Teacher Preparation Program Ranking System

27 Mar

Click the link below to listen to an NHPR report by Sheryl Rich-Kern about a new teacher preparation program ranking system.  Expectedly, it is a controversial idea and very few colleges or universities are participating.  UNH is the sole institution doing such in New Hampshire.  Give it a listen.  Let me know your thoughts.  We are faced very frequently with aspiring teachers with varying outcomes.  A system like this could be beneficial to both prospective teachers and schools.

NHPR Teacher Prep Ranking


Most people agree that good teachers help students succeed.
But how do good teachers learn to be effective?

One D.C.-based, private nonprofit is asking just that. They want colleges to participate in a study that ranks teacher preparation programs.

The results aren’t out yet. But many colleges, including those in New Hampshire, have voiced harsh criticism about the organization’s agenda.

Higher education experts in the state admit the controversy over teacher preparation is worth talking about.

About twenty-five seventh-graders shuffle into their English class at Parkside Middle School in Manchester.

They plunk their backpacks to the floor, open zippers and slide out their textbooks. Fade under ambi,..

Alisha Hansen-Proulx is writing questions on the blackboard.

Like a skilled emcee, her eyes dart around the room to make sure the group is engaged.

Hansen-Proulx: Hopefully the teacher is not just lecturing at the front of the classroom. Hopefully the teacher is helping kids facilitate their own education, letting them show what they know and what they can do.

Hansen-Proulx says a yearlong teaching internship took the blinders off any pre-conceived notions she had about teaching.

Hansen-Proulx It’s an interesting concept to think about servicing 30 people or more and who all want some piece of you at the exact same minute. And you have to be able to multi-task in a way that no class prepares you for. You don’t understand the depth of that until you’re in the classroom.

Hansen-Proulx has been teaching now for eight years.

But close to half of all new teachers leave the trenches after the first five years.

Why the low retention rate?

Some policy activists say that many teachers aren’t truly prepared to manage a class of diverse learners. And they argue that colleges don’t have high enough admissions standards.

Walsh: Do you know it is actually easier to get into a school of education in almost any state then it is to qualify to play college athletics? I think that’s just wrong.

That’s Kate Walsh.

She’s the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a private, non-profit think tank that advocates for reforms in teaching policies.

The Council is rating programs at more than eleven hundred teaching colleges.

Once they compile their findings, they’ll publish them in the U.S. News & World Report

Walsh says the Council wants to raise the bar on what teachers need to know in core subjects like math, reading and science.

To judge a program’s caliber, the Council’s team of experts looks at syllabi, textbooks and other coursework materials.

Walsh says the Council will also scrutinize student internships— especially since in a previous study they conducted, most didn’t measure up:

Walsh: Very few of them actually ensure that our next generation of teachers is being trained in a classroom with a highly effective teacher. You would never expect to see doctors trained that way. You’d never say – it doesn’t matter who trained that doctor, any doctor would do. In the teaching profession, that’s certainly been the case.

Walsh says she expects to provide evidence that low-performing programs shouldn’t even be in operation.

To get its data, the National Council on Teacher Quality may hit some roadblocks.

For one thing, many institutions oppose the study.

Deans from about 40 education schools sent a letter to the Council criticizing its methodology and lack of transparency.

Seven schools in the Granite State were asked to participate. So far, only the University of New Hampshire is cooperating.

Tom Shcram directs the graduate education program at UNH.

He applauds the study’s goals, but says its research doesn’t probe deep enough:

Schram: To simply ask for a copy of a syllabus and a copy of the list of books we use is such a small part. They’re not looking at what’s happening with our graduates, our placement rates. We have five-year surveys of our graduates. That’s a lot of good information. They weren’t asking for things like that.

To use a sports analogy, Schram says you can’t predict how well a football team will perform in a game just by viewing its training schedule and equipment.

The National Council on Teacher Quality may not get a pat on the back for its research methods.

But it is cranking up to full volume the disputes on how to train teachers.

