States Scramble to Explain Low Teacher Prep Grades

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A new report on national teacher preparedness has many states scrambling to explain why they received poor marks.

The 2014 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, put out by the National Council on Teacher Quality, gave Wyoming a D- for its new teacher preparation.  The state ranked 49th in terms of its education of teachers in terms of preparing students for higher education.

Sandi Jacobs, the Council’s Vice President and Director for State Policy, said that while the state is making progress, it is still far behind the rest of the country.

“Wyoming has actually enacted some new requirements for elementary teachers to make sure that they pass a more rigorous test that demonstrates that they know their subject matter,” says Jacobs. “But Wyoming is one of a very small number of states, just 8 states in the country that don’t require all secondary teachers to have passed a test that shows that they know the subject matter.”

However, according to Leslie Rush, associate dean of education at the University of Wyoming, the school’s requirements are above those at the state level, and the report does not account for the differences, only looking at state policies and guidelines.

“The state should ensure that all elementary teachers are sufficiently prepared for the ways that college- and career-readiness standards affect instruction of all subject areas,” according to the report.

Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board Executive Director Andrea Bryant says the report may not be addressing what is truly happening within the state’s teacher training program.

“We are the only state that has only one teacher preparatory program,” she said. “When you compare that to Texas or New York, where they have 200, these state policy (reports) are a ‘one-size-fits-the-big-states,’ not a ‘one-size-fits-all.’”

Other states agree with WU’s view.  Alaska was ranked last in the report’s standards, although state and University of Alaska officials feel the results are inaccurate.

In response to NCTQ’s 2014 teacher preparation report, the University of Alaska system offered a formal reply, expressing concern over the methodology used and overall findings.

“The degree of inaccuracy in this report is alarming,” the university response states. “NCTQ has consistently rated the State of Alaska as deficient in Teacher Education. However, according to other universities and education organizations, the NCTQ ratings are seriously flawed.”

According to Allen Morotti, the dean of education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the education programs at all three state universities are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, a national accrediting body.

Jacobs said if the state felt there was something wrong with the rankings, they should have offered feedback.  In fact, the state did respond.  It checked the box that said the findings were technically accurate, and left no additional comments.

“They have responded, as they have each year. They told us our analysis was accurate,” Jacobs said. “We see states making all sorts of forward movement on their teacher preparation and other teacher policies, but Alaska hasn’t been a part of that progress.”

The average state this year received a C, with Florida’s B+ leading the nation.