Even though they collaborated on a study of a controversial review of America’s teacher prep programs, researchers from higher education and officials at the National Council on Teacher Quality came away with two starkly different impressions of their findings.
If you go by the researchers, teacher prep programs that got higher overall ratings from NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review produce graduates that are “no more or less effective at raising student test scores.”
“In some cases graduates of programs with higher scores did better but in some they did worse,” said Gary T. Henry, Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University and one of three authors of the study.
Henry was referring to the scores that programs got on the NCTQ Teacher Prep Review, which seeks to assess the quality of the nation’s programs that prepare educators at the K-12 level using standards in areas that range from selection criteria to early reading to classroom management, lesson planning and assessment.
Overall, the review found most teacher prep programs were in the lowest program score category, or Level 1, with less than 7 percent earning a program rating in the highest level category, or Level 3. The implication was that graduates from low-performing programs would be less effective at raising student performance, but the latest study uncovered little evidence that such is the case.
“In most, there was no difference,” Henry said. “The last finding suggests that higher NCTQ ratings do not lead to better teachers or more student learning.”
That assertion is based on the finding that classroom teachers working in North Carolina who graduated from programs that meet NCTQ’s standards were more effective at raising students’ test scores in 15 out of 124 comparisons — or statistical tests — and less effective in five comparisons, and no different in 104 comparisons.
But for Kate Walsh, president at NCTQ, the findings tilt in favor of NCTQ’s ratings as indicators of quality.
“There are more positive findings than negative,” Walsh said.
Walsh added that, because of NCTQ’s inability to get good information on all teacher prep programs, “there’s a lot of missing data.”
“You can’t really walk away from this concluding that the standards do or do not lead to more effective teachers, because there’s too much missing data,” Walsh said.
The findings — outlined in a brief titled “Measuring Up: The National Council on Teacher Quality’s Ratings of Teacher Preparation Programs and Measures of Teacher Performance” — stir the discussion on how to judge teacher prep programs but settle little.
It comes as the Obama administration prepares to publish new rules this fall that would call on states to establish systems to rate teacher prep programs, which would then be eligible for federal TEACH grants only if they are deemed “effective” or better.
Judging a teacher prep program by the test scores of students taught by graduates has been criticized as an inaccurate and ineffective method because of various factors — such as year-to-year changes in classroom composition — although, under the Obama administration’s proposed rules, states would be left to decide how much student test scores should factor into teacher prep program ratings.
The study of the NCTQ Teacher Prep review was undertaken by NCTQ in collaboration with the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University. The universities were brought in to give the study credence that would not exist if NCTQ were to go it alone. But the fact that the researchers and NCTQ had different spins on the findings shows that the relationship between NCTQ and higher ed is still an uneasy one.
Besides Henry, the researchers included Kevin Bastian, director of Teacher Quality Research Initiative in the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill, and Alisa Chapman, Vice President for Academic and University Programs at UNC General Administration.
The study also examined teacher evaluations but failed to establish a strong relationship between good teacher evaluations and NCTQ standards, according to Henry.
“The conclusion was the same,” Henry said. “Higher NCTQ ratings don’t appear to lead to higher performing teachers.”