Collaboration in Civic Spheres

WA Teaching Standards Earn C- From Ed Reform Group

by February 11th, 2014

In a January 30 report evaluating all 50 states on the sufficiency of their K-12 teaching profession laws, rules and regulations, a national education reform group funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other ed reform interests gives Washington State an overall grade of C- including a D+ for “delivering well-prepared teachers.” The C- for Washington includes four more sub-section grades: three of C- for policies to identify, retain and “exit” ineffective teachers, and a C+ for “expanding the teaching pool.” The information comes in the Washington detail section of the “2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook” report by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Each of the five evaluations for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are based on fully explained criteria tied to state laws, rules and regulations for the teaching profession, and point-by-point assessments. The process was designed in cooperation with states, and state responses are included. Washington’s overall C- for 2013 is identical to its grade in 2011 but up slightly from a D+ in 2009. In the 2013 assessments, 10 other states get a C-, 18 get a grade ranging from F to D+, and 21 get grades ranging from B to C. The top performer is Florida, with a B+.

Higher standards for admittance to teaching programs and more rigorous requirements of teaching students get strong emphasis in the report. To better ensure delivery of well-prepared teachers, it says Washington should:

  • Norm to the general population of college applicants – rather than just ed program applicants – the academic proficiency tests used as an admissions criterion in higher ed institutions;
  • Require elementary teaching program candidates to “pass a content test with individually scored subtests in each of the core content areas, including mathematics;”
  • Require teacher trainees “to pass a test to ensure knowledge of effective reading instruction;”
  • Not allow middle school teachers to “teach on a K-8 generalist license,” or high-school teachers to teach subjects in which they have not passed content tests;
  • Not give K-12 special ed teaching certifications without content testing for candidates;
  • Ensure student teachers are placed with mentors selected based on effectiveness rather than just availability;
  • Make continued state approvals of teacher preparation programs contingent on objective measures of the quality of the teachers they produce.

  • Lightning Rod
    NCTQ has at times been a lightning rod. Another NCTQ report called “Teacher Prep Review” was originally released in June 2013 and evaluated 1,200 teacher education programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. It was based on 10 NCTQ pilot studies and 18 research-based standards on how teacher training ought to occur – including for: teaching early and struggling readers, and English Language Learners; special ed instructional design; alignment with the nationally prevalent Common Core standards; classroom management and lesson planning; and using data and assessments.

    Evaluations were based on best practices – including the NCTQ-endorsed approach to teaching reading versus the constructivist “Whole Language” approach – and contrasted with what the schools reported they did. Teacher Prep Review drew critiques from some, in part because like the more recent State Teacher Policy Yearbook, it was based on a “paper review” of how practices relate to chosen standards, but did not include actual field observations.

    WA Endorsers Include Fed Way, Tacoma Supes; DFER
    A revised version issued December 30 corrected some inaccuracies that were found and responded to appeals from rated institutions. The December version is endorsed by 24 current or former state school chiefs, and 99 district superintendents including in Washington, Robert Neu of Federal Way and Carla Santorno of Tacoma. The report is also endorsed by 76 education advocacy groups, including the Washington State chapter of Democrats for Education Reform.

    One Program – at WSU – Makes The Grade
    However, the NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review report – like the more recent 2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook – does not have good news for Washington. Of 24 teaching profession degree programs at mostly public colleges and universities in the state, just one – Washington State University’s undergraduate program to train high school teachers – gets at least three stars out of four and makes the “honor roll.”

    Public Data Ferret’s Education archive

    Three Washington programs come close to clearing the three-star bar at two-and-a-half each: an undergrad program at Western Washington University and a University of Washington-Seattle graduate student program, both for special ed teacher trainees; plus Central Washington University’s undergrad program for high school teachers-to-be. Twenty more programs at Central, Western, various UW branches, WSU, Evergreen State College and Northwest University (a private school) are at two stars or less.

    Two Programs UW Branch Campus Programs Get “Zero Stars” Rating
    Two of those twenty get zero stars and are classified as among the “lowest-performing” nationally; the graduate programs at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma to train new high school teachers. (See p. 26 of the report for all the rankings of Washington programs).

    Further details on the Washington ratings are provided by NCTQ here.

    Of the 1,200 programs evaluated nationwide in “Teacher Prep Review” just 107 or nine percent make the honor roll, earning three or more stars. However, the NCTQ emphasizes that good teachers can still come out of lower-rated programs, thanks to their “innate capabilities,” or the luck of getting “a talented classroom mentor during student teaching.” Also sometimes compensating for poor training programs, the NCTQ says, are “experience in the classroom, the help of teacher colleagues, and the interventions of the school district.”

    Still, the report stresses, the goal of college and university teacher training programs should be to add value so that trainees are better prepared upon completion. The report asserts that its evaluations “provide clear and convincing evidence, based on a four-star rating system, that a vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars.”

    The NCTQ’s largest funders include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of America, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation. The NCTQ was founded in 2000. It describes itself as a bi-partisan organization which believes that “the teaching profession is way overdue for significant reform in how we recruit, prepare, retain and compensate teachers” and which seeks “to provide an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations and to build the case for a comprehensive reform agenda that would challenge the current structure and regulation of the profession.”

    Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

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