Opinion > Commentary

National Council on Teacher Quality report is deeply flawed

Linda Darling-Hammond

Linda Darling-Hammond

This week, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) issued a report, NCTQ Teacher Prep Review. Billed as a consumer’s guide, the report rates teacher preparation programs on a list of criteria ranging from selection and content preparation to coursework and student teaching aimed at the development of teaching skills. While the report appropriately focuses on these aspects of teacher education, it does not, unfortunately, accurately reflect the work of teacher education programs in California or nationally.

NCTQ’s methodology is a paper review of published course requirements and course syllabi against a checklist that does not consider the actual quality of instruction that the programs offer, evidence of what their students learn or whether graduates can actually teach. Concerns about the organization’s methods led most schools of education nationally and in California to decline to participate in the data collection. (NCTQ’s website indicated that fewer than 1 percent of programs in the country “fully cooperated” with the study.) NCTQ collected documents through websites and public records requests. The ratings published in this report are, thus, based on partial and often inaccurate data, and fail to evaluate teacher education quality.

The indicators used to measure the criteria often fail to identify the aspects of practice that are most important or the actual outcomes that programs achieve. A case in point: Graduate programs at highly selective universities like Harvard, Columbia and Stanford got low ratings for selectivity because they do not require a minimum grade point average or GRE score, although their students in fact rank far above national averages on these measures. NCTQ was uninterested in the actual grades or test scores earned by candidates.

In addition, the degree of inaccuracy in the data is shocking. Columbia was rated highly for the selectivity of an undergraduate program that does not even exist. Stanford received low scores for the reported absence of courses in mathematics education that do in fact exist (indeed, candidates must take three full courses in mathematics curriculum and instruction) and are prominently displayed on its website. California State University at Chico was rated poorly for presumably lacking “hands-on” instruction, even though it is well-known in the state for its hands-on learning lab and requires more than 500 hours of clinical training during its full year of graduate-level preparation.

It is clear as reports come in from programs that NCTQ staff made serious mistakes in its reviews of virtually every institution. Because they refused to check the data — or even share it — with institutions ahead of time, they published badly flawed information without the fundamental concerns for accuracy that any serious research enterprise would insist upon.

In addition to these shortcomings, NCTQ’s methods are especially out of sync with California’s approach to teacher education in two ways:

  • First, while the NCTQ checklist is based largely on the design of undergraduate programs (tallying subject matter courses required during the program), California moved long ago to strengthen teacher education by requiring graduate-level programs, which require subject matter competency before entering preparation. The means by which the state ascertains teachers’ competency — through college majors, approved subject matter programs and rigorous state-developed tests — are ignored in the NCTQ ratings.
  • Second, while NCTQ focuses on paper requirements for inputs, California has moved toward accountability based on stronger evidence of outcomes, including rigorous tests of basic skills, content knowledge and pedagogy. These include California’s Teacher Performance Assessments, required under SB 2042, which have made the state the first in the nation to judge teachers’ skills and abilities in real K-12 classrooms with real students. These outcomes are also absent from the NCTQ framework. The candidates who have made their way through all of these assessments constitute only two-thirds of those who initially set out to seek teaching credentials.

Accurate, well-vetted information on course requirements and syllabi, plus extensive data on actual candidate qualifications, evaluations of program quality, employers’ assessments of candidates’ readiness, and graduates’ performance in classrooms are available through state and national accreditation records, as well as in-depth studies conducted by researchers. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) is a ready source of such data, as is the national accrediting body (the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation). CCTC received no request from NCTQ for this information.

Unfortunately, the answer to the question of what we can learn about teacher education quality from the NCTQ report on Teacher Prep is “not much.” Without reliable data related to what programs and their candidates actually do, the study is not useful for driving improvement.

In contrast to the NCTQ approach, we in California are focusing our attention on developing accurate and reliable data about program outcomes and useful evidence of program quality. We are redesigning licensing and accreditation with these goals in mind. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is committed to comprehensive accountability and increased transparency in data about the outcomes of our programs and the opportunities to learn they provide.


Linda Darling-Hammond is the chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University.

Filed under: Commentary, Preparation


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34 Responses to “National Council on Teacher Quality report is deeply flawed”

  1. Paul said

    on June 19, 2013 at 2:12 am

    Agreed, flaws in the NCTQ’s methodology make the ratings inapplicable.

    Still, the NCTQ correctly observes that teacher preparation programs in the United States are non-selective. This is consistent with ETS research: http://www.ets.org/Media/Education_Topics/pdf/TQ_full_report.pdf#page=22 .

    In California, the teaching profession features numerous barriers to entry, but these are formal (entry tests, the CBEST and CSET; the U.S. Constitution requirement; the fifth year of study; the summative assessment, or TPA; two years of induction, or BTSA) and systemic (high opportunity costs stemming from low starting salaries; limited job security due to school districts’ reliance on under-prepared, or fully prepared but temporary, teachers; and non-reelection without cause during a teachers’ first two years of service in a district). The barriers to entry are not academic in nature.

    Boosting the minimum GPA and incorporating the GRE, a test intended for use in selecting graduate students (where the CSET is not designed for this purpose, and yields only binary results in any case), would go a long way toward improving the academic quality of teacher candidates. This step would also eliminate an oversupply of teachers that persists in California even after a decade-long decline in program enrollment.

