NCTQ Releases 2018 Teacher Prep Review

Ratings Highlight Disconnect Between Preparation Teachers Get and Real Demands of Teaching; Lack of Prep May Contribute to Flat NAEP Results


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NCTQ Releases 2018 Teacher Prep Review

CUNY - Hunter College, INSPIRE Texas 

Washington, D.C.
-- Today, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) releases its latest ratings for 567 traditional graduate programs, 129 alternative route programs, and 18 residencies preparing both elementary and secondary teachers. Assessing programs on a number of key factors – such as how well they ensure teachers' subject matter content knowledge, teach classroom management skills, and provide high-quality practice opportunities – the results show much room for improvement.

These programs typically last one or two years and admit applicants who completed undergraduate majors outside of education. Therefore, a large number of candidates lack the necessary subject matter knowledge and need both content coursework remediation and traditional training before they are ready to enter the classroom.

"Unfortunately, both traditional graduate and alternative route models presume too much about candidates' grasp of the specific subjects they will teach," commented Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. "With the high number of new teachers in the workforce, particularly in schools with large populations of traditionally underserved students, it is imperative that programs provide prospective teachers with the proper support to become effective first-year teachers."

Key findings:

  • The presumption of sufficient content knowledge is especially apparent for those programs preparing elementary teachers. Only a small percentage of traditional graduate elementary programs conduct the screening needed to assess if applicants know the subject matter taught in elementary schools. Secondary programs tend to do better in this area.
  • The presumption of knowledge is most pronounced in the mathematics knowledge needed by elementary teachers. There is widespread consensus among experts, reinforced by how other countries prepare their elementary teachers, that teachers need specific math content to teach children. Only 1% of programs address this need.
  • While most secondary programs quite capably prepare middle and high school teachers in focused areas such as English or history, they struggle to prepare candidates in broader areas such as "general science" and "social studies." The problem is exacerbated by states using licensing tests that are too broad in scope and therefore are not able to identify major gaps in essential knowledge.
  • As with the undergraduate ratings reported in 2016, traditional graduate elementary programs show notable improvement in preparation for teaching children how to read. The number of programs teaching scientifically based reading methods has improved since 2014, rising from 17 percent to 23 percent. To see how well programs address early reading, go here.
  • While the residency programs in the sample deserve praise for providing higher quality student teaching experiences, even within these programs there is a quality control issue. Only about a third of residencies require that the classroom mentor be an effective teacher and require candidates to receive frequent feedback, two crucial elements of any student teaching experience. Still, residencies stand out in comparison to both alternative routes and traditional graduate programs that fulfill these two requirements at a rate of only 5 percent. For evaluations of programs' student teaching, go here.
"The flat scores on NAEP can likely trace their roots back to ongoing disconnect between the preparation teachers receive and what they need to know and be able to do in order to do their jobs well," said Walsh.

The programs that beat the odds, standing out for their ability to prepare teachers for the reality of the classroom, are as follows:

National Top-10 Graduate and Alternative Route Elementary Programs

  • INSPIRE Texas: Educator Certification by Region 4 (99th percentile)
  • YES Preparatory Public Schools Inc.: Teaching Excellence Program (Texas) (99th percentile)
  • Johns Hopkins University (Maryland) (99th percentile)
  • Lipscomb University (Tennessee) (98th percentile)
  • Houston Independent School District: Effective Teacher Fellowship (Texas) (98th percentile)
  • CUNY Hunter College: Childhood Education, Grades 1-6, MSEd (New York) (97th percentile)
  • University of Houston (Texas) (97th percentile)
  • College of Saint Rose (New York) (96th percentile)
  • COMPASS: Alternative Certification Teacher Academy of the Dallas Independent School District (96th percentile)
  • University of New Mexico: MA Elementary Education, Alternative Route to K-8 Licensure (95th percentile)

National Top-10 Graduate and Alternative Route Secondary Programs

*three programs tie for 10th

  • CUNY - Hunter College (New York) (99th percentile)
  • Richmond Teacher Residency (Virginia) (99th percentile)
  • CUNY - Lehman College (New York) (99th percentile)
  • Teach For America (District of Columbia Region) (99th percentile)
  • Arizona State University: Masters and Arizona Certification (InMAC) program, TFA Partnership (99th percentile)
  • INSPIRE Texas: Educator Certification by Region 4 (99th percentile)
  • University of California - Irvine (98th percentile)
  • Memphis Teacher Residency (Tennessee) (98th percentile)
  • University of California - Santa Barbara (98th percentile)
  • Aspire Teacher Residency (California) (97th percentile)
  • Boston Teacher Residency (Massachusetts) (97th percentile)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (97th percentile)
A full listing of how all programs in the nation fared can be found here.

"These top programs understand that their most important job is to deliver well prepared teachers to classrooms," Walsh continued. "That means paying a lot of attention to the nuts and bolts of what it takes to become an effective teacher."

A full analysis of the findings, the 2018 Teacher Prep Review, can be found here.

Recommendations: Based on these findings, programs need to take several essential steps to provide stronger training to aspiring teachers.

  1. Prescreen applicants to make sure they already know the core content they will teach--or be prepared to prescribe the necessary remediation.
  2. Better prepare candidates to handle the biggest challenge new teachers face: classroom management. Programs should use student teaching and internships as opportunities to give constructive, targeted feedback on key management techniques.
  3. At the elementary level, focus relentlessly on the need for future elementary teachers to be ready to teach reading and math, the two most important aspects of their job.
"By taking these key actions, programs can send teachers into the classroom who are ready not only to achieve individual successes, but also to help improve student learning and proficiency," commented Walsh. "As the new NAEP results suggest, the status quo in training teachers is simply insufficient for our students' needs."

To schedule an interview with Rob Rickenbrode, Senior Managing Director of Teacher Prep Strategies, please contact Eric Duncan at or (202) 393-0020 ext. 130.


About the National Council on Teacher Quality:
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is a nonpartisan research and policy group, committed to modernizing the teaching profession and based on the belief that all children deserve effective teachers. NCTQ is the nation's expert on the quality of teacher preparation programs and evaluates national teacher education against evidence-based criteria. More information about NCTQ can be found on our website,

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