Last week’s Rocket was graced by a letter to the editor “When Everyone Gets Easy A’s, No One Benefits”, written by Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Now why would the President of a national organization decide to write to The Rocket? Granted, Slippery Rock University has a great name but why would she choose us?
Walsh contends that graduates from teacher prep programs at SRU, and nationally, receive unwarranted high grades because of the “criterion-deficient” assignments that rely solely on completing assignments and student opinions. She claims this results in students being unprepared for teaching, jeopardizing the achievement of their future students. This must be true because Ms. Walsh cites a recent report published by her organization, NCTQ.
Being a critical reader, a habit I encourage in my students, I wondered what NCTQ’s real agenda was. Did Walsh want students to boycott classes until professors made sure that all grades fell neatly along the Bell curve? Would this save the future of education in America? Would this ensure that no child was left behind? How can education be reformed?
NCTQ produces annual reports to demonstrate that traditional teacher education programs fail to produce competent teachers. Using NCTQ’s criteria for what teacher preparation should be, they collect syllabi and make sweeping generalizations (oftentimes inaccurate) about the quality of a teacher preparation program. When the press gets wind of these reports (and NCTQ makes sure they do), voila! It turns out that teacher education is failing. It doesn’t matter if programs are nationally accredited, it doesn’t matter if their “research” is flawed – it confirms NCTQ’s not so hidden agenda. Teacher education programs are not worth it.
How then should teachers be certified? One private market based approach, surely supported by their former board member Kate Walsh, offers an alternative. Do you have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.5 qpa? Think teaching is for you? For $1750 and 10 – 15 days in a classroom, The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) offers an on-line path to certification in just 6-9 months (read the fine print – not available in all states).
Organizations such as NCTQ and ABCTE have their own ideologies and agendas. They want alternatives to public schools and university based teacher education. Politics and profits are at the heart of their “reform” efforts.
SRU’s teacher education programs are nationally accredited. Graduates earn a bachelor’s degree and are eligible for Pennsylvania certification. Admission to professional education happens after 48 credits. In addition to having a 3.0 to graduate, students are required to demonstrate basic skills through test scores and pass a variety of certification tests in both content and teaching skills. Along with academic classes, students spend the equivalent of an academic year in a classroom, honing their teaching skills under the supervision of a university professor.
Most American teachers are not ill-prepared to teach, but NCTQ would like you to think so. There is a crisis in American education but the problem is not “criterion-deficient” assignments. The problem is not in the Colleges of Education. The root of the problem is poverty and inadequate funding for public schools – and there’s no easy fix for that.
I’d like to leave you with a reminder. Part of being a critical reader is going beyond the printed page. When you read anything – your textbooks, an article or an opinion piece – ask yourself: What is the author’s background? What are his or her credentials? What is author’s agenda? What does the author have to gain? In the case of NCTQ, take a lesson from an old song: “Don’t believe the hype”.
Elementary/Early Childhood Education Department