    I do hope that your first bullet point spells a change in Commissioners’ positions on one of the two provisions of Senate Bill 5. The CTC did not take action two months ago to oppose the restoration of the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education. And last week, most Commissioners raved about the recommendations of the Teacher Preparation Advisory Panel (TAP), which include “12. …re-authorizing Elementary Subject Matter programs.”

    Man cannot serve God and mammon. The Commission cannot have it both ways. Either an undergraduate major in elementary education is desirable, or it is not. As you suggest, California has required, for the past four decades, that prospective teachers major in subject matter fields, rather than allowing them to major in the nebulous field of “elementary education”. [ http://www.ctc.ca.gov/commission/files/CTC-history.pdf#page=160 ] I hope that the CTC will work to keep it that way.

  2. Paul Muench said

    on June 19, 2013 at 6:52 am

    NCTQ is a place where former Teach For America participants go to work when they are done serving in the classroom. So kind of ironic that they are evaluating teacher preparation programs.

    • Paul Muench replied

      on June 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      A little more irony from the report:

      “Should first-year teaching be the equivalent of fraternity hazing, an inevitable rite of passage? Is there no substitute for “on-the-job” training of novice teachers? The answers are obvious. We need more effective teacher preparation. Our profound belief that new teachers and our children deserve better from America’s preparation programs is the touchstone of this project.”

  3. Arthur McKee said

    on June 19, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Many of the Dr. Darling-Hammond’s objections are answered by our detailed methodology and scoring explanations: http://www.nctq.org/teacherPrep/ourApproach/methodology/. But her post makes a number of factual errors that we feel compelled to address:

    Claim: The Review is so badly done that NCTQ asserts that there is an undergraduate teacher preparation program at Columbia when there is none.

    Fact: Actually there is: the Urban Teaching Track Childhood Education program at Columbia College.

    Claim: We got UC Santa Barbara’s ratings wrong because we “missed” a bunch of elementary math courses, English Language Learners courses and a year-long student teaching program.

    Fact: We didn’t miss these courses or the student teaching program at all. We looked at each one and each one failed our standards. That explains their low scores, not sloppy errors on our part.

    Claim: An implication is made that our rating of Cal State University at Chico is wrong because we missed its great “hands-on” instruction at its learning lab.

    Fact: While CSU-Chico’s learning lab may be fabulous, it is immaterial. All we know is that Chico does not give student teachers adequate feedback or require that student teachers are assigned to classroom teachers who are effective.

    There is one point that Dr. Darling-Hammond made which we have found to be correct. We did miss secondary math courses at Stanford University that should in fact be scored on our Secondary Methods Standard.

    As we have said from the beginning, with 16,000 ratings decisions, it was inevitable that we would make some errors. That’s why we set up the Forum process, where we will publicly address all objections to our ratings and make corrections where necessary. Programs such as Stanford’s can send us their objections now and we will address them in July on our website.

    We are pleased by the public discussion happening today about teacher preparation following the release of the Teacher Prep Review. This is how we are going to improve teacher preparation in America, by highlighting the best programs and helping mediocre ones improve so that every future teacher can be classroom ready, day one.

    — Dr. Arthur McKee, Managing Director, Teacher Preparation Studies, NCTQ

    • Linda Darling-Hammond replied

      on June 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

      In response to Arthur McKee’s “corrections,” below are the real facts:

      Columbia College’s Alleged Teacher Education Programs

      The Claim as stated by NCTQ: “The Review is so badly done that NCTQ asserts that there is an undergraduate teacher preparation program at Columbia when there is none.”

      NCTQ statement of “Fact”: Actually there is: the Urban Teaching Track Childhood Education program at Columbia College.

      The Reality: There is indeed no such program at Columbia College. Originally NCTQ rated TWO programs at Columbia College — one in elementary education and one in secondary education — that do not exist. The president and provost at Teachers College were mystified about this attribution and went on a hunt for this program. They could not find one at Columbia College or at Teachers College. It turns out there is a program by this name at Barnard College, which students can take as an undergraduate minor. Barnard College – as its students will tell you – is not Columbia College, and it is not affiliated in any way with Teachers College. NCTQ appears not to know what institution it is even reviewing. (For some unknown reason, NCTQ did not rate the program content, only its “selectivity.”)

      UC – Santa Barbara’s Alleged Failure to Offer Critical Teaching Courses

      The Claim as stated by NCTQ: “We got U.C. Santa Barbara’s ratings wrong because we missed the elementary math courses, English Language Learners courses and a year-long student teaching program.” (In addition, I had noted that NCTQ entirely missed the UC-Santa Barbara secondary education program, which they do not address in their rebuttal. The truth is that they did entirely miss that program.)

      NCTQ Statement of “Fact:” “We didn’t miss these courses or the student teaching program at all. We looked at each one and each one failed our standards. That explains their low scores, not sloppy errors on our part.”

      The Reality: The evidence shows that NCTQ’s raters did in fact either miss the content of these courses or rate them erroneously. Their ratings are not plausible when the details of the program are known.

      1) On English Learners, NCTQ review said: The program fails to meet the standard because there is no required course that delivers instructional strategies addressing the specific early reading needs of English language learners and requires candidates to practice such strategies. This is false. There are multiple courses (6 in all) that treat these strategies.

