A new, controversial system of rating teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities nationwide praised Misericordia University while panning Marywood University.
But officials from three other local schools said they did not participate in the report precisely because the methodology was flawed.
The National Council on Teacher Quality released “Teacher Prep Review: a review of the nation’s teacher preparation programs” Tuesday morning along with a website giving data for institutions nationwide, including the five regional schools that offer teacher preparation programs: Misericordia, Marywood, King’s College, Wilkes University and The University of Scranton.
The study looked at things such as admission standards, courses required, student teaching programs and the collection and use of data to improve the program. It set a variety of criteria and rated institutions with a four-star system in each, giving separate ratings for elementary and secondary school preparation, breaking down ratings further where appropriate to undergraduate and graduate programs.
Misericordia’s undergraduate secondary program landed on an “honor roll” because it earned an overall rating of three stars, while Marywood’s graduate secondary program was put on a “consumer alert” list of programs that earned no stars.
Colleges raise flags
But those were the only local schools to cooperate fully with the study, which relied primarily on public documents and course syllibi submitted by the schools. Wilkes, King’s and Scranton declined to participate, and officials from all three said a much broader review of school documents would be needed for a full picture of a program.
“Based on concerns about the methodology used to generate the rankings, The University of Scranton chose not provide the information necessary for our education programs to be evaluated fully,” spokesman Stan Zygmunt said in a written response.
“What they asked for was syllibi only,” King’s education department chair Denise Reboli said. “We felt that didn’t tell our whole story. There’s a lot more to education than just looking at a piece of paper.”
Marywood agreed, despite having participated in the review. The college released a six-page response to the low rating its graduate program received, including what spokeswoman Juneann Greco said was extensive documentation that, had NCTQ asked for and reviewed, would have proven the report’s conclusions were wrong.
For example, the report criticizes Marywood’s selection criteria as lacking “a rigorous audition” or “a score on one of the standardized tests of proficiency commonly used” for graduate admission. Marywood counters that candidates must have a 3.0 grade point average and pass rigorous state tests.
Greco said the proof of the quality is in the ratings students receive by employers after finishing the program: On a three-point scale with 3 being highly competent, students who complete the graduate program “average 2.6 to 2.8.”
Misericordia issued a press release touting it’s overall ranking of three out of four stars in the report, though spokesman Paul Krzywicki conceded the controversy surrounding the report colored the rating.
“Anytime there is a study and the main goal is to improve education overall, it’s a good thing,” Krzywicki said. “But you do have to look at the criteria and how they rated it.”
Reboli at King’s noted many institutions didn’t participate in the report because professional organizations advised against it, citing a perceived past bias in NCTQ research. The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, for example, had issued an advisory against participation that cited a “documented bias against higher education-based teacher preparation programs” by NCTQ.
In the report’s executive summary,the authors contend the ratings are “the product of eight years of development and 10 pilot studies” with the criteria “derived from strong research,” practices of high-performing nations and states, and expert consensus.
Other ratings available
Reboli also noted that, while NCTQ often gives colleges a chance to respond to such reports (and has promised to do so this time), the reports typically remain posted on line unchanged regardless of those responses.
Lack of participation didn’t prevent NCTQ from rating institutions on at least some criteria, and Reboli said poor ratings given to King’s only proved the flaws in the report. She noted King’s was criticized for not requiring courses in literature and composition content, something she said is “certainly not true. I’m not sure where this data came from.”
Reboli said the NCTQ report can be useful for prospective students deciding which college they want to attend as long as it’s only “one piece of the puzzle.” She said a better indication of a program’s quality is accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Such accreditation involves extensive review of a wide range of documents and live visits to the campus. King’s, Marywood and The University of Scranton are accredited, and Misericordia has been accepted into the process and expects full accreditation by 2015.