Rebecca Kantor, dean of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, argues that newly-released ratings of teacher training programs are deeply flawed.

Courtesy BigStock.com
Courtesy BigStock.com

Yesterday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), an advocacy group with no official status, issued a report that rates most of the nation’s initial teacher preparation programs for licensure as inadequate, including most of Colorado’s teacher preparation programs. The nation’s education leaders are highly critical of this group’s methods, as well as their obvious political agenda.

We at the University of Colorado Denver are not only committed to the evaluation of our teacher education programs, we are, in fact, leaders in assessing and demonstrating the outcomes and impact of our preparation. That is, we have created a robust and comprehensive data-based approach to program evaluation to assess our candidates at graduation, and to measure their impact on K-12 student achievement. By contrast and by their own admission, the criteria for NCTQ’s measurement are incomplete, limited and reliant solely on course syllabi.  

Furthermore, in our case, the NCTQ ratings are simply wrong in three critical areas. First, the reviewers based their ratings on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of licensure options at the University of Colorado Denver. Our students are either undergraduates in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences taking their licensure courses in the School of Education and Human Development, or they are post-baccalaureate students taking the exact same licensure courses as graduate courses.  That is, we do not have separate programs or courses for undergraduates and post-baccalaureate students. Ironically, NCTQ graded our ability to meet the standards though our courses with one to four stars in the undergraduate option and rated the post-baccalaureate program with a “consumer alert!” In other words, looking at the same syllabi, they arrived at different ratings.

Even more problematic, NCTQ completely disregarded our full-year internship requirement, making the claim that we do not have student teaching. In fact, we are one of 5 percent of programs in the nation with a full residency model embedded in 20 years of partnership with our school districts; this is the gold standard of clinical experience. Teams of professors, teachers and school-based personnel mentor our teacher candidates over this full year. Yet, NCTQ gave us a zero on student teaching!

Lastly, the report gives us a poor rating for selectivity; yet, University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education & Human Development is one of the most selective teacher education programs in the state. The typical candidate entering our program has well over a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Our selection process includes interviews during which our faculty and school partners look broadly at teacher leadership potential, and commitment to teaching in high need areas. We also require that all potential candidates pass the state required content exam. We are one of a few programs in the state that require this for admission.

We value program review and constructive feedback on our programs and seek quality data for continuous improvement. For example, just today we received data from one of our major urban partner districts confirms the quality of our graduates:  First year teachers prepared by UCD outperformed other novice teachers in the district on 10 out of 12 of the indicators on the district teacher effectiveness rubric!