National Review Myth Buster #6: Shouldn't teacher candidates meet higher academic standards than football players?

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In Thursday's post we dispelled the notion that private institutions fare better in NCTQ's ratings on our standards for teacher preparation programs than do public ones. But institutions that are more selective will get a higher overall rating because they will do well on our selectivity standard. That's because it's well established in the research that academic aptitude is an important factor in teacher effectiveness.

Our own research has shown that teacher preparation programs' admission standards are low — lower, in some cases, than the standards governing eligibility for NCAA Division I athletes. It's no wonder that a recent survey of teacher-educators in four-year colleges and universities found that 73 percent expressed concern about the quality of teacher candidates in their programs.

NCTQ's standard on selectivity simply requires that programs draw from the top half of the college population.  This reasonable threshold goes where teacher educators' professional organizations won't.  The U.S. needs to take a lesson from countries whose students are outperforming ours and attract a higher caliber teacher candidate, rather than settling as we do now, with — for example — nearly half of all new elementary teachers coming from the bottom third.

An applicant pool encompassing the entire top half of the college-going population is large enough to meet the needs of our schools and include candidates with other important attributes (including a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds). As it stands, the country is not actually getting much in the way of diversity for its lax standards for entry into the profession, perhaps because college-going minority students stay away from a profession whose low bar of admission strongly signals its low status. We can do better and build a teacher workforce whose demographics better reflects its students.

Julie Greenberg

Update: It's apparently going to get even harder to become a football player. Word out today is that the NCAA, under heavy pressure from college and university presidents, will soon impose higher academic eligibility requirements on Division I athletes. Why can't the leaders of higher education, or the representatives of teacher preparation accreditation organizations such as NCATE, take similar action to raise standards for entry into the teaching profession.