      • At UC-Santa Barbara, Candidates begin in August with a 2 unit course on “Foundations of Academic Language” that prepares them for the Reading/Language Arts (2 quarters) and English Language Development (ELD)/SDAIE (an approach to teaching English learners in content areas) course series (3 quarters). In addition, they have a course in “Culture and Language in Teaching and Learning” that also addresses teaching reading for ELs. All course assignments are linked to student teaching experiences, and require some form of assessment, teaching, or other activity with the candidates’ K-12 students. Candidates are only placed in partner schools that serve a diverse student body that includes children with linguistic diversity. The program requires that Candidates must have opportunities to teach English Learners, and this requirement is stated in the application that schools use to apply as a partner. Each reading/Language Arts assignment requires attention to learners in the classroom (which will include ELs) and the Literacy Assessment assignment requires a series of assessments with a student struggling with reading, generally an English Learner. Incorporation of Academic Language and ELD standards are a required component of the Lesson Design Template that all candidates in the program must use. All elementary reading/language arts lessons, and lesson plan assignments require consideration, assessment, and specific strategies for English Learners. The reading courses are integrated and articulated with the year-long three-course ELD/SDAIE series.

      2) On Elementary Mathematics, NCTQ review said: The institution does not meet this standard because it requires that teacher candidates take little or no coursework designed to develop their conceptual understanding of elementary mathematics topics. It thus fails to ensure that all essential topics are adequately covered, regardless of the design of the instruction. This is false. There are 2 courses that do precisely this, plus another course in mathematics methods:

      • Two math courses are required of elementary candidates prior to taking their elementary mathematics methods course. The syllabi for these courses shows that they are focused on concept attainment both for candidates and for understanding how children think about these topics. The mathematics methods course builds on this conceptual understanding to enable candidates to learn to teach these concepts to children.

      3) On Student Teaching, NCTQ review gave the program said: While the program provides student teachers with sufficient feedback it fails to meet this standard because it does not clearly communicate to school districts the desired characteristics of cooperating teachers, and fails to assert its critical role in the selection of cooperating teachers. This is false. The partnership agreement between the university and school districts outlines roles and responsibilities of university and school-site personnel and the characteristics of cooperating teachers.

      • The agreement makes it clear that UCSB-funded on-site coordinators and supervisors are involved in the selection of cooperating teachers and that such teachers must be able to model and develop the instructional strategies reflected in the California Teaching Performance Expectations, as well as planning with the teaching candidates weekly, sharing curriculum materials, and allowing candidates to explore approaches to teaching and learning found in the Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. They must also teach diverse classrooms that include English learners.

      4) On Struggling Readers, the NCTQ review said: The program fails to meet the standard because there is no required reading course that delivers instructional strategies necessary for teaching struggling readers and requires candidates to practice such strategies. This is false. There are two required courses in elementary reading/ language arts, both of which specifically treat the teaching of English learners, students with reading disabilities, and others who experience other difficulties in reading, and both of which are linked directly to clinical experiences that require candidates to practice these strategies.

      • The courses treat the Common Core State Standards in ELA, stages of reading development, and specific strategies to teach oral language development, word identification, phonological awareness, phonics, structural and contextual analysis of words, comprehension strategies, as well as strategies for reading different kinds of texts. Candidates study the California Content Standards for CAPA (California Alternate Performance Assessment) used with special education students and they design accommodations and modifications for students in their classes who have special needs. When they complete the Performance Assessment for California Teachers, candidates must also design and teach lessons suitable for students who are English learners as well as those with disabilities and be evaluated on their teaching.

      Cal State – Chico’s alleged Failure to offer hands-on learning opportunities

      The Claim as stated by NCTQ: “An implication is made that our rating of Cal State University at Chico is wrong because we missed their great ‘hands-on’ instruction at its learning lab.” (What I said was that: California State University at Chico was rated poorly for presumably lacking “hands-on” instruction, even though it is well-known in the state for its hands-on learning lab and requires more than 500 hours of clinical training during its full year of graduate level preparation.)

      NCTQ Statement of “Fact:” While CSU-Chico’s learning lab may be fabulous, it is immaterial. All we know is that Chico does not give student teachers adequate feedback or require that student teachers are assigned to classroom teachers who are effective.

      The Reality:

      • With respect to feedback for student teachers: In its extensive student teaching program, Chico links feedback to candidates to California’s thirteen Teacher Performance Expectations (TPEs). Formative assessments include formal classroom teaching observations over the course of both practicum experiences conducted by university supervisors. Feedback is guided by detailed rubrics. Instructors and university supervisors guide and coach candidates in the completion of formative assessments that prepare them for the teaching performance assessment and provide them with timely feedback. At the midpoint and end of each practicum semester, the candidate, the cooperating teacher and the supervisor engage in a three-way discussion to evaluate the candidate’s progress in addressing the TPEs. This discussion results in the completion of a Teaching Practicum Evaluation Form. Candidates also self-evaluate, and all three individuals participate in a final evaluation. In the event that a candidate is not successfully demonstrating competency on one or more TPE at any given point during the semester, an Improvement Plan is implemented. The Improvement Plan details specific areas of concern and recommends specific actions that need to be successfully completed. With support and guidance, the candidate is given additional opportunities to demonstrate success. At the end of the student teaching semester candidates, their cooperating teachers, and their university supervisor participate in an evaluation of the candidate’s strengths, growth needs, and growth goals. They use this information to develop an implementation plan that is then carried forward to their support provider in their induction program during their first two years of teaching.

