Kentucky teacher-preparation programs fall short, national report says

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 19, 2014 

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    For more information on Kentucky's performance in the report, go to NCTQ.org/teacherPrep/review2014

The National Council on Teacher Quality released a report this week showing that Kentucky teacher preparation programs fall short.

The 2014 Teacher Prep Review showed that 17 programs in Kentucky did not receive a numeric rank because their performance was in the bottom half of the programs that were evaluated in the state, a news release from the group said.

However, the University of Kentucky and Murray State University earned national 'Top Ranked' status — a distinction awarded to 107 programs in the nation for overall strong performance. Among the 37 Kentucky programs that were fully evaluated, 10 elementary and 10 secondary programs were strong enough to receive a national ranking.

"Given the increasing knowledge and skills expected of teachers, it is indeed disappointing that we could not identify more exemplary programs in Kentucky. However, Kentucky is by no means unique," Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality said in a statement. "The dearth of high-quality programs is a national problem that public school educators, state policy makers and advocates, working alongside higher education, must solve together."

The Washington, D.C. -based Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization. NCTQ's review of teacher preparation programs focuses on the knowledge, skills, and academic attributes new teachers need to be classroom ready when they graduate. The group applies 18 standards to elementary, secondary or special education programs.

NCTQ fully evaluated 37 undergraduate and graduate programs housed in 16 Kentucky institutions. In addition to elementary and secondary programs, NCTQ examined six special education programs in the state.

Kentucky mirrored national performance in several areas of evaluation, but in student teaching, no programs in Kentucky were found to ensure a high-quality student teaching experience in which candidates are assigned only to highly-skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. Five percent of programs nationally require such an experience.

The highest ranked elementary teacher preparation programs in Kentucky, according to the release, were the undergraduate programs at Murray State, Western Kentucky, UK, Northern Kentucky, and the University of Louisville.

The state's highest ranked secondary programs were undergraduate programs at UK, Murray, Alice Lloyd College and U of L, and the graduate program at UK.

In response, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said the report "provides measures that we can all work together to improve.

"Our K-12 schools must work closely with universities and (the state's Education Professional Standards Board) to provide more quality student teaching experiences and first-year internships," Holliday said.

Robert King, president of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education, said his organization was working with Holliday and college and university presidents to make improvements, though it will take awhile before those efforts show up in results. He said curriculum is being redesigned. The state Professional Education Standards Board has begun raising admission requirements and new programs provide more clinical experience in the classroom.

Also, in the two years, 33 states including Kentucky have made significant changes to laws and regulations to improve teacher preparation, the Council's news release said,

"We know how important it is to put highly qualified, highly effective teachers in our public schools," King said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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