A current trend in American education is private organizations grading the quality of states’ public education using criteria based on their school-reform agendas.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) publishes its annual “Report Card on American Education.” Similarly, studentsfirst produces its annual “State Policy Report Card.” The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) publishes its annual “State Teacher Policy Yearbook: Improving Teacher Preparation National Summary.” In their current report cards, Kansas’ public education receives grades of C-, D- and D+, respectively.

In contrast to these organizations’ grades, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation’s report card, is the “largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”

If ALEC, studentsfirst, and NCTQ have developed criteria designed to improve student learning, then states they grade highly should also have higher NAEP scores. This prediction was tested by correlating their grades with fourth grade math and reading and eighth grade math and reading NAEP scores for all students, only students eligible for free and reduced lunch (as an indicator of poverty), and only Black or only Hispanic students (as indicators of race/ethnicity) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Results (available at www.emporia.edu/teach/accountability/correlations.html) indicate either no relationship between NAEP scores and ALEC, studentsfirst, and NCTQ grades or the relationship was significant in the wrong direction with states assigned poorer grades having better NAEP scores. Only one of the 48 correlations was positive. The criteria of these three organizations with purported agendas to improve student learning are not associated with actual student learning in states across the nation.

Based in Washington, DC, NCTQ was founded in 2000 by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation to provide “an alternative national voice to existing teacher organizations and to build the case for a comprehensive reform agenda that would challenge the current structure and regulation of the profession.” Diane Ravitch, Foundation board member at the time and professor of education at New York University, reports that the board “did not like teacher training institutions” and “established NCTQ…to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools” (dianeravitch.net/2012/05/23/what-is-nctq/).

NCTQ and US News & World Report just released ratings of 1200 teacher education programs in the nation. To produce its ratings, NCTQ did not review how teacher education candidates performed on dozens of measures associated with effective teaching. It did not study how well candidates effected learning in the students they teach. NCTQ did not read institutional reports submitted to state and national accrediting agencies. It did not send teams of experts to visit campuses nor were candidates, faculty, staff, alumni, or administrators interviewed. NCTQ did not visit elementary, middle, and high schools in which candidates student teach. It did not meet with teachers or principals supervising the candidates. These critical review steps are integral in program evaluation but not undertaken by NCTQ.

To complete its evaluation, NCTQ rated colleges and universities based on course syllabi, policies, handbooks, degree plans, and assessment forms. While these are important, they are one part of a complex picture. NCTQ is rating programs based on “inputs” whereas the professions such as education, medicine, and law are evaluated on “outputs” including extensive performance-based candidate assessments, candidate evaluations from clinical supervisors, and standardized examinations. Imagine rating the quality of medical schools on only inputs, ignoring “outputs” such as student performance, clinical experience, scores on the state licensing examination, and expert evaluations of students demonstrating medical skills. Similarly, NCTQ has rated colleges and universities without possessing the most important, valuable candidate information.

NCTQ’s founding rationale of denigrating “the hated ed schools” persists in rating teacher education programs based on incomplete information and rating states on criteria not associated with improved student learning. There is a need for a voice in education to advocate for all children having effective teachers and schools (whether public, charter, or private) that focus on learning and preparing children for college or career in a safe environment. NCTQ purports to be part of that voice, but the evidence leads to a different conclusion.

On the Internet:

American Legislative Exchange Council: www.alec.org

Studentsfirst: www.studentsfirst.org

National Council on Teacher Quality: www.nctq.org

National Assessment of Educational Progress: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard

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