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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wisconsin receives poor rating for K-12 teacher preparation

Published February 14th, 2013

The National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) gave the state of Wisconsin a D+ for K-12 teacher preparation. While this is an improvement from last year’s grade of D, Larry Solberg, the dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies at UW-River Falls said this study has many flaws and there shouldn’t be reason to worry.

He said that UWRF looks at the outcome of its teachers rather than generalizations and that a statewide measurement doesn’t apply to the individual approaches of UWRF as an institution.

“What they (the NCTQ) do is come up with criteria of teacher education and they come up with inputs and collect documentation on what we have or have not,” said Solberg. “They tend to focus on looking on input rather than outcome.  They see things as black and white with nowhere in-between.  We here at River Falls look at outcomes, such as abilities.”
The council urged Wisconsin to raise the admission requirements necessary to get into education schools.  It also suggested the state look more closely at whether elementary school teachers have enough subject-matter knowledge.

Solberg, however, refuted that point by looking at UWRF’s 3.0 grade point average requirement. “Just because we have the minimum requirement, doesn’t mean that everyone in the program is at that GPA. In fact, many of them are much higher than the minimum,” Solberg said. “They need to look at what actual GPA is.”

The Council also said that Wisconsin should set minimum performance standards for education schools by holding them accountable for the performance of their graduates.
Teacher preparation experts, including Solberg, are dismissing the credibility of the NCTQ report, citing too many unanswered questions around its efficacy, methodology and accuracy.

In a press release, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), of which UWRF is a member, found the 2012 State Teacher Policy Yearbook: Improving Teacher Preparation National Summary by the NCTQ released Jan. 23, “to be vastly inconsistent with the gold-standard of student performance measures, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Top-achieving states on the NAEP, such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont, received grades of “C” or “D” from NCTQ. Yet, there is no known research base linking NCTQ’s criteria to improved teaching and learning outcomes, nor any cited in the report,” said the release.

Further, as the release stated, “the report lacks an explanation of how and from whom data was collected, offering only a general claim of having reviewed state policies.

“We are proud of the things we’re doing here in the teacher education program,” Solberg said.

He added that UWRF specifically has taken measures and will continue to take measures to ensure that every student leaves the teacher education program with the necessary tools to be effective and quality teachers.

He cited examples such as UWRF’s partnerships with the River Falls school district and clinical experiences that are required for each student.  Solberg said this gives every student more experience as they prepare for the classroom.

Solberg said UWRF has adopted a co-teaching model that was first implemented by St. Cloud State.

This model pairs the teacher candidate with a cooperative teacher who works as more of a colleague, Solberg said, than as an observant.

These are things Solberg looks to for reasons that UWRF should not be concerned with their teacher education program.

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