In New Hampshire, a statewide task force is currently reviewing not only how to teach the teachers, but also how to evaluate and pay them.

Again, UNH program director Tom Schram:

Schram: Because we are preparing the teachers who will be teaching in the state, there will be some nod towards this teacher evaluation model within our teacher ed programs.

This is why, for the first time, Schram and his cohorts from at least ten other colleges are meeting regularly to raise important issues, like:

Schram: What could a university do to support a school district’s efforts to mentor beginning teachers in a way that didn’t simply follow, but built upon what they’ve done as pre-service interns?

As Schram explains, an education major’s schooling begins at college. But it doesn’t need to end there.


14 Responses to “Teacher Preparation Program Ranking System”

  1. Caryl P April 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    I really enjoyed this article and reading all the comments it generated. I’m like Kim in that I am still reflecting on my college prep program 9 years later. The early observations weeded out a lot of students who thought they wanted to teach, but saw what it entails! My courses had me teaching small group lessons, with a built in reflection for each 30 minute lesson. The student teaching experience required me to spend a semester doing mini lessons, in the classroom I would go on to spend my final semester in. The article brought up a great point about choosing highly effective teachers to train others, and I think the criteria there can be raised. My program was not nearly as compmrehensive as UNH sounds to be, but I was in the classroom every year and was comfortable in front of a classroom by the time I was student teaching. And as both Kim and Elizabeth brought up the Massachusetts ‘teacher test’ was another hurdle that required background knowledge and preparation, and makes a teacher HQT in NH.

    I’m interested in the apprenticeship idea Drew mentioned for new teachers to hone their craft. I couldn’t find a job right out of college and without a classroom (as so many recent graduates are!) how do you fine tune your skills? I was lucky to be given a chance at a private school and learned a lot through trial by fire, knowing that all 28 of my parents weren’t keen on me taking over from a Sister with decades of experience! My principal and many experienced teachers in the close knit school were my mentors. A mentor can do so much for a newer teacher and I know from experience that both of the teachers would gain a great deal from the experience.

  2. maryann boucher April 1, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    I enjoyed reading all the comments on this post! Very insightful and thought provoking!
    I love teaching because I love new beginnings…, each new school year I feel like a “first year teacher” all over again…..are we ever fully prepared for what each new school year will bring? speaking for myself…. probably not!

    Throughout my tenure at FCU I have had 16 student teachers, many whom are working here in our district. They are rock solid -standouts – Donna Amato, Andrea Coulan and Brooke LeFort! I truly believe a teacher is born, not made. You either have what it takes to connect with kids/parents or you don’t. Colleges and Universities can graduate top students who are “book smart” and “test well” but cannot translate their knowledge to our youth. So although the teacher prep programs may need to crank up their expectations- I believe it’s the individual’s passion, excitement and drive that separates them from the rest.

    Let’s be honest here….the higher educational institutions can’t shoulder all the blame-
    I strongly believe our teacher eval programs at the local level need to step up and offer support for that unprepared colleague -and if that fails- they need to let these teachers go before they earn tenure. sorry this sounds harsh- but it’s necessary.

    Amanda, years ago Hooksett did have a mentor program. There were 3 teachers selected at each building level. I was the underhill rep. Ellie Stetson represented Memorial and Jayne Abyss represented Cawlely. We were trained intensively on Charlotte Danielson’s model ” A Framework for Teaching” and we were assigned a first year teacher at our building level. It was an amazing experience- unfortunately after 3 years it was no longer funded -sadly the program fizzled! 😦

    Check out the Finland Phenomenon- a country ranked # 1 in the WORLD…..for student achievement and teacher prep ….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcC2l8zioIw
    We have a lot to learn from their system. Hopefully it won’t take decades to make the changes we need to make in our system. …..why are we still “Waiting for Superman!”??

    In closing I am glad to see our administrators becoming more like educational leaders and coaches. They can help pick up the pieces where the universities may have fallen short. Although i am in my 24th year of teaching, I know I still thirst for their constructive feedback!

