Analyzing Teachers Colleges

Teachers are feeling the heat and the blame of the lagging American education system, and now they are under further scrutiny, scrutiny by journalists.

The U.S. News & World Report is planning on giving grades (A through F) to over 1,000 teachers’ colleges, trying to pinpoint the effective and ineffective programs, according to the an article in the New York Times.

This program was announced in January and teachers’ colleges are by no means welcoming this action, claiming it to be an unfair representation and scrutiny of their practices.

The U.S. News and World Report partnered with the National Council on Teacher Quality, an advocacy group, to create this grading system. The groups first threatened schools that if they refused to submit data, the groups would seek it under open-record laws. They then went further, threatening that if they could not locate the proper data for a school, they would automatically give that school an F.

This sparked outrage among many teachers’ colleges – most notably Columbia, Harvard, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, etc – as they claimed that this was a form of “implied coercion,” according to the New York Times.

Brian Kelly, editor of the U.S. News and World Report, said this was evidence of an industry that “doesn’t want to be examined”.

“These teacher-education programs are hugely important and not very well scrutinized,” Kelly said. “This is coming at a time when you have this tremendous national push for improvements in teacher quality: Who’s teaching the teachers?”

But, Kelly said he would drop the plan to automatically flunk colleges that data could not be found from. “We regret that language…It’s really not the way we want to be doing business.”

Teachers’ colleges have received a lot of criticism over the years for overemphasizing teaching theory and not focusing enough on in-the-classroom experiences and hands-on practices.

Arne Duncan, the federal education secretary, even criticized teachers’ colleges in a November speech, claiming that many are mediocre at best. He called to start holding teachers’ colleges more accountable for their effects on education.

Critics of this program are questioning the research methods, saying that they are not an accurate way of measuring teachers’ colleges. Critics say that The U.S. News & World Report is focusing on superficial inputs rather than outcomes. It is simply requesting detailed data about courses, textbooks and admissions selectivity.

One critic compared this system to grading a restaurant by simply requesting and reading its menu.

The groups ran a preliminary test in Texas and Illinois, and its results were highly criticized – even by the schools who received good grades.