      • With respect to selecting cooperating teachers: To qualify, a cooperating teacher must hold the appropriate credential (including authorization to teach English learners), have three or more years of experience teaching in California, teach in a diverse school, and be deemed capable of effectively guiding a beginning teacher by both university and site personnel. Experienced university supervisors provide input during the selection process, based on their own evaluation of teachers, along with site administrators who must recommend that a teacher is able to successfully guide the learning of a credential candidate. Both university supervisors and administrators make candid input about cooperating teachers in a data base that is maintained to guide placements. Cooperating teachers are removed from the data base when concerns are raised about their effectiveness.

      Conclusion: NCTQ’s unorthodox methods may have been incapable of finding these readily available data, but that does not mean they do not exist. Even more important is evidence that candidates in fact are able to teach when they reach the classroom.

      NCTQ did concede that they made an error in their ratings of the Stanford courses I mentioned and has noted that it invites programs to respond with corrections to their data. But there is no published plan to correct the ratings, and I fear that programs may have too little confidence in the NCTQ methods to take steps to engage with them further.

      We need more accurate and comprehensive methods for evaluating programs so that we can properly guide the improvements that are necessary. The National Research Council will soon issue a report on more productive methods for evaluating teacher education. I hope their findings will be the focus of as much attention by the media and the field as these.

  4. Steven said

    on June 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Defensing your flawed methodology does not give it credibility.

    “Fact: While CSU-Chico’s learning lab may be fabulous, it is immaterial. All we know is that Chico does not give student teachers adequate feedback or require that student teachers are assigned to classroom teachers who are effective.”

    This statement is all I need to read to dismiss everything say. One, your definition of “fact” is pretty dang questionable. Two. “all we know” how? how do you know? by virtue of your own arbitary rating system that, by the way, has ZERO published peer-reviewed articles backing it? How do you know that it does not actually adequately happen? show me your evidence that your measures matter. show me the evidence that in practice what you rate, what you judge on, even has a real world result. I read your entire linked methodology, and you did not cite one single body of liturature to defend much metrics.

    This paper is a classic example of putting the cart ahead of the horse. You have invented metrics and measures that feel good to your organization, but does not have the backing of science, validity and peer-reviewed evidence. If you want these ratings to mean something other that a huge pie in the face for your organization (and judging by the fire storm you are getting from Universities across the nation, it is) you have a lot of ground work to do. You know, like first run a study that proves teacher that are admitted with a 3.0+ GPA and a high SAT score are more successful than a 2.75 student with an average test score.

    Run that study. Validate that measure. Then, and ONLY then are you free to use that in a paper that advices individuals to avoid schools you deem unworthy (and potentially result in economic harm… I hope your lawyers are warmed up).

    I have spend my entire academic career being taught to be a scientist. your paper is a mockery of the scientific method. It is ironic you deem yourselves worthy to judge teacher prep…

    For pete’s – sake man! you are suppose to be advocating for education reform, and yet this paper is a miserable example of cutting corners, lax standards and non-science based reporting.

    • el replied

      on June 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Not to mention that if it is all about syllabi that the quality of our K-12 teachers is obviously irrelevant – the content is all listed right there in the common core, it’s the law it was presented, thus the kids learned it, we’re done, QED.

  5. Karen G. said

    on June 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Teachers seem to always want to band together. My daughters teacher told the class he would rather teach math then social studies/science. He read from the text book the entire year. So much for hands on learning. The administration never asks for reviews of teachers. Both my kids attend one of the largest urban/suburban systems. Charlotte has 125,000 kids. But my experience had been if a teacher comes from Ohio they are usually very very good. The schools where teachers get training do matter. Public school standards should be higher then any other school. I suspect that it isn’t the program that is the problem so much as the lack of quality candidates at the schools.

  6. Paul Muench said

    on June 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    One interesting anomaly with this report is the state of Massachusetts. None of the schools with Massachusetts as part of its name got on the honor roll. But somehow Massachusetts consistently has the highest student standardized test scores in the nation. Where are those Massachusetts teachers coming from? Or is it just the people who live there?

    • navigio replied

      on June 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Massachusetts and private schools..

      • Paul Muench replied

        on June 20, 2013 at 5:41 am

        So Massachusetts does have two schools on the honor roll, one public and one private. The state universities don’t bear the state name. No surprise that these two honor role schools only produce a small fraction of the teachers from Massachusetts.

  7. el said

    on June 20, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Here is a great quote on selectivity for y’all, from the free market no less.



    Q. Other insights from the data you’ve gathered about Google employees?

    A. One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

    What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.

  8. Paul said

    on June 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    el, while I believe that public education is one of the most insular and inbred fields and find it refreshing to consider perspectives form the outside world, the job descriptions and pedigree of Google employees are very different from those of classroom teachers.

    First, employees at Google — and in other large companies — are highly specialized. A computer scientist might spend years focusing on one specific product or project. All elementary and many middle school teachers are called upon to teach several different subjects. Teachers at all levels may be asked to serve more than one grade in a year, or from year to year, which requires awareness of different developmental issues, content strands, and learning strategies. Some measure of general academic ability would be useful in teacher selection.

    Second, technical employees at Google (with the exception of the new, non-college segment mentioned in the article) have more formal education than teachers. Sixty per cent of California’s teachers work with a bachelor’s degree and a fifth-year teaching credential, according to CDE DataQuest. For the minority holding master’s degrees, almost all of those degrees are in “education” rather than in subject matter fields. It may be that graduate school entry tests like the GRE predict nothing once a person has finished graduate school, like the typical Googler. Those scores do say a lot about someone who has just earned a bachelor’s degree.

