The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has released its latest ratings for 567 traditional graduate programs, 129 alternative route programs, and 18 residencies preparing both elementary and secondary teachers. Assessing programs on a number of key factors – such as how well they assess teachers’ subject matter content knowledge, classroom management, and the need for practice – the results show much room for improvement and highlight the disconnect between the preparation teachers get and the real demands of teaching.
These programs typically last one or two years and admit applicants who completed undergraduate majors outside of education. Therefore, a large number of candidates lack the necessary subject matter knowledge and need both content coursework remediation and traditional training before they are ready to enter the classroom.
Key findings of the report include the following:
- The presumption of sufficient content knowledge is especially apparent for those programs preparing elementary teachers. Only a small percent of traditional graduate elementary programs conduct the necessary screening to assess if applicants know the subject matter taught in elementary schools.
- The presumption of knowledge is most pronounced in the mathematics knowledge needed by elementary teachers. There is widespread consensus among experts, reinforced by how other countries prepare their elementary teachers, that they need specific math content to teach children. Few programs address this specific need.
- While most secondary programs quite capably prepare middle and high school teachers in a single subject such as English or history, they struggle to prepare candidates in broader areas such as “general science” and “social studies.” The problem is exacerbated by states using licensing tests that are too broad in scope and therefore are not able to identify major gaps in essential knowledge.
- As with undergraduate ratings reported in 2016, traditional graduate elementary programs show notable improvement in preparation for teaching children how to read. The number of programs teaching scientifically based reading methods has improved since 2014, going from 17 percent to 23 percent.
- While the residency programs in the sample stand out for doing a better job providing a high quality practice teaching experience, even with these programs there is a quality control issue. Only about a third of residencies require that the classroom mentor be an effective teacher and require candidates to receive frequent feedback, two crucial elements of any practice teaching experience. Still, residencies stand out in comparison to both alternative routes and traditional graduate programs which meet this standard at a rate of 5 percent.
Recommendations: Based on these findings, programs need to take several essential steps to provide stronger training to aspiring teachers.
- Prescreen applicants to make sure they already know the core content they will teach–or be prepared to prescribe the necessary remediation.
- Better prepare candidates to handle the biggest challenge new teachers face: classroom management. Programs should use student teaching and internships as opportunities to give constructive, targeted feedback in key management techniques.
- At the elementary level, focus relentlessly on the need for future elementary teachers to be ready to teach reading and math, the two most important aspects of their job.
For top ten lists and information about specific programs, see https://www.nctq.org/review/home
A full analysis of the findings, the 2018 Teacher Prep Review, can be found at: