Education-School Deans Challenge Methodology of Planned Ranking of Teacher-Preparation Programs

February 07, 2011

A group of education-college leaders is raising concerns about an ambitious effort, announced last month by the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report, to rank the nation's nearly 1,400 teacher-preparation programs.

In a February 3 letter to Brian Kelly, the magazine's editor, deans and other leaders of colleges of education at more than a dozen member institutions of the Association of American Universities expressed "concerns about the reliability and accuracy of the data collected" by the council as part of the project.

Areas the deans cited as particularly troublesome included a lack of transparency in the methodology and standards the council is using, along with a provision to "fail" programs in measurement areas that they opted out of or did not provide information for. That "implied coercion," the letter said, "will cast doubt on the results of the entire evaluation."

The education-school leaders urged Mr. Kelly to look at existing measures—specifically standards created as part of the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium—to determine the criteria for how colleges of education should be ranked.

The council, an advocacy group, has rankled education-college leaders before in projects that assessed teacher-preparation programs in Illinois and Texas. The deans, in their letter to Mr. Kelly, brought forward some of the criticisms of those projects, including a report by the education research and consulting firm Eduventures on the council's work in Illinois.

In a letter of response to the deans issued on Monday, the council's president, Kate Walsh, defended her group's overall methodology but said the council was working to put "a more transparent process" in place.

She also stated that the evaluation would not fail schools in areas for which they did not provide information or opted out of and, instead, would use publicly available information about those areas. And she agreed to release the "standards and relative indicators" that are being used as part of the study.

She questioned, however, the assertion that there were other, perhaps more effective, methods to rank programs, including the standards created by the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. "If these standards, first developed in 1992, were going to have a major impact on the field of teacher preparation," she wrote, "they would have already done so by now."

Ms. Walsh also played down Eduventures' criticism, saying its report was commissioned by Illinois education schools and was released before the council issued its final report.

Representatives of U.S. News & World Report could not be reached for comment late Monday.