Texas teacher education gets bad grade

HOUSTON The National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C., has graded each of the 67 college-based teacher training programs in Texas. The council is awaiting responses from more deans -- most of whom have ignored its request -- before publishing the report.

"We don't know for sure, but the preliminary ratings were not good," said Kate Walsh, the council's president.

The education programs were graded largely on their standards for admission, their course requirements, the quality of faculty, and how well they prepare teachers in math and reading.

The study comes amid growing criticism -- notably from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- of colleges of education. Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature mandated a stricter accountability system for all teacher-training programs. For the first time, programs could lose their state accreditation if their graduates aren't effective in the classroom.

Bob Wimpelberg, the dean of the University of Houston's College of Education, called the council's study "flawed."

"We simply reject their report," he said. "Teacher education has been a whipping boy for sometime. And while there are areas for improving, one more national group out to just lay on more criticism -- it concerns us."

Wimpelberg and other education deans -- who make up the Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education -- plan to issue a written rebuke to the council.

But at least one dean has shied away from criticizing the council, which issued a draft of its findings to the colleges last month.

"We've taken the opportunity to try to help them make their review more accurate and more valid," said David Chard, dean of Southern Methodist University's School of Education and Human Development. "But we've also realized they could be helpful to us by helping us identify areas of weakness."

The council declined to release its findings about specific schools until the report is finalized.

But Walsh said the initial research shows that the teacher-training programs, on average, lack adequate math instruction for aspiring elementary school teachers, and some colleges water down courses for aspiring high school teachers. She emphasized the findings could change based on additional data provided by the education deans.

The initial ratings are based on the colleges' catalogues, Web sites, class syllabi, textbooks and surveys, according to Walsh.

Michael Rosato, the president of the Texas Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, blasted the study's research methods.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed," said Rosato, the dean of Howard Payne University's School of Education. "The organization was not forthright in their intentions, and it's shocking that an organization of this type would use methods that are not even considered to be best practice."

Rosato said he is bothered the council didn't ask the colleges if they wanted to be included in the study.

Charles Ruch, the interim dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University, said he is more concerned about meeting state accreditation and voluntary national accreditation standards.

"We meet the state standards and the national standards, and those are pretty rigorous in most cases," he said. "I would guess anybody could study anything."

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