There is widespread bipartisan agreement that quality teachers are essential to high-quality schools and new teachers are struggling to succeed in the profession, even if they have studied for years.
A new, in-depth analysis of the country’s hundreds of different teacher preparation programs suggests a rather simple reason why this problem exists: Becoming a teacher is simply too easy. A’s come easily, while most classes fail to inculcate the meaningful skills that help one be effective in the classroom.
The report, titled “Easy A’s,” is the product of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a think tank that has long criticized the readiness (or lack thereof) of American educators. The think tank’s researchers analyzed the commencement materials of over 500 teacher education programs, finding that a whopping 44 percent of graduates from such programs received degrees with honors. That’s compared with 30 percent for other majors, a disparity that NCTQ argues shows grading in teaching programs is far too easy.
Researchers also took an exhaustive look at the syllabi of thousands of different courses, not just in teaching but in fields like business and nursing as well, looking at what sort of assignments were issues and what coursework prospective teachers were expected to complete.
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According to this evaluation, NCTQ found, education classes were “overwhelmingly” more likely to be what the group deemed “criterion deficient,” meaning that the coursework was more generalized and put more emphasis on students’ own opinions than on making them demonstrate relevant skills such as curriculum mastery or how to effectively craft lesson plans. Fully 71 percent of education assignments were found to be criterion deficient, compared to just 34 percent for other majors.
The relationship between criterion deficiency and easy grading was direct, researchers found. The less rigorous and skills-based the curriculum, the higher a school’s average grade.
“The prevalence of such assignments could help to explain why new teachers report feeling relatively unprepared for the demands of real teaching, as they have not engaged sufficiently in meaningful simulations of teaching involving specific feedback,” researchers wrote.
The initial solution, NCTQ suggests, is straightforward: Make classes tougher. If more classes focused on teaching skills and required more effort to earn high grades, they suggest, teachers will end up being more prepared when they leave school.
The study has made some teacher representatives irate, even if they could not dispute its findings. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), sent a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation in which she complained that NCTQ “employs a strategy to embarrass” by so prominently highlighting the deficiencies of teacher training.
Nonetheless, Weingarten did not dispute their findings in any way, instead emphasizing that AFT had pushed a possible solution by calling in 2012 for a bar exam-style teacher certification.
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