New NCTQ report card on Illinois education schools

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Paving the way for our upcoming national review of education schools, in November NCTQ released a review of the 53 education schools in Illinois, an event immediately followed by a lot of ed schools telling us that we got it all wrong.

The reaction was predictable, given our findings that a majority of the 111 programs housed in Illinois ed schools (i.e., undergrad elementary, grad elementary, undergrad secondary, special ed, etc.) are quite weak. Only one program earned a grade of A-, with nine others earning grades of B. Sixteen programs failed entirely.

Some of the major findings in Illinois include:

  1. The same campus often offers highly inconsistent programs of study. For example, an ed school may have an undergraduate program that does a fairly good job preparing its candidates to be elementary teachers, but a clearly mediocre graduate program.
  2. Coursework isn't focused enough on the tough job ahead. Many of the assignments required of teacher candidates are frivolous in nature, demeaning the intent of higher education, or utterly irrelevant, demeaning the challenges all teachers face. Here's one we loved: a course in which seeing a movie of one's choice counted for 30 percent of the class grade.

  3. Student teaching is set-up well, but follow through is questionable. Most Illinois education schools have most of the right components of a good student teaching program in place, including that it is full-time, well-supervised and that it will last at least a semester. But the schools fall flat on the one component that matters the most: ensuring that the mentor teacher is effective.
  4. Far too many Illinois education schools discount the importance of selecting the most academically capable teacher candidates. Three-fourths of graduate programs and more than half of undergrad programs rely only on a test of middle-school-level skills for admission.
  5. While the state is beginning to make up for years of regulatory neglect, far more urgency is in order. The state has announced a plan of action, but the timetable is too slow.
  6. National accreditation, at least the current manifestation of NCATE, is not adding value. Forty percent of Illinois' education schools are accredited by NCATE, but evaluation by our standards reveals no measurable differences in the grades of programs at these schools compared to programs at schools that have not been accredited.

The ed school deans issued a joint statement that critiqued all aspects of our review, including a broad objection that a program could be rated without a "come-kick-some-tires" campus visit, even though no school or college ratings effort in the country currently does so. Our full response to the deans is available here.