Last summer, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a report on teacher preparation programs, finding that very few rate high on a five-star scale. Now, the organization is out with a new report, entitled Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them, that finds the rigor we expect to find in children’s classrooms across the country is missing from the programs that train the teachers who will stand in the front of those classrooms every day. Specifically, the types of assignments – typically opinion-based rather than founded in critical thinking – that lead to higher grades are far more common in teacher preparation courses than in courses for any other major across more than 500 colleges and universities studied. In fact, the report notes that in almost 300 (58%) of the institutions studied, grading standards for teacher preparation programs are far more lenient than for other majors on the same campus. As a result, many students in teacher preparation programs are leaving college and going into the classroom unprepared.
The report offers recommendations that sound very similar to what a school partner might recommend to the principal of a struggling school: identify common standards so children are being graded fairly; listen to teachers to ensure coursework is strong and criterion-referenced as opposed to solely opinion-based.
“Standards” is becoming an increasingly prevalent word in the education world. Let’s make sure it applies not only to the classrooms in which teachers teach, but also to the programs that prepare our future teachers.