    Finland, held up as the model of teacher quality and good educational outcomes, has highly selective teacher education programs, as do other developed countries. The U.S. wants to run schools on the cheap, and this compromises the talent pool. A typical Google technical employee earns a salary in the six figures and a typical teacher, perhaps $60,000 at the mid-point of her career. Clearly, the public schools are not tapping the same talent pool.

    • el replied

      on June 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      It’s actually not typical for programmers to have graduate school education. I can’t say what Google’s profile is (they have always been quirky in the way they hire). Programmers do a lot of self-teaching because usually by the time a programming language makes it into a university syllabus, it’s no longer the hot new language, and the tools change rapidly.

      Is it the same talent pool? No – a school taught by people from Google would leave kids behind left and right, no question. Programmers are not selected for patience with small children. But, I would reflect, that SAT scores don’t really select for that either. :-)

      • Paul replied

        on June 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        Just by way of information, my undergraduate degree and my first career were in computer science. Historically, Google placed a premium on graduate degrees for technical staff, where other outfits did hire a lot of programmers with bachelor’s degrees — and a few whiz-kid college dropouts.

        I’m advocating an additional screening criterion for teachers, since academic achievement (beyond the most basic level) is not a criterion, especially in the major teacher preparation programs (CSU and private universities). Existing screening criteria — including the use of reference checks, review of prior work with children, and admission interviews, to gauge a candidate’s disposition for working with children — would remain.

  9. Esther the Queen said

    on June 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Talk about irony.

    Linda Darling-Hammond criticizes NCTQ with the statement, “You have invented metrics and measures that feel good to your organization, but does not have the backing of science, validity and peer-reviewed evidence.”

    That statement summarizes the whole of ed school curricula.

    Nothing is based on science. It’s all ed professors’ preferences, the “dispositions” of “accrediting” organizations to which ed schools abjectly kneel (because they have no firm idea themselves of what a proficient teacher looks like), and the soft “pedagogy” of progressive leftism disguised as child-centered.

    Whole language, fuzzy math, discovery learning, the mantras “drill and kill” and “teachers should be guides on the side,” the demonization of explicit instruction and of the use of well-tested programs in reading and math, and teacher “preparation” curricula that are based NOT on a set of clear performance objectives and serious assessment of graduating students in relation to those objectives, but instead are based on airy politically correct “dispositions” regarding social justice and diversity.

    Ed schools provide no evidence that their students can actually design curricula and instruction down to the essential details, or that their students leave ed schools able actually to deliver technically proficient instruction. [They rely on the schools to do this for them. And then take credit for any learning of school students taught by their recent graduates.]

    In other words, ed schools teach their student-teachers exactly the opposite of what scientific research says about effective instruction.

    And ed school curricula themselves are a mess of

    1. Lame courses in which students make posters adorned with glitter and macaroni to display their “teaching philosophies.” Of course, glitter and macaroni are perfect expressions of those “philosophies.”

    2. Relentless indoctrination in left-wing agendas and ideology—”white privilege,” “America is racist, sexist, and homophobic.” And heaven help the student who questions this.

    3. At best, superficial treatment of important teaching skills.

    4. An ad hoc sequence of courses with little or no cumulative development of skill.

    The very irrationality and DISorganization of the typical ed school curriculum says all you need to know about what ed schools DON’T know about how to educate anyone.

    Revealed in the ad hominem and snarcky rebuttals to NCTQ, is the frantic wriggling of a bug caught in its own web of deceit and meaningless eduspeak.

    • Linda Darling-Hammond replied

      on June 21, 2013 at 7:47 am

      I did not ever make the statement attributed to me in this post {“You have invented metrics and measures that feel good to your organization, but does not have the backing of science, validity and peer-reviewed evidence.”) I don’t know who did make that statement, but it is certainly not mine.

      • el replied

        on June 21, 2013 at 8:27 am

        That was “Steven” in the comments.

    • Paul replied

      on June 21, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Esther, I am known to be a critic of some teacher preparation programs, but even I feel that you have gone too far.

      First, let’s be clear that the NCTQ did not analyze the content of teacher preparation programs at this level of detail.

      You wrote: “Ed schools provide no evidence that their students can actually design curricula and instruction down to the essential details, or that their students leave ed schools able actually to deliver technically proficient instruction.”

      California has made great strides in this area. The Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) is required of all teacher candidates. It is a rigorous summative assessment, scored by trained evaluators, whose decisions are checked (“calibrated”) for consistency. The TPA requires teacher credential candidates to study the composition of their student teaching (or internship) class, study a state standard content strand, propose a lesson plan and a series of accommodations that fit the content and the students, propose assessments, deliver and videotape the lesson, and draw conclusions from the student assessment results. Few, if any, other states impose such a strict exit test.

      It is true that each university has its own expectations for student teachers. More work could be done in that area, for example, by specifying a minimum number of hours for student teachers (already done, in effect, for interns), and by establishing criteria for choosing cooperating teachers. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is considering recommendations along those lines right now.

