Some things are simply too complicated for public public consumption.
Rankings are one such example. By their nature, rankings often send messages that are deeply distorted, but we persist in creating rankings where none are justified.
Education has a long and ugly relationship with rankings, making a mess even messier (if that is possible).
Two aspects of the perpetual education debate are worth noting for their complexity: (1) The eternal claim that schools need to be reformed (see Deleuze), and (2) the incessant charge that colleges of education and education certification are underperforming.
The problems with both issues lie with the complexity of the answers.
Have many (if not most) traditional approaches to US public education failed, and do public schools need reforming? Yes, but not in the ways being promoted by self-proclaimed reformers—such as competition/choice, new standards, new high-stakes tests, teacher pay linked to those tests, and more charter schools (see the empty claims from Secretary Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and others).
Are there historical and current problems with education degrees and certification policies for teachers? Yes, but, again, not the sort being shoveled by think tanks such as NCTQ.
NCTQ's Gradual Unmasking
NCTQ has partnered with US News & World Report with a review and ranking of teacher preparation programs across the US, a review that fails the US and the world with its shoddy methodology and thinly veiled goal of dismantling teacher education so NCTQ's backers can cash in on a new era of teacher preparation.
The unmasking of NCTQ is staggering, and growing.
Thus, let's revisit where that unmasking began, and then see how it continues to unfold.
With the release of the National Education Policy Center's 2011 Bunkum Awards, I feel the need to join in the spirit of NEPC's excellent work to highlight the gradual unmasking of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).
To demonstrate that enough funding can buy exclusive rights to publish propaganda as research in the mainstream media, see this teacher bashing piece below from the AP, which treats NCTQ as a legitimate research organization, rather than as an advocacy group in support of charter schools and the corporate attack on the teacher preparation, teacher quality, and state teacher credentialing systems [emphasis added].Recently, I characterized NCTQ's assault on teachers and teacher education as a central player in the bully politics of education reform. Since then, the evidence is gathering, exposing NCTQ as partisan politics masked as scholarly evaluations of teacher education.
NCTQ's first report has already been thoroughly dismissed in a review from NEPC: "Benner’s critique finds fault at every level of the NCTQ evaluation, including development and interpretation of the standards of evaluation, sampling techniques, methodology, data analysis, and findings."
Since then, many institutions announced that they would not collaborate. Some felt that they had already been evaluated by other accrediting institutions like NCATE or TEAC; others objected to NCTQ’s methodology. As the debate rated, NCTQ told the dissenters that they would be rated whether they agreed or not, and if they didn’t cooperate, they would get a zero. The latest information that I have seen is that the ratings will appear this fall.And Ravitch has exposed the partisan and ideological roots of NCTQ's masked agenda:
NCTQ was created by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000. I was on the board of TBF at the time. Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. We thought they were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics. In 1997, we had commissioned a Public Agenda study called 'Different Drummers'; this study chided professors of education because they didn’t care much about discipline and safety and were more concerned with how children learn rather than what they learned. TBF established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated [emphasis added] ed schools.Building on Ravitch's challenges to NCTQ's credibility, Anthony Cody has compared NCTQ to "[t]he 'Payola' scandal occurred in the 1950s when it was discovered that many of the DJs were routinely making decisions about what to play not based on the quality of the music, but on bribes they were receiving from record companies." Cody then offers an alternative to NCTQ's dishonest claim to be addressing teacher certification:
Our schools of education ought to be in a position to think clearly and freely about the challenges our schools face. They are certainly not perfect, but their ability to take an independent stance on education policies and practices is crucial for us to avoid a complete groupthink. But this sort of ideological unanimity in support of 'obsession over data' is what our education 'reformers' apparently want, and the foundations driving the corporate reform agenda will do what it takes to get it.But the most pointed challenge to NCTQ may be from Jack Hassard:
The researchers of the NTCQ study are stuck in a 19th-century model of teaching, and simply want to hold accountable teacher education institutions to the principles and practices that teacher education rocketed through years ago.NCTQ offers no credible agenda or scholarship worthy of reforming teacher education. But this ideological think tank is a disturbing example of all that is wrong with the current education reform movement that has allowed people without experience or expertise as educators to perpetuate an education reform agenda through the weight of money, political influence, and media compliance.
But at the same time, the NTCQ study cleverly uses percentages and numbers in such a way to convince some that teacher education programs are inadequate, and need to be regulated in ways that satisfy their interests. If you look at their sources of funding, and the names of individuals who sit on their boards, you will see the conservative agenda in action in this organization.
My advice is to call them to task on this study. Tell them that their study in no way sheds any light on how assessment is taught in teacher education programs. The only light that is shed is on their own deficiencies as a research organization.
While I agree with Anthony Cody that much in teacher education needs to be reformed, nothing coming from NCTQ or the myriad self-proclaimed reformers or the U.S. Department of Education or The Gates Foundation or U.S. News & World Report offers anything of value in that pursuit.
Morna McDermott: Colleges of Education: Who is evaluating YOU?
Diane Ravitch: That NCTQ Report on Teacher Education: F
Mercedes Schneider: NCTQ’s Varicose Reform
Linda Darling-Hammond: Why the NCTQ teacher prep ratings are nonsense