    • Mary Lou Donahoe April 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

      Mary Anne you are correct. Teacher evaluation programs have to be stronger before teachers become tenured. I also agree with you, it is so refreshing to have Drew bring these amazing topics to our attention and engage us in positive reflexion. He definitely wants us to have many dialogues and conversations, the sad part is, only a few of us engage in these conversations on his blog and change cannot happen by a few of us. Ignoring these wonderful opportunities won’t help us, or him towards a better Underhill. We all need to be engaged and become change agents advocating for our students. Our students deserve us to be the best we can be. I also agree with you, we all need feedback, not the dysfunctional feedback that is the result of unresolved conflict or pempt-up anger that comes up a year later when no-one remembers what happened. But the constructive feedback that helps us grow and improve our skills to be better educational professionals and work as one team to ensure our student’s success. We need to have positive and constructive dialogues, what a better venue than these blogs and then expand on these to improve our skills and strategies.

  3. Amanda Stark March 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    What about teacher mentoring progams? I know that there are a lot of schools out there that provide new teachers with a mentor teacher that provides help, guidance, and assistance.Does Hooksett have a program like that? I have even heard of some schools where teachers have mentors for the first 3 years and do a gradual release of sorts to help support new teachers to become confident and independent.

    Mentoring programs not only benefit new teachers, but I think that they can also benefit experienced teachers by reminding them of the importance of creativity, continual learning, and self reflection.

  4. Elisabeth White March 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Everyone-
    I enjoyed reading this excerpt very much, and I find this “teacher preparation ranking system” an extremely interesting proposal. As a graduate from Emmanuel College in Boston, where education majors are required to double-major in elementary education and liberal studies, I can say that my program was definitely one of the more rigorous of the others I looked at, both before entering college and during college. My program had many requirements in order to remain in the education department, such as passing three teaching exams, earning a B or higher in all education classes, and completing three pre-practicums and one practicum (student teaching), to name a few. There was also a service-learning component, and each semester I was required to volunteer time in a classroom setting for a certain amount of hours (in addition to my practicum experiences).

    Many of my classmates did not finish the program, some due to the coursework and others due to failure of the state testing (MTEL). By the time I graduated many students had dropped the program for another area of study. The people I finished with were dedicated, prepared professionals who had a great grasp of how to problem solve, and how to provide differentiated instruction. Many of us were lucky to student teach and attend classes under professionals who were wonderful mentors and teachers of how to utilize all facets of the 21st century model. I believe that my college did an excellent job of creating a program that not only prepared us very well for the classroom, but provided us with many opportunities to learn on the job and simultaneously weeded out the candidates who would not have been an asset to the profession.

    I agree with Tom Shcram of UNH that the information that is gathered for this study seems transparent, and that as teaching professionals we should be able to create a better assessment of whether or not future teachers are being fully prepared. The bottom line is that many teaching programs need to have better, higher standards in all areas, or the profession is in danger of more teacher-directed, lecture-style, “worksheet” learning.

    What do you think would be an effective way to assess if educational programs on a collegiate level are rigorous enough, or if they’re preparing teachers well enough? If syllabi and book lists aren’t enough information, what is?

    -Elisabeth (Annie White’s daughter)

    • J. Andrew Bairstow March 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      The only way to assess a teacher prep. program is to evaluate the quality of their product. If a program consistently graduates capable individuals over time, then it deserves a high ranking.