      You criticized “Whole language, fuzzy math, discovery learning, the mantras ‘drill and kill’ and ‘teachers should be guides on the side,’ the demonization of explicit instruction and of the use of well-tested programs in reading and math”. Different models of instruction fit different content strands, grade levels, groups of students, and schools. A good teacher preparation program exposes students to multiple models, helps them to choose wisely, and equips them to analyze the results and make adjustments where necessary. If explicit direct instruction (EDI) were the only effective model of instruction, some of the others that you mentioned would have been abandoned long ago. (“Drill and kill”, incidentally, can be thought of as an expression of EDI.) Phonics instruction is a state mandate, and all elementary and special education teachers in California are trained in and tested on this (look up “RICA”). No program that I’m aware of has ever taught, let alone advocated “fuzzy math”. On the other hand, having students “discover” patterns in a strategically chosen set of mathematical or scientific examples is a valid instructional practice, not to mention a real-life cognitive practice that adults use every day.

      You allege “Relentless indoctrination in left-wing agendas and ideology–’white privilege,’ ‘America is racist, sexist, and homophobic.’ And heaven help the student who questions this.”

      California’s teacher workforce remains much less diverse than California’s student population. Many of us are unhappy about that, and even if we can’t immediately make the teacher workforce reflect the community, we can make sure that teachers learn to consider home language, home culture, gender (look up research on girls’ responses to math and science), physical and cognitive disabilities, and other potential differences when planning and delivering instruction. Ignoring differences and assuming that all students are alike was a disastrous approach. That is why courts mandated services for students with disabilities, and for students whose primary language is not English, many decades ago. Homophobia also matters; the suicide rate among gay and lesbian youth is sky high. Bullying, whatever the basis, detracts from learning. If you watch the debate at the CTC, you’ll see that many commentators believe that teacher preparation programs are not doing enough to equip teachers to work with students who are “different”.

      • el replied

        on June 21, 2013 at 11:05 am

        Thank you, Paul. That was a lovely and substantive comment.

  10. Esther the Queen said

    on June 21, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Sorry, Paul, but that was not, as el said, a substantive comment.

    All you pointed to was programs and activities. You did not provide any data that ed school graduates can actually design and teach in a technically proficient way. You say, [my response in CAPS]


    As to ed professors teaching students how to use different approaches…. I say, nonsense. Ed professors don’t KNOW enough about the logic of learning even to see exactly what different methods do.

    I stand by what I said, and I await hard evidence of ed students actually writing procedures [not discussing] for
    1. Teaching higher order concepts.

    2. Teaching decoding.

    3. Generalizing knowledge to new examples.

    4. Building fluency.

    5. Assessing and improving programs in reading and math—down to the details of examples and error corrections.

    6. Doing a knowledge analysis of long division.

    Ed students can’t do these things, primarily because their professors can’t either. I bet most ed professors reading this [well trained special educators are the exception] don’t even know what a higher order concept is, how to build fluency, or how knowledge analysis differs from task analysis.

    • Paul replied

      on June 21, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Esther, I’m going to pick just two issues to respond to, for lack of time and space, and those are: 1. evidence of mastery and 2. the place of decoding in reading instruction.

      A passing score on the TPA is required for a teaching credential. I shared with you the state mandate, the content of the assessment, and the scoring procedure. Perhaps you’d like to read my TPA to see whether I learned the teaching skills that you and I have mentioned. On the other hand, I am not a good candidate, as I relied on personal study and prior experience, rather than education courses, to pass the TPA. (Fewer than 250 people each year, out of thousands, qualify for the S.B. 57 Early Completion Option internship that I chose.) You should approach Dr. Darling Hammond to see if she would be willing to share some conventional TPA submissions with you, as evidence of what happens in one of the state’s best and most selective teacher preparation programs, STEP. You could also approach your nearest CSU campus. TPA submissions are anonymous, and institutions do circulate examples for current students. Short of reading completed TPA submissions, you could read the assessment itself (look up CalTPA and PACT). You’ll also find information about scoring, and reviews of scoring.

      On the question of decoding, the “phonics or else” approach that you advocate has given rise to a new category of beginning reader in the past few decades: someone with perfect decoding but no comprehension of what she is reading. As a speaker of four alphabetic languages, I absolutely support the teaching of phonics, which includes decoding. This, once again, is a state mandate. A passing score on the RICA is required for an elementary or special education credential, and it would be difficult to pass the RICA without understanding this element of reading instruction.

      The fact is that’s it’s easy to teach (and learn) decoding. It was done decades ago in the appendix of a paperback book, “Why Johnny Can’t Read”. Teaching comprehension strategies is far harder, and the issue gets lost in discussions about phonics. I have secondary credentials in several fields, and an elementary credential, so I see the importance of helping young children achieve automaticity, as well as the importance of teaching comprehension strategies to younger and older students (see “proficient reader” for example). If you want to improve literacy, perhaps you’ll join me in advocating RICA for secondary teachers, and more training in comprehension strategies for elementary and secondary teachers. (Comprehension is an element of the RICA, but more is better in this case.)

      Since you dismiss factual matters such as the TPA as “non-substantive”, I wonder what your level of familiarity with California’s teacher credential laws, regulations and programs really is. If you see specific things that are missing, testify before the CTC! Claims that reading instruction isn’t taught, that “fuzzy math” exists (find me a teacher ed. textbook for “fuzzy math”!), and that teachers earn credentials without demonstrating any skills are factually incorrect. Again, I’m not here to defend the teacher education establishment; I’ve often been at odds with it. But please, give credit where some credit is due.

      • Manuel replied

        on June 22, 2013 at 12:12 am

        Tip of the hat, Paul. Tip of the hat.

        When I grow up, I want to be like you ;-)

  11. Esther the Queen said

    on June 22, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Paul, you say,

    “the “phonics or else” approach that you advocate has given rise to a new category of beginning reader in the past few decades: someone with perfect decoding but no comprehension of what she is reading.”

