P. David Pearson,
University of California,
Berkeley, and Virginia
Goatley, University of
Albany, authored the
In its July 2, 2013 blog post, the IRA Literacy Research Panel responds to the June 17, 2013 release of the controversial Teacher Prep Review by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Noting the methodological and conceptual flaws in the NCTQ report, as well as issues raised by NCTQ’s own Audit Committee, the IRA Literacy Research Panel asserts that the report “should never have seen the light of day.” However, the panel emphasized that NCTQ’s flawed methodology was not the focus of its own response.
Instead, the Literacy Research Panel stated that its purpose in commenting is “to look forward to what we can do as a profession, and as a nation, to improve teacher education.” Whether NCTQ could ever be joined in a common agenda, averred the panel, would necessarily depend on NCTQ’s willingness to reconsider its methodology and to expand the set of criteria and standards that it applies to teacher education program evaluation.
The panel’s response goes on to enumerate three distinct issues occasioned by the disconnect between the standards and methods of NCTQ and what literacy professionals know is effective for teacher education.
Standards of Accountability for Teacher Educators
With respect to the appropriate standards of accountability for teacher educators, the panel notes that NCTQ uses 17 standards to assess the quality of teacher education programs. Yet despite this apparent amplitude, there are conspicuous omissions of critical factors from the NCTQ perspective. The panel catalogues this deficit in detail, observing the NCTQ benchmark omits anything to do with speaking, listening, or writing, the role of text in discipline-based learning, diversity, instructional groups, motivation and engagement, and metacognition.
According to the panel, NCTQ adds to the confusion by not making clear how certain of its own standards apply to which programs, primary or secondary. Moreover, the panel zeroes in on NCTQ’s use of the so-called “five pillars” in the report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) as a standard for ranking teacher prep schools. While acknowledging that these topics are critical, the Literacy Research Panel notes that the five pillars are, in themselves, “by no means sufficient.” Indeed, the panel cites language from the NRP itself for the proposition that the five pillars are not exhaustive of what prospective teachers need to learn.
Stakeholders in Improving Teacher Education
The Literacy Research panel also takes issue with the tacit assumption of the Teacher Prep Review that, until publication of this report, no one else connected with teacher education research and development “was concerned enough about the quality of teacher education to worry about its improvement.” Nor, as the panel observes, is there “any attempt to review the knowledge base in teacher education.” The panel summarizes well known resources and databases that the NCTQ vetting team might have consulted, but did not do so.
This deficit is especially puzzling with respect to IRA itself. As the panel makes clear, “IRA has a long history of providing leadership in teacher education, with multiple efforts in the last decade.” Examples cited by the panel include: IRA Standards for Reading Professionals – Revised 2010; IRA Involvement with Teacher Education Accreditation, Position Papers, and Research Reports; Prepared to Make a Difference (2003); and IRA Certification of Distinction for the Reading Preparation of Elementary and Secondary Teachers. These resources cover many of the substantive program standards espoused in the NCTQ report.
Common Goals for Improvement of Teacher Education
The Literacy Research Panel also takes strong exception to NCTQ’s privileging of training over preparation in the education of prospective teachers, valuing generalized technical skill over situated and highly contextualized knowledge. As the panel states, “implicit in this choice is the assumption that teaching is more a trade than a profession.” With this proposition the panel could not disagree more, explaining the difference as follows: “For the trainer, the knowledge is a recipe or routine to be enacted faithfully; for the educator, it is significant information that guides practice in concert with multiple related pieces of research-based knowledge.”
In concluding its response, the panel challenges NCTQ’s bona fides as a stakeholder in the cause of improving education, urging NCTQ to reject “the current strategy of trying to shame programs into compliance by subjecting their practices to an unprofessional evaluation and holding superficial records up to public ridicule.” The best path forward, the panel opines, would be for NCTQ “to join those of us who have labored in the field for decades to promote improvement through research, researched-based practice, and exemplary programs.”
P. David Pearson, University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia Goatley, University of Albany, authored the response, with contributions from Karen Wixson, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Peter Afflerbach, University of Maryland; Gloria Ladson-Billings, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Catherine Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education; and William Teale, University of Illinois, Chicago.