A recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) claims US colleges of education are an “industry of mediocracy” according to the Wall Street Journal this past Tuesday. The nonprofit group scored 608 institutions on a scale of 1 (poor) – 4 (best).
The top scorers (a perfect 4.0) where Ohio State University, Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, and Furman, all for their secondary teaching degree programs.
Numerous studies have linked teacher quality to student achievement and the Pulic Policy Institute of California has found that it is the single most important predictor of student outcomes. Keeping this in mind, it truly is relevent to begin to review teacher training programs if we wish to see any imporvement in student achievement.
However, critics of the NCTQ study cited its heavy reliance on only written teaching material and its disregard of actual teacher performance in the classroom, after graduation. Although controversial and difficult to standardize, in-classroom teacher evaluations are possibly more significant than degree program ratings.
According to a recent study published in the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Brief*, school principal’s opinion of a teacher was a much better indicator at an underperforming teacher than the standardized “unsatisfactory rating” that the California Public School system utilizes. Using the teachers that principals indicated as underperforming rather than those rated “unsatisfactory” within the actual system, the researchers were much better able to predict student test scores in math and language arts.
Using the same teachers that the principals had indicated as underperforming, the study was able to go on and find correlations between socioeconomically disadvantaged students, race, and location of the school with underperforming teachers.
In short, the more socioeconomically disadvantaged students, the more underperforming teachers. The less white students, the more underperforming teachers. The more African-American students, even with all other demographic factors held constant, the more underperforming teachers. The more rural a school, the more underperforming teachers.
Teacher evaluations might be difficult, but this study seems to suggest that it might be as simple as a principal’s opinion, and is a signifcant enough factor in predicting student achievement that it warrants a serious discussion.
Nevertheless, teacher training might be just as important and despite its limitations, the NCTQ study reveals a severe lack of investment in our country’s teachers, students, and future.
*Only Part 1 of the Stanford IEPR policy brief study was used. It can be found here