    I never said ‘phonics or else’?

    Nor did I say anything about how to teach reading. If I had, I would have identified all of the skills involved—including vocabulary and comprehension,” and if desired I could write procedures for all interested parties.

    Only an idiot (and I exclude you from that category, Paul. No, No, don’t thank me.)who knows nothing about reading would ever teach nothing but phonics. After all, phonics is only ONE reading skill among many.

    The phonics 24/7/365 mania is yet another example of this field grabbing an idea and running it to death, in a mindless way. As if one lousy skill will magically make everything just fine.

    “All we have to do is teach them to sound out words, and the achievement gap will disappear.”

    Sure it will. These nitwits never considered that impoverished kids don’t have much vocabulary.

    Same as with whole language. Take a reasonable idea—that all aspects of literacy ought to be taught together—and in a few years, an army of imbeciles is training new teachers to have kids guess what words say using ‘context cues,’ instead of letter-sound correspondence. The only question is whether these guys are insane or merely stupid.

    You have to admit, Paul, that this field is guided by morons. Glib and comely to be sure, but morons nonetheless.

    As to California, I have carefully examined the teacher proficiency systems of 16 states, including California, 4 foreign countries, and several independent organizations such as Teach for America and CLASS. I found the standards and assessments to be

    1. vague and equivocal. No operational definitions, Paul! What do they MEAN by “well-designed lesson”?

    2. grandiose and impossible. “serve all learners.” “lifelong learning.”

    3. No attempt at validation, and instead using committee consensus.

    4. Instead of close descriptions of teacher performance (e.g., live instruction) based on a comprehensive list of what well-designed lessons should contain, teachers are rated on bizarre scales.

    a. developing. b. competent c. proficient.


    5. Essential features of proficient teaching are completely absent.

    a. How to teach facts, concepts, rules/propositions, and strategies.

    b. How to work on all phases of mastery: acquisition, generalization, fluency, integration, retention.

    c. How to carefully and closely evaluate programs and textbooks, and to improve them, including logical progression, teaching and then integrating preskills, work on generalization and fluency, use of big ideas, how to use curriculum-based mastery tests, how to correct errors, and many more.

    Ed students are not taught these in ed schools; I have never seen a single teacher (except those who were trained in a few departments I don’t care to mention here) who even knows what the words (above) mean, or how proficiently to select and improve materials (which is why schools and districts almost always pick the wrong ones); and teacher assessment systems ignore these.

    6. There is no adequate pilot testing of the assessments and of the methods used for later helping teachers, to see if any of it makes a difference. As with everything else in this field, some persons get all hot over some “idea,” spin out a whole philosophy and set of procedures, and then get states and districts to adopt it.

    Pretty much like Common Core—which still insists that teachers work on 6 different kinds of phonemic awareness! Total idiocy.

    I have nothing against California. If you say things are improving, I’ll believe you, not that my opinion matters. I imagine you have had something to do with the improvement. And am I wrong when I suggest that much more could be done if confederacies of dunces weren’t in charge?

    • navigio replied

      on June 23, 2013 at 3:26 am

      Out of curiosity. Is it phonemic awareness itself you consider idiocy, or the varying types?

  12. retired teacher said

    on June 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Thank goodness for Esther the Queen! Esther, you should start an ed school. retired teacher

  13. Esther the Queen said

    on June 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm


    The only kinds of phonemic awareness that seem needed, according to the research I’ve read, are blending and segmenting. Onset-rime is a kind of both. Anything else is a waste of kids’ time.

    Counting sounds. “How many sounds in sssiiittt?” Why? No one does that when they read.

    Identifying and saying the first, middle, and last sound. No one does that when they read.

    Removing a sound and saying what’s left. phoneme deletion. Why?

    Replacing one sound with another. phoneme substitution. Why?

    And yet, these are still in the common core. Why?

    Like everything else, let’s all adopt the common core without even evaluating it.

    The whole languagists (and all other persons with brains) were right when they criticized all the focused teaching on phonemic awareness as a skill by itself. Though they are nuts in saying that kids should guess what words say using context cues, and then calling that reading. “Reading as a psycholinguistic guessing game.” (1967. Kenneth Goodman).

    As usual, the edu-elites heard that phonemic awareness needs to be taught, and, like “phonics,” they turned it into a magic tool that would get the public (‘My kid can’t read!’) off their backs. So, as with phonics, teachers (poorly taught in ed schools, where faculty and administration spend all their time thinking of how to cover their butts with fancy websites, cheesy ‘mission statements’ ["We prepare teachers to be leaders in a 21st century global society."--- Yeah, sure you do.] and end of year blather reports ["Our faculty work closely with 8,976 teachers in surrounding communities."---Yeah, sure they do.], but zero time talking about how teach) spend months on phonemic awareness and phonics, when they COULD be teaching kids to read (and discuss) sentences in about 10 lessons, along with new vocabulary…

    ‘New word. huge. Spell huge… Another way to say huge is very big. Listen. The dog is very big. I’ll say that sentence with our new word. The dog is huge. Yup, we got ourselves a huge dog here, kids. Your turn. Listen. The horse is very big. YOU say that sentence with our new word.’

    Easy peasy.

