basic subject areas that elementary teachers will one day teach.

  • There's little attention paid to outputs. Only three institutions asked the school districts who'd hired their graduates for evaluation results on their graduates.

The study, found here, contains much more information, with explanations of standards and methodology, as well as rating sheets for each of the 67 schools. More than 30 Texas superintendents have endorsed the study and plan to use its findings for recruitment purposes.