By Bill McKenzie / Editorial Columnist, Dallas Morning News
The National Council on Teacher Quality recently released a much-discussed report about the work schools of education are doing in preparing teachers for the classroom. David Chard, dean of SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, answered these questions about the report and SMU’s rating during an email exchange last week:
What is the significance of the National Council on Teacher Quality report that assesses how well colleges of education are preparing teachers for life in the classroom? Other than providing more research information, what are we to take away from it?
The National Council on Teacher Quality set out over a decade ago to work to improve teacher preparation standards nationally. They have conducted several state level evaluations of teacher preparation programs. This is the first evaluation of its kind at a national scale.
Their effort involved reviewing course descriptions, syllabi, and textbooks used by teacher preparation programs offered by institutions of higher education. While their findings are limited to the quality of the information that NCTQ was able to get from each program, there are some key findings that merit attention.
For example, after decades of research on how to teach early reading so that the largest number of students learns to read proficiently, very few programs across the country provide adequate coursework on the science of teaching beginning reading. Additionally, most programs fail to provide teachers with adequate content in mathematics, support for students who are learning English, or classroom management.
These findings suggest that as a nation we are under-equipping new teachers for the needs of today’s classroom.
SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development received a score of 2 out of 4 possible points. How do you interpret that grade?
First, I think it is important to note that the SMU Simmons School eagerly participated in the NCTQ review. We participated earlier in their review of Texas Educator Preparation programs in 2010. At that time, our programs were determined to be one of only a few well-designed programs.
The current national review added several standards and required further evaluation of our programs. NCTQ determined that our preparation of teachers to teach reading is one of only a few that is well-designed.
We were disappointed in our overall score of 2 stars, however. We think this doesn’t accurately reflect all of the features of our programs. We have been in contact with NCTQ staff and are planning to work with them in July to ensure that they have accurate data. I am certain this will result in a more favorable score.
In other instances, the NCTQ review has pointed out areas that we need to improve. We are also using the outcome of the NCTQ review to determine exactly how to optimize our preparation programs. Schools and colleges of education preparing teachers for public education should be open to evaluation and should be prepared to act on the results. That is the culture we have developed at SMU Simmons.
If schools of education aren’t doing a good job teaching classroom management, or providing adequate math content, what is it that they are supposed to do? In other words, how do schools start to deal with the deficiencies the report highlights?
I think the first step is to determine whether the deficiency pointed out in the review is valid. This will require that the school carefully review the NCTQ scoring rubric and, if necessary, communicate with staff at NCTQ to determine how their score was derived.
If the deficiency is valid, then the school and its faculty should examine how the standard can be met. For example, when NCTQ completed its review of Texas programs, we determined that it was critical for us to increase the amount of mathematics content that our elementary school teachers were receiving. This content needed to be specific to the foundational knowledge that related to concepts taught in the elementary grades including the concept of number, number systems, pre-algebraic reasoning, etc.
We worked with our undergraduate curriculum council to determine the best way to make this pre-requisite to our teacher preparation program. Similar processes will need to be examined at each institution that wants to respond to NCTQ’s review in a constructive manner.