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Setting the Record Straight: AACTE’s Engagement on the National Council on Teacher Quality Teacher Prep Review

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For interviews, contact: Lisa Johnson Kiefer
202-478-4502 or

Official Statement of AACTE President and CEO Dr. Sharon P. Robinson

(July 22, 2013, Washington, D.C.) – Little more than a month has passed since the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its 2013 Teacher Prep Review that included ratings of 1,100 higher education-based teacher preparation programs. Further, NCTQ has begun data collection for its 2014 review. It is no secret that many within the teacher preparation profession have taken issue with the review methodology and findings. These critics include AACTE, a national alliance that represents more than 800 of the schools, colleges and departments of education (SCDEs) that prepare new teachers for the classroom.

AACTE has issued several statements over the last few years summarizing our members' concerns with NCTQ's work, particularly with the council's failure to follow even the most fundamental principles of research methodology. In each of NCTQ's projects, AACTE has supported member-to-member engagement and networking. Our role has and continues to be to support institutional decision-making. In the hype and controversy that have surrounded the most recent NCTQ review, though, AACTE's role has been mischaracterized so let me set the record straight on this count.

First, it is important to understand what AACTE is and is not. AACTE is not a union. It is not a think tank or an ideological organization. AACTE is a voluntary membership organization that represents a collective voice and vision on behalf of our nation's educator preparation programs. This mission is essential to keep in mind, as it illustrates the absurdity of the rumor that AACTE not only told our members not to participate in NCTQ projects but that we have ostracized those who decided to participate. We have always recognized and embraced the diversity of the individual decisions that our member institutions choose to make, and we welcome contrary views. We have supported members who participated willingly, those who did not, and those who were compelled because of state open-records laws.

AACTE does not make capricious decisions. We gather feedback from in-person meetings with our members throughout the year and from countless e-mail conversations and phone calls. We would not know half the examples of NCTQ review errors that we do if it were not for members informing us. Their perspectives, stories and guidance are what have determined how AACTE responds publicly about NCTQ.

Clearly, the repercussions of a voluntary membership organization ostracizing those it represents would be detrimental; membership numbers would decline drastically. Yet AACTE membership is at its highest level ever. The numbers are so strong because we carefully listen to members' perspectives and communicate the voice of those we serve.

A review of the AACTE member experience with NCTQ will provide a good foundation for understanding the reaction of our members to the latest NCTQ project.  

One of our early encounters with NCTQ occurred when it began evaluating SCDEs in Texas and then Illinois. At the time when NCTQ started collecting data, our members in each state showed good faith and voluntarily participated, turning over a wealth of materials. When NCTQ published its reports on both states, our members experienced what has now become regular and predictable with NCTQ. Both reports contained gaping holes, sweeping generalities that spoke beyond the data that had been collected, information about programs that was flat-out wrong, and no substantial recommendations for program improvement. Institutions in both states raised these concerns with NCTQ, asking questions and noting the inaccuracies. While acknowledging only a handful of the errors, NCTQ launched a promotional campaign for the reports, ensuring the controversial results attracted the attention of reporters, policy makers, the business community and others. When our members mentioned these issues to reporters and others who sought their reaction to the reports, they were depicted as defensive and not wanting to be held accountable for the quality of their programs. Naturally, this experience resulted in mistrust of NCTQ, especially among those who had willingly participated and believed the council was trying to improve teacher preparation by providing useful feedback.

When NCTQ and U.S. News & World Report announced their partnership to review all of the nation's teacher preparation programs, AACTE sought to improve the experience for its members so that it was more productive than what transpired in Texas and Illinois. We tried to establish a collaborative relationship with NCTQ and U.S. News but were turned down. We also were vigilant in assessing the perspectives of our members before taking a position on the national project. Here is a look at the steps we took after the initial announcement:

  1. In January 2011, we invited NCTQ and U.S. News to our offices to talk about how we could work together on the review to ensure the process and results were useful to all parties. We were told adamantly that they would not consider working with AACTE or our members.
  2. Almost immediately after that meeting, AACTE added a session to our February 2011 Annual Meeting featuring a panel discussion among NCTQ, U.S. News and AACTE member representatives. During the conference, hundreds of our members approached me to say that they were choosing not to participate with this national review.
  3. Following the conference, we surveyed all of our members to ensure that we knew where they stood on the project. The results were staggering: More than 90 percent responded that they would not willingly participate in the review.
  4. When the survey results were in, we received direction from our board and many members that it was time for AACTE to speak out on the facts about NCTQ's past projects and the decision of most members not to participate in the NCTQ/U.S. News review. This stance was reinforced by the Student Teaching Report issued by NCTQ in July 2011, which was promoted as preliminary ratings for the national review and illuminated the types of errors and sweeping generalizations that would shape the larger project.
  5. In fall 2011, we learned that NCTQ was posting notices around campuses, offering to pay students $25 per document they were able to obtain from the SCDEs at their institutions. This bold-faced effort to circumvent institutions' decisions prompted AACTE to issue additional communication to the membership. In that communication, we expressed that the review project was so fundamentally flawed that it was not worthy of our members' engagement. This was not a request for our members to boycott the review, nor did it disparage those who wanted to participate, but the statement was quickly spun as such.

It was evident then, and has become even clearer now, that NCTQ's work is part of an extensive, well-funded public relations campaign to undermine higher education-based teacher preparation. The council does not genuinely seek to improve teacher preparation, nor is it a helpful or reliable guide for parents, prospective teacher candidates or the public.

While it certainly generates a provocative headline, AACTE ultimately is not interested in waging a battle between teacher preparation programs and NCTQ. Our communications about NCTQ and its reviews are part of our ongoing commitment to focus on the facts – that teacher preparation is a field in need of improvement but it is not broken; that it undergoes numerous, intense assessment and accountability measures that are useful and meaningful; and that it has set priorities and plans in motion that advance an agenda that will lead us to produce new teachers who enter the classroom ready to teach effectively on Day 1.

AACTE will maintain a hard line opposing efforts that misinform and deceive the public about our members' work. It is our right, our responsibility and our privilege to share the experiences, perspectives and accurate information about teacher preparation with our members, the education community and the public. And it is all of our responsibility to encourage improvement in teacher preparation and in all areas of education through reports and recommendations that are grounded in high-integrity research, particularly those reports that offer feedback we can actually use to improve the knowledge and skills of our learners.

- Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D.
President and CEO, AACTE

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AACTE: Serving Learners
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is a national alliance of educator preparation programs dedicated to the highest quality professional development of teachers and school leaders in order to enhance PK-12 student learning. The 800 institutions holding AACTE membership represent public and private colleges and universities in every state, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. AACTE's reach and influence fuels its mission of serving learners by providing all school personnel with superior training and continuing education.



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