Manufactured Crisis: Education Schools and the National Council on Teacher Quality

Update: Bruce Baker, over at School Finance 101, has a more detailed breakdown of the NCTQ report.
End Update

The National Council on Teacher Quality put out a report that is it describing as "an unprecedented evaluation of more than 1,100 colleges and universities that prepare elementary and secondary teachers."

Let's take a step back from the hyperbole and see what's going on.

Let's say your organization has a goal: undermine the work of trained, experienced educators in the classroom, and the programs that prepare them. This goal hits teachers unions, who have a large body of credentialed, trained, and experienced educators, and the traditional methods by which these professional enter the workplace.

More importantly, this also supports non-standard shortcuts to putting teachers in the classroom, such as the short trainings given to people who enter the classroom via Teach For America.

Create a Crisis in Teacher Preparation!

This is best done in the form of a long report. Make the actual report over 100 pages (pdf download), to ensure that most people rely on the executive summary. One of the benefits of releasing a long document is that you can bury gems like this that show your full distrust of educational schools:

Programs might provide us with “counterfeit” syllabi that they think would do better on our standards rather than the syllabi distributed to students that actually reflect the training candidates receive.

The statement above is contained at the top of page 83 of the full report. The statement contains an end note (and again, nice work not linking end notes, thus ensuring that they are read out of context). The end note (number 52, found on page 104 of the full report) reads:

In comparing copies of syllabi that we obtained via campus outreach with those we received directly from programs, we found no instances of counterfeit syllabi. We will continue our practice of auditing for future editions of the Review.

In other words, this fraud and deceit that we insinuated was happening never happened.

There are gems like this buried throughout the document. Really, pick a page and sift.

Repeat Tired Arguments To Make Them Sound True

The Executive Summary (available on its own as a pdf download, and as part of the full report) opens with this chestnut:

Once the world leader in educational attainment, the United States has slipped well into the middle of the pack. Countries that were considered little more than educational backwaters just a few years ago have leapt to the forefront of student achievement.

Interestingly, no end note is provided to support this assertion. This assertion clearly ignores the effects of poverty on test scores and, more importantly, child health and well being.

Repeating unproven assertions doesn't make them true. It does, however, bring them into the conversation.

Which Is Exactly The Point

If your goal is to gain public support for alternate methods of teacher credentialing, or for getting rid of the credentialed teachers that are supported by unions, you need to erode confidence in the system that trains these professionals.

It should matter that the authors of the report actually admit (on page 13 of the full report) that "Evidence of Effectiveness" is "essentially not ratable". If a study claims to measure the effectiveness of a program, I would hope that there would be some evidence of that effectiveness.

But the point isn't accuracy. The point is to introduce the story line of failed education schools into the narrative. Despite the inaccuracies of this study, many of which are freely noted by the study authors, the flawed infographics march forward, another example of how incomplete data is of dubious value, and can nonetheless be misused.

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