A July 21, 2011 report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) concludes that student teaching programs in the U.S. have major flaws. Institutions of higher education provide teacher preparation programs that include a student teaching component that places a teacher candidate in an actual classroom over a period of time to provide classroom instruction under the supervision and guidance of a mentor teacher. The NCTQ report, Student Teaching in the United States, is based on NCTQ’s 3-year review of 134 institutions of higher education offering undergraduate student teaching programs for candidates for elementary school teaching. The 134 institutions represent about 10% of all such institutions in the U.S. NCTQ rated each institutions student teaching design as “poor,” “weak”, “good” or “model,” with poor being the most deficient and model being the least deficient. The rating assigned to an institution was based on whether the institution passed or failed each of the five NCTQ standards considered most critical for student teaching: 1) minimum 10-week program with at least 5 weeks at a single school; 2) mentor teacher selected by the institution, not the school principal; 3) mentor teacher must have at least 3 years of experience; 4) mentor teacher must have the capacity to have a positive impact on student learning; and 5) the mentor teacher must be able to mentor an adult. Nearly 75 percent of the institutions were rated as having a weak or poor design. Only 7 percent, or ten institutions, were rated as having a model design. Among other things, the review found that the institutions’ standards for selecting mentor teachers are much too low and that the number of candidates being prepared to teach in elementary schools significantly exceeds the demand for elementary school teachers.
According to July 21 articles in the NY Times and Education Week, the NCTQ report sparked controversy with some administrators and educators at institutions of higher education, who were especially critical of the perceived lack of transparency in how NCTQ derived its ratings. Some also criticize NCTQ’s recommendation that the institutions prepare far fewer elementary school teachers, expressing that it is unreasonable to expect the institutions to be able to predict how many elementary school teachers will be needed in any given year. The New York Times article quotes the president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Evaluation as stating “This report will generate some attention and discussion, but we don’t know how valid the analysis is. They ask for a lot of documents, reviewed by people we don’t know, against rubrics we are not privileged to see.” However, the article also states that the NCTQ rating methodology is more popular with state education officials; 10 state chief education officers endorsed the project.
A full copy of the report can be downloaded at www.ntcq.org.