  5. Mary Lou Donahoe March 27, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    There’s no doubt that the teaching profession is changing. I feel very lucky to be taking courses at The George Washington University on bi-lingual special education which targets the English language learners and the overrepresentation of them in the special education system, something I believe happens all the time because we do not understand differentiated instruction. These courses have helped me tremendously learning from other teachers/students from around the world has been amazing. Also to realize that my “small problems” are not mine alone. The whole world is facing similar issues. Some countries have mastered some areas better than others but one truth always comes forth: Differentiation instruction in the mainstream classroom is critical. No matter where you are in the world we need to reach all students because we are a global community. Perhaps because I was born in one country, raised in another culture and live my adult life in a third country I understand education in different environments. However, the truth is, your books and syllabi does count, your teachers count and your teacher practicum counts, but that is only the beginning. What really counts is your desire to be a life-long learner. As Tom Schran from UNH said: schooling begins in college but does not have to end there: Moral: be a life long learner and stay curious about your profession’s up-to date standards. Yes, we have blogs and teacher stores but that is only the “surface” the true teaching is when you engage your students, when you know which model you are following and strategies to supper that model .Believing we are great is not enough that is very subjective: Striving for Excellence should be the goal!!!! and when we strive for excellence our learning is never finished. As teachers we need to be in school all the time, otherwise we become obsolete… so did Dinosaurs.

  6. Kim N. March 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I think they could even survey teachers that are currently working after a couple of years and they can reflect on whether or not they felt their program prepared them. I know personally I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my college preparation program.

    • J. Andrew Bairstow March 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks, Kim. What are your thoughts about it? Was it comprehensive enough? I know mine was not. I needed more real world experience than mine provided.

      • Kim N. March 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

        It was definitely not comprehensive enough. I agree with you…more field hours. Maybe a longer field experience? Maybe one semester junior year and another senior year, including two completely different schools, grade levels and teachers even teachers with different years of experience. I had to take the 4 teacher tests in MA. I was also not prepared for those as well. I had to take prep courses at another college. Maybe there needs to be a course for that as well?

      • J. Andrew Bairstow March 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

        I’ve read a fair amount about creating another step for new teachers–like an apprenticeship for tradespeople. New teachers would be paid for their work, at a lower amount, and their responsibilities would be more focused on honing their craft. This would require a huge shift in our systems, but could be beneficial and help keep teachers in the job after the first 5 years.

  7. Karen L March 27, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    As a veteran teacher, I remember going to college, observing a few classes and then doing six weeks of student teaching. The teacher I was paired with said, “Here’s all you need to know: Get to the copy machine early so you can run off all your worksheets for the day.”

    My daughter, trained through the UNH Program noted in the article, has had a very different experience. I don’t even refer to her as a “new teacher” because she has had as much, if not more experience after graduating from the UNH five year program than I did after teaching for two years. She observed classes over the course of her second year in the program. She assisted and co-taught during her third year. She did on-campus teaching with a mentor her fourth year, and spent her fifth year assigned to a master teacher in one classroom all year at a local elementary school.
    This fifth-year assignment process was far from random; it involved applications, self-reflection, interviews and a sophisticated matching procedure that paired her with exactly the right teacher for her. That year included “gradual release of responsibility” – midway through the year, she was responsible for all aspects of teaching, including a practicum project. She graduated with her master of education and although I would argue that a “master” of education degree should be rigorous in its requirements, I believe she qualifies.

    The education profession has always suffered from a split personality-perception. On the one hand, we may be respected as highly qualified professionals doing the most important work on the planet. On the other hand, we are sometimes regarded as government workers simply filling a need for society. It is up to us to demand respect through high standards for those coming into the field. No one should say “Well, if all else fails, you can always be a teacher.” Too often we see new teachers feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared by the onslaught of what it takes to be a highly effective teacher; thus, the third year dropout phenomenon. If our own students move on without being fully prepared, we know it will be an uphill battle for them, a constant effort to “catch up.” I believe some of our new teachers face the same situation.

    I still remember the day I was told “here’s your classroom – good luck!” and the feeling of panic as the door shut. Here’s to keeping the door open – to welcome our newest professionals with all their enthusiasm, energy and the highest level of preparation. I hope more schools follow the UNH model.

    • J. Andrew Bairstow March 27, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      Great comment, Karen. It sounds like your daughter’s experience at UNH was comprehensive. Perhaps that is why they are eager to be involved in the ranking system–they have nothing to hide. I’d be interested to hear about other experiences in teacher prep programs in-state or out.


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