Too Many Teachers, Too Little Quality
The nation’s teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom, even as they produce almost triple the number of graduates needed, according to a survey of more than 1,000 programs.
The National Council on Teacher Quality review is a scathing assessment of colleges’ education programs and their admission standards, training and value. The report, which drew immediate criticism, was designed to be provocative and urges leaders at teacher-training programs to rethink what skills would-be educators need to be taught to thrive in the classrooms of today and tomorrow.
"Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms" with an ever-increasing diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic students, the report’s authors wrote.
"A vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars," the report said.
The report was likely to drive debate about which students are prepared to be teachers in the coming decades and how they are prepared. Once a teacher settles into a classroom, it’s tough to remove him or her involuntarily and opportunities for wholesale retraining are difficult - if nearly impossible - to find.
The answer, the council and its allies argue, is to make it more difficult for students to get into teacher preparation programs in the first place. And once there, they should be taught the most effective methods to help students.
"There’s plenty of research out there that shows that teacher quality is the single most important factor," said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a supporter of the organization’s work.
Democrat Markell said: "We have to attract the best candidates" possible.
To accomplish that goal, Markell earlier this year signed into law a measure making admission to education programs more difficult in his state. Potential teachers must either post a 3.0 grade point average or demonstrate "mastery" results on a standardized test such as the ACT or SAT before they’re even admitted to a program.
It’s an idea the council has applauded and suggests other states should consider to limit the number of candidates entering teacher training programs.
"You just have to have a pulse and you can get into some of these education schools," said Michael Petrilli, a vice president at the conservative-leaning Fordham Institute and a former official in the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. "If policymakers took this report seriously, they’d be shutting down hundreds of programs."
Some 239,000 teachers are trained each year and 98,000 are hired - meaning too many students are admitted and only a fraction find work.
Among the council’s other findings:
- Only a quarter of education programs limit admission to students in the top half of their high school class. The remaining three quarters of programs allow students who fared poorly in high school to train as teachers.
- 3-out-of-4 teacher training programs do not train potential educators how to teach reading based on the latest research. Instead, future teachers are left to develop their own methods.
- Fewer than 1-in-9 programs for elementary educators are preparing students to teach Common Core State Standards, the achievement benchmarks for math and reading that have been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia. For programs preparing high school teachers, that rate is roughly a third of programs.
- Only 7 percent of programs ensure student teachers are partnered with effective classroom teachers. Most often, a student teacher is placed into a classroom where a teacher is willing to have them, regardless of experience.
- When asked how much experience they have, the most common answer from teachers is one year. First-year teachers reach around 1.5 million students.