Three Kentucky universities make the 'Honor Roll' in training survey

jwarren@herald-leader.comJune 18, 2013 

  • See the review

    You can review the Teacher Prep Review, released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, by visiting Nctq.org.

The University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Louisville made the "Honor Roll" in a first-ever national survey of teacher-training programs released Tuesday, but an official called the overall results "dismal."

The Teacher Prep Review, released by the National Council on Teacher Quality, concluded that a handful of U.S. teacher-training programs are performing at a high level, but many others are effectively failing, leaving their graduates poorly prepared to teach in the nation's schools.

"The results are dismal," Kate Walsh, president of the teacher quality council, told reporters Tuesday. "New teachers deserve training that will enable them to walk into their own classrooms on their first day ready to teach, ... but our review shows that we have a long way to go.

"While we know a lot about how to train teachers, those practices are seldom evident in the vast majority of programs," Walsh said.

The teacher quality council is an advocacy group that has pushed for education reforms since about 2000.

Its report, however, is controversial. Many educators across the country have questioned the methodology used in scoring the programs, and some schools refused to cooperate in the survey.

In a statement Tuesday, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the report's grading system a "gimmick."

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in a statement that Tuesday's findings will have implications for the state Education Professional Standards Board, the agency that credentials Kentucky teachers.

"If we are to achieve our goal of an effective teacher in every classroom, and an effective principal leading every school, we need to collectively evaluate the teacher preparation programs in our state and take the action necessary to ensure the best outcomes for our students and that all students graduate from high school college- and career-ready," Holliday said.

The Teacher Prep Review rated more than 1,100 college-and-university-run teacher training programs nationwide.

Only 104 programs nationwide made the review's Honor Roll by earning at least three out of a possible four stars. Four programs, all training teachers for secondary education, got four stars: Ohio State University; Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University in Tennessee; and Furman University in South Carolina.

UK received three and a half stars for its undergraduate and graduate secondary training program, and three stars for its graduate-secondary program. EKU received three stars for undergraduate-secondary training, and the University of Louisville got three stars for its undergraduate secondary training.

In all, 22 Kentucky institutions were included in Tuesday's review. Some, however, received only partial scores because of limited information or because their teacher-training programs have relatively few students. Still, some of those programs got impressive marks. Asbury University, for example, won a four-star rating for the criteria it uses in admitting students to teacher training.

Other Kentucky results were less glowing.

The teacher-quality council said, for example, that only 14 percent of Kentucky's elementary and secondary training programs limit admission to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent of programs nationally.

The report also shows that just 29 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Kentucky prepare teachers in "effective scientifically based reading instruction." Just 36 percent of evaluated Kentucky programs provide strong math teaching preparation, while 42 percent "entirely fail" to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, the report said.

Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said Tuesday that some education school deans continue to question the way the report was prepared.

"Whether the methodology is perfect or not, the report certainly raises legitimate concerns," King said.

Those concerns are supported by results from the TELL survey, an online questionnaire for Kentucky teachers by the state Department of Education, King said. In the 2011 survey, nearly 45 percent of teachers said they needed more training in working with English-language learners; 60 percent reported needing more training to help struggling readers; and 55 percent wanted more help in classroom management.

"Our own program graduates are telling us that we need to rethink and redesign the way we are training our teachers," King said.

Margaret Rintamaa, program chair for the UK College of Education's middle school teacher education program, said several factors helped the university earned three stars in the survey.

"In particular, we have students out in schools from the time they enter the program," she said. "From the first semester, they have course work in a local middle school, faculty work with them in the mornings, and in the afternoons they work in classrooms with teachers and students."

Nikki Wiencek, who graduated from UK this year and is set to start teaching at Lexington's Jessie Clark Middle School this fall, said she's well prepared as a result of her training at UK.

"UK gave me the opportunity to make connections and network in Lexington that has made me feel more prepared," she said. "I've already been to Jessie Clark, met the principal and the people I'll be working with."


See the review

You can review the Teacher Prep Review, released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality, by visiting Nctq.org.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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