Parent Resource

Teacher Prep Programs Give Easy A’s

Opinion-based assignments are creating ill-prepared teachers, a new report says.

by Allie Bidwell, Education reporter for U.S. News & World Report

Teacher preparation programs in college are not sufficiently readying candidates for the realities of the classroom, a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality argues.

“You’re not doing anyone any favors … by handing out meaningless A’s that send a signal that says you’re prepared, and you get into a real classroom and it’s like hitting a brick wall,” says Kate Walsh, president of the council. “Every piece of evidence points to the fact that teachers aren’t getting prepared adequately to enter the classroom, by and large.”

In an analysis of more than 500 undergraduate teacher preparation programs, researchers found education majors were significantly more likely to receive high grades than students with other majors.

[READ: Americans Want Higher Expectations, More Support for Teachers]

The researchers did not find the quality of students majoring in education, the effectiveness of professors in those programs or grade inflation to be significant factors, but said the higher grades stemmed from a prevalence of assignments emphasizing student opinions over knowledge, skills and techniques.

Across the 509 colleges and universities examined, 30 percent of all graduating students did so with honors, while 44 percent of teacher candidates received the distinction, the report says. At 141 institutions, that gap was 20 percentage points.

The researchers also found, however, that at 214 institutions there was not a substantial difference. And at 62 universities, a smaller proportion of teacher candidates than others received honors.

“These results are a wake-up call for higher education, a confirmation of the damaging public perception that too often getting an education degree is among the easier college career paths – although it is in preparation for one of the most challenging jobs there is,” the report says.

The National Education Association declined to comment on the report. But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said teachers have known about problems with preparation programs for years.

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“For more than a decade, AFT K-12 and higher education members have called for improvements to teacher preparation programs so that these programs can provide new teachers with the real-world skills and knowledge necessary to help the broad and diverse spectrum of students they’ll teach,” Weingarten said in a statement. “While NCTQ employs a strategy to embarrass, and others, like the U.S. Department of Education, use the test-score strategy, we actually laid out a path in our 2012 ‘Raising the Bar’ report to strengthen teacher preparation for the 21st century.”

Weingarten said the preparation programs should do more to mirror those of the medical field by including more rigorous coursework and clinical experience.

Behind the frequency of awarding high grades is a difference in assignments the report says can be boiled down to two types: criterion-referenced or criterion-deficient assignments. The former focuses on a specific piece of knowledge or skill-based content that allows for valuable feedback and comparisons among students – such as through the use of a grading rubric.  READ MORE