June 12, 2013
USC Upstate School of Education Associate Dean's "Advance Response" to NCTQ
In anticipation of the June 18, 2013 release in US News & World Report of a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that is bound to generate “buzz” about the quality of American teacher preparation programs, including our programs here at USC Upstate, I want to respond, not to our rating (I have no idea what it will be), but rather to the standards and processes utilized by NCTQ in deriving our rating (and those of other teacher preparation programs nationwide). Readers should be aware that the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), a professional organization of which USC Upstate is a member, characterizes the review and ranking process used by NCTQ as “unprofessional” and as “a cause for alarm.”1 Several institutions, including those housing some of the nation’s most prestigious teacher preparation programs, have chosen to not participate in NCTQ’s questionable review process.2 So, I am not alone in concluding that NCTQ’s process, methodology and rationale are flawed to such a degree that calls into question any conclusions or ratings drawn from them.
One of the hallmarks of the USC Upstate School of Education has been an unflinching willingness to participate in external review and accreditation processes. We have participated in accreditation reviews by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) as well as State of South Carolina program approval reviews. We have done so willingly and in a professional spirit. As a result of these processes, we have improved our programs and our candidates’ content knowledge and pedagogical skill levels. We have made our programs more responsive to and better servants of our local public school system. We have forged meaningful professional relationships with P-12 teachers and principals, our partners in the preparation of future teachers.
The NCATE accreditation process, unlike the NCTQ process, is professional in nature; it is transparent and shared among stakeholders and participants. The standards have been derived through the active participation of education practitioners at all levels, pK through graduate school. Additionally, accredited programs must pass rigorous content standards set, again professionally, by Specialized Professional Associations (SPAs), such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of English, Council for Exceptional Children, and National Association for the Education of Young Children.3 Each of our teacher preparation programs meets rigorous pedagogical and content standards to include candidate pass rates on national examinations and successful performance on the state’s teacher effectiveness assessment measure, the Assisting, Developing, Evaluating Professional Teaching (ADEPT/SAFE-T) model.
NCTQ’s process is faulty in that its standards did not result from a participatory and open process. The NCTQ standards did not undergo rigorous peer review across a range of those involved in teacher preparation. Further, NCTQ’s review process relies too heavily on evaluation of course syllabi, often trying to locate single (sometimes obscure) phrases or terms to “prove” whether or not a topic is “covered” in a particular course. NCTQ’s process also relies on printed program materials, such as handbooks, catalogs, and forms, rather than more authentic means of program assessment such as classroom observations and interviews with faculty, P-12 school partners, and other stakeholders in the teacher preparation process. In short, NCTQ’s review process is invalid—its ratings do not logically flow from its data or its methodology and processes. The range of data collected by NCTQ is far too narrow to yield meaningful assessment results.4
Fully consistent with the University of South Carolina Upstate’s commitment to rigorous external review of its programs leading to national accreditation, the USC Upstate School of Education welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to prepare outstanding teachers for our state’s, region’s and nation’s public schools as well as to improve its teacher preparation programs. We have done so through valid, reliable and professional processes of NCATE accreditation and state program approval, and we will continue to do so. These processes demand that our teacher candidates demonstrate the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary for effective teaching. Superintendents of the school districts that employ our program graduates offer testimony to the effectiveness of our teacher preparation programs. Indeed, we continuously seek the input of our P-12 school colleagues in order to strengthen our candidates’ teaching practice and the courses and experiences that comprise our teacher preparation programs.
--Jim Charles, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, USC Upstate School of Education
Endnotes and Online Resources
1AACTE Press Statements and Official Announcements on NCTQ appear online at
2Data on the degree of participation in NCTQ’s process on the part of schools and colleges of education appear at http://coe.unm.edu/uploads/docs/coe-main/researchNCTQ_US_News_Reports_and_Participation.pdf
Data on the “endorsement” of NCTQ by P-12 school superintendents and state superintendents are telling. According to NCTQ’s website, state superintendents of only 21 states have endorsed NCTQ, while district superintendents from various school districts in 33 states have endorsed NCTQ. In 15 of those 33 states, NCTQ is endorsed by a single school district. In SC, for example, only one superintendent of just one (1) of the state’s total of 81 school districts endorses NCTQ.
3An overview of NCATE’s unit standards and accreditation processes appears online http://www.ncate.org/Standards/NCATEUnitStandards/UnitStandardsinEffect2008/tabid/476/Default.aspx
4Cogent critiques of NCTQ’s standards, rationale, and processes appear online at http://www.ncte.org/cee/poistions/nctqanalysis and at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/ravitch-what-is-nctq-and-why-you-should-know/2012/05/23/gJQAg7CrlU_blog.html
In the case of Diane Ravitch’s critique, it is important to note that she originally supported NCTQ and was on the original commission created to draft the standards and craft the review process.