    Maybe one day a large enough group of teachers and principals will realize that they are being led by an arrogant, incompetent, place-holding gaggle of quack elites in ed schools and districts and national organizations (all part of an obvious establishment) who make great salaries and hang out sipping chablis at conferences, congratulating themselves on how smart they are, while everyone else is busting their butts “implementing” each new useless scheme that elites dream up (from which you can bet your huge horse they are getting nice kickbacks and reputations, while principals and teachers get stress disorders.

    And just maybe those teachers and principals will realize that joints like NCTQ are actually on their side, going after the elites.

  14. CarolineSF said

    on June 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Hey, EdSource Today — Louis, John and the rest: It sure sounds like the NCTQ folks are making firm claims, Darling-Hammond is saying they are inaccurate, and NCTQ is insisting they are so accurate.

    Since these are firm claims, you can actually do the legwork to decisively confirm which one is true. In fact, I think you’re pretty much obligated to do so now that you got this debate started on your site. One two three go!

  15. Esther the Queen said

    on June 23, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Nice point, CarolineSF. How unusual that anyone wants to test hypotheses.

    Have you ever wondered, CarolineSF, why there are only 4 or 5 ed schools (e.g., in Louisiana) that have a comprehensive, clear, and concrete set of final objectives for graduates, based on what scientific research says teachers need to DO (not demonstrate or appreciate or understand) about the logic of learning, phases of mastery, forms of knowledge and how each is effectively taught, how to evaluate and improve textbooks and programs, how to run a classroom—with all ed courses guided by the objectives and all ed courses assessing the extent to which students have achieved the objectives?

    I’m betting that you can’t.

    And the reason is that very few ed schools have faculty who COULD develop such serious objectives; could think of how to deliver instruction that would make students proficient; or could figure out how to assess ed students’ learning.

    Even if they could, ed schools dare not do this, because then they would easily be shown to teach little that is useful, and that they graduate students who do not know exactly how to teach.

    Instead of the saprophytic protection rackets that certify ed schools, states should certify ed schools based on (1) the quality of their final objectives; and (2) hard data (e.g., lesson plans, scoring of live instruction, samples of ed students’ evaluations and improvements of textbooks) showing that their students are proficient. Until this happens, ed schools are not a profession.

  16. CarolineSF said

    on June 23, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    ETQ, I’m only suggesting that EdSource Today get to the bottom of the directly conflicting assertions made by the National Council on Teacher Quality and Linda Darling-Hammond. In fact, I think EdSource Today is obligated to do that. Saprophytic protection rackets are outside my sphere.

  17. Esther the Queen said

    on June 26, 2013 at 11:09 am


    I just read the report at the link you provided. Their main point was that there is often no research showing the importance of the criteria that NCTQ used to evaluate ed schools; that the criteria were “subjective” and just “opinion.”

    This is the sort of misleading blather that so easily sways persons and groups in this field, especially persons and groups who want to protect themselves from criticism.

    Of course there is no research on many of the criteria! Ed schools won’t DO it!

    For example, one of NCTQ’s criteria is that ed school reading courses should teach all of the reading skills—phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Ed schools are not going to do research showing that when they do NOT teach new teahers all these skills, public schools students do NOT learn to read. That research would expose their failure.

    However, there is a ton of EXTERNAL research showing what happens when you don’t teach kids all of those skills, and THAT is the research that is the basis for NCTQ’s evaluation criteria. These criteria are not just opinion.

  18. Oakland Teacher said

    on October 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I have rarely heard someone articulately discuss the disgraceful implementation of Whole Language… and our knee-jerk reactions to and against it.

    The entire implementation was a farce, and the pendulum swung hard the other way as a reaction.

    Meanwhile, there’s a generation of young people who were treated like guinea pigs and whose life trajectories were impacted in a negative way. Poor research, shoddy training, unclear mandates, half-hearted implementation – those poor kids never had a chance.

  19. Judy Green said

    on April 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Mississippi county schools , Harrison County, doesn’t honor and appreciate career teachers in Special Education, Junior high is a tough job and the new curriculum Common Core, has added more paperwork. So what type of person /principal would suspend a teacher for another teacher;’s messup? And allow school business to be handled off the campus with the parent behind the responsibility 8th grade teacher’s back after has suspended the teacher rather than in a set meeting to make a statement and committee sign off as regulation state? Special teacher isn’t a counselor not by legality nor a psychologist to provide psych service to a student so how can be help responsible for it? Such as speech hasn’t been and isn’t the Special Teacher’s job? Teacher was suspended TWO days without pay and being upset as felt done wrong and casemanager has allowed wrongdoing, words were said so then got FIVE days . No one asked if meds for muscle strain could contribute though who wouldn’t be upset ot lose pay for another messup and was trying to do the job as regs state? Distressed, couldn’t go on so resigned as no support and ignored to get a revised schedule! Harrison County Schools, North Gulfport 8th grade, Gulfport MS….26 years at that school , goes to SIx classes daily and word not matter at all versus teachers with not even 10 years and a math guy lied on lady has TWO years on the job!!!!!!!!!!Teacher deserves reimbursement for 7 days ASAP for pain and suffering plus betrayed; deserves 2014-2015 pay in advance as well as suffrage, humiliation…had signed intent to return for English an dRedaing only inclusion and hadn’t been told wouldn’t be renewed but gets suspended til cant take it no more ; already insomnia issues as not easy with 8th graders after 20 years, more paperwork. Principals need training on SPecial Ed regs and rules and train to WRITE an IEP ; regular teachers also as not want learning disabled in classes

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