News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 20, 2013

National group gives ISU low marks for training teachers

Education dean questions study’s methodology

TERRE HAUTE — A national research and advocacy group has given Indiana State University — and more than a dozen other Hoosier colleges and universities — low marks for how it trains teachers.

The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington D.C.-based not-for-profit, gave ISU one star out of a possible four for its undergraduate elementary and secondary education programs.

But NCTQ’s evaluation was flawed, in part, because it used only course syllabi, said Brad Balch, dean of the Bayh College of Education at ISU. That’s like judging local restaurants simply by what’s on their menus, he said.

ISU’s teacher education programs are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which holds the university to high, national standards, Balch added.  That council looks at the actual results, or “outputs,” of teacher training at ISU, not just course syllabi and other “inputs,” he said.

“We’ve got to show that we are making a difference in the K-12 schools that we serve,” Balch said, adding that an “input” model of evaluation is widely considered out of date.

“We have to have supervisor feedback from our young graduates that tells us how well prepared our graduates are for real conditions of practice,” he said.

But NCTQ defends its evaluation process as much more rigorous than just reviewing course syllabi.

“We are looking at much more than syllabi, although we find syllabi very informative,” said Sandi Jacobs, vice president and managing director of NCTQ. “The menu tells you whether you’re going to find steak there or not, and the syllabus tells you whether you’re going to find the building blocks of good reading instruction there or not.”

NCTQ’s evaluation process has taken several years and is based on “a variety of data sources we think can give a very good picture of how the program is designed,” Jacobs said.

Overall, a majority of teacher education programs across the U.S. scored poorly in the NCTQ rankings, which were released Tuesday. Only four programs — at Lipscomb University, Ohio State University, Vanderbilt University and Furman University — received perfect scores of four stars.

Other than ISU, more than a dozen other Indiana teacher education programs also received just one star, including programs at Indiana University, Purdue, Ball State, Anderson University,   Manchester University, University of Notre Dame, University of Southern Indiana and Vincennes University.

Many colleges and universities in Indiana have multiple education programs and just three of those programs received three stars from NCTQ: the undergraduate secondary education program at Indiana University-Bloomington and two programs at Purdue University-Calumet.

To make its assessments, NCTQ looked at program course requirements, syllabi, employer surveys and detailed student-teaching contracts, among other documents, according to U.S. News and World Report, which published the rankings with NCTQ.

NCTQ has a political agenda, Balch and other critics contend.

“The NCTQ is really about a larger, political dialogue on whether university-based programs are serving our needs or should it be for-profit providers or alternative providers,” Balch said.

NCTQ has been supportive of alternative routes to teacher certification, Jacobs agreed. However, she said the organization, founded in 2000 and privately funded, wants all education programs to succeed.

“We want these programs to do well and do better, and that is our motivation,” Jacobs said. “Nothing would make us happier than releasing this report next year and seeing a huge increase in the number of three- and four-star programs.”

Several institutions in Indiana with teacher training were not rated. Those included DePauw, College of Holy Cross, Hanover, Indiana Institute of Technology, Trine University and Wabash College.

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