After interning at the National Council on Teacher Quality for a mere two weeks, I became acutely aware of how little I knew about teacher preparation. As someone who wants to be a teacher and has (or so I thought) done quite a bit of research about preparation, I was startled by the gaps in my knowledge. After reflecting, I believe that this resulted from a combination of factors: the first, that I attend a small elite liberal arts college, and the second, that I want to eventually be an elementary teacher. These factors shaped the way that I looked at teacher preparation and meant that I simply did not know the information about teacher prep that NCTQ has to offer in the Teacher Prep Review.
Let's start with how my college affected my thinking. Carleton, like many highly selective liberal arts colleges, prides itself on its elite status. Drawn to prestige, students of these colleges often overlook programs that do not carry immediate name recognition. Around campus, saying you're attending a graduate teacher prep program just doesn't carry the same weight as law school or med school. The elite mindset that we carry renders us pretty oblivious to the very valuable information NCTQ produces about graduate teacher preparation schools.
In addition to that, because I want to be an elementary teacher, I know firsthand that this area is too often neglected at college campuses across the country; most liberal arts colleges' licensure programs only focus on secondary education. Of the top 10 liberal arts colleges as rated by US News, six have some sort of undergraduate licensure program. That's not too bad but only two have an elementary education option. Additionally, the majority of these programs require advanced planning, beginning during sophomore year, which ultimately rules out people who only realize late in their college career that they might want to teach.
Where I see NCTQ's work making an impact on the thinking of students like me is through professors. The elite attitude of campuses like Carleton means that we are well exposed to highly selective programs, like Teach For America (TFA) or Boston Teacher Residency (BTR). These programs recruit on campus and are well known by professors. The visibility of these programs persuades applicants. If professors utilized NCTQ's Teacher Prep Review, they would be able to give more concrete advice about graduate education and perhaps this would make a difference in students' mindsets.
I wish there were an easy solution to this problem—a way to alert education faculty at elite liberal arts institutions to the gap in knowledge that students have about teacher prep. Students should not feel that TFA or BTR are the only options out there. Information needs to be provided from sources such as NCTQ to fill in the blanks and help guide students towards the best post-grad options for them. Many students like me would be eager and grateful for this information.