If the country's schools of education have been one of the more prominent bulls-eyes for school reformers, this new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, ?Student Teaching in the United States,? is bound to unnerve a few ed schools; 99 of them to be exact.? The NCTQ evaluated programs at 134 of the nation's 1,400 education schools and concluded that 74 percent of them did not meet basic standards of a high quality program.? As NCTQ president Kate Walsh tells Tamar Lewin of the New York Times:

Many people would say student teaching is the most important piece of teacher preparation?.? But the field is really barren in the area of standards. The basic accrediting body doesn't even have a standard for how long a student teacher needs to be in the classroom. And most of the institutions we reviewed do not do enough to screen the quality of the cooperating teacher the student will work with.

Stephen Sawchuk at Education Week also notes that the NCTQ ?contends that colleges are preparing too many elementary-level teachers?perhaps more than double the number needed nationally?thereby taxing both the higher education institution and its partner school districts' ability to provide high-quality field experiences.?

Some of the report highlights:

  • 43% of the rated schools had no criterion for the selection of mentor teachers other than some teaching experience;
  • 52% of them played no role in the selection of mentor teachers, relying on any placement offered by the school district;
  • Only one state explicitly requires that mentor teachers be selected on the basis of their ability to improve student learning;
  • Only 1 of 25 teachers at a typical school is likely to be both qualified and willing to take on the role of mentor teacher;
  • Only 14% require that mentor teachers are fully qualified: 1) have three years of experience, 2) are themselves highly effective and 3) can work well with adults.

The 134 schools studied were selected, says the report, ?using a stratified random sampling that was designed to include approximately three teacher preparation programs in

every state and the District of Columbia.?? And the schools were not given a choice about participating. No doubt, the 74% found to be poor or weak ? which included, for example, New York University and Chicago State ? will not be thrilled by the results, especially when U.S. News and World Report publishes its rankings of ed schools later in the year.

As Kate Walsh tells the Times, ?This is shaping up to be quite a battle royale.?

Where the accountability buck stops is never an easy question to answer.? But thanks to the NCTQ a few of those bucks are at least landing on some university desks.? And there will be increasing pressure on schools of education to do their part in improving student performance.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Meyer is also a former News Editor of Life magazine and the author of numerous nonfiction books, including the critically acclaimed The Yale Murder (Empire Books, 1982; Berkley Books, 1983) and Death of Innocence (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1985; Berkley Books, 1986). Over the course of his three-decade journalism career Meyer…

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