New York City Teacher Training Programs Graded on Quality

Teacher training colleges in New York City aren’t just instructing students on how to grade students — they’re getting grades of their own, courtesy of the Bloomberg administration. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has turned his penchant for quantifying performance towards the schools charged with training future instructors, after releasing scorecards outlining the performance of 12 teacher training programs across the city.

The ratings are based on elements like the number of graduates specializing in special education instruction and student performance on standardized tests. Bloomberg’s efforts to put such data to use to evaluate the quality of instruction programs puts him in line with education officials in the Obama administration who have long claimed that poor quality teachers colleges were one of the reasons why American students lagged in comparison to their international peers.

The release of the scorecards places the city at the forefront of a national effort, backed by the Obama administration, to use data to upend the teaching profession and the pathways to it. Critics have said subpar teaching programs too often hamper school systems, churning out graduates familiar with theory but lacking in practical classroom skills. A study by the National Council on Teacher Quality released in June argued that teaching colleges were too lenient in their admissions criteria and had not adequately prepared teachers in subjects like reading, math and science.

What the scorecards don’t take into account is prestige and national reputation. For example, Columbia Teachers College, considered one of the best in the country, was outperformed on several key measures by the much more modestly known City College of New York. Specifically, one in five Columbia graduates rated poorly for their contribution to improved test scores; only 10% of CCNY graduates did likewise.

According to Javier C. Hernandez of The New York Times, the goal of the scorecards is to start a conversation about where institutions that contribute to the quality of education in the city stand in relation to each other.

Those charged with making up the list were careful to point out that the data set used to create it was incomplete. However, while the list should not be used as the final measuring stick of the schools’ quality, it may still be useful to see, at a glance, where some programs are going wrong.

Thomas James, provost of Teachers College at Columbia, said the reports prompted the school to examine how closely its curriculum aligned with city academic standards. He said the data also spurred interest in increasing the number of teachers who pursue certification in special education, where city data showed the school lagged behind its peers.
“We can see more clearly what the greatest needs are,” Dr. James said. “The direction we’re going is to have more comprehensive and better planning.”