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A Plethora of Recommendations Based on a Paucity of Evidence

It’s déjà vu all over again. The second annual NCTQ Teacher Prep Review compounds the shortcomings of last year’s report. While information from more institutions was allegedly included, the evidence is neither robust enough nor deep enough to support the report’s recommendations. Possibly the most insupportable change is the move to rankings instead of ratings.

Rankings are dangerous, in part because people believe them. We are so fond of Top 10 lists that we sometimes allow rankings to substitute for the evidence that we need. US News & World Report, partner of NCTQ, is probably best known for its annual rankings of colleges and universities. Criticism of those rankings emerges every September when the new rankings appear. US News has collected some of the arguments on their Debate Club website; they appear to be listed in rank order.

One of many objections to ranking is the motivation to “game” the rankings by making changes with the intent of raising rankings. The NCTQ website includes a section that tells programs just what they need to do. For example, change the selection criteria by raising the GPA or requiring specific scores on the SAT or ACT and up you go. In the absence of reliable evidence that GPA or test scores correlate to more effective teaching, any high-quality teacher education program would ill serve many teacher candidates by making such changes to increase NCTQ rankings. Let me be clear here: I am in favor of meaningful criteria for entry into licensure programs. I am not in favor of setting those criteria without evidence of their connection to improved teaching. NCTQ recommendations frequently lack reliable evidence.

The recommendations are, however, backed by considerable funding, which helps extend NCTQ’s reach. CEE doesn’t have that kind of funding, but we do have reliable researchers and educators who can mobilize to tell the true stories of effective English teacher education. And I believe we must do so.

We can, we are, and we have more to do. Here are just a few examples:

  • We’ve established a joint task force with IRA to identify characteristics of effective literacy education.
  • CEE annually distributes funding for research projects that will advance the mission of the organization as articulated through our various position statements and sponsored publications.
  • CEE members are active bloggers and writers of commentary on issues related to teacher education—for example, Peter Smagorinsky, Paul  Thomas , Michael Moore, and Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care.  

Please join us in the CEE Connected Community to express your views and learn how you can be part of CEE in action, and watch the CEE website for updates.

We have the expertise, we’re doing the work, we have the evidence. We need you.

 

Louann Reid, Chair
Conference on English Education

6/17/14

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