It remains to be seen what the CAEP ratings will yield, but they’ll have to do a lot to surprise the education community as much as it was by NCTQ’s rankings, which left out Ivy Leagues and other big-name programs that routinely take the top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s roundup – schools that traditionally have strong reputations for excellence. Lesser-known regional programs instead fill the top ranks.
Another surprise with the NCTQ rankings: Western Governors University, a nonprofit online program, was ranked No. 1 for secondary education. In addition to being a virtual program, WGU is competency-based, which means students advance as soon as they’ve demonstrated mastery, rather than having to complete a predetermined number of course hours.
While WGU’s classes are delivered virtually, they take their practice teaching program “very seriously,” McKee said, with coordinators on the ground supervising in each state. WGU also makes sure to pair its student teachers with classroom veterans who have both a track record of teaching excellence and the capacity to be strong mentors, according to McKee. While NCTQ found the program does has room for improvement, particularly when it comes to preparing math teachers, there are lessons from its successes that could be applied to traditional bricks-and-mortar teacher colleges, McKee said.
Mistilina Sato, an associate professor of education at the University of Minnesota, said she was surprised to see her school listed in NCTQ rankings, given that only information shared was the course syllabi. And that was only done at the instruction of the institution’s general counsel, Sato said. Rather than focus on an outside group’s rating, the university is putting its energies into better tracking outcomes for its graduates, Sato said–a strategy in alignment with the new expectations of CAEP.
“We’re interested in output: Are our students prepared when they leave us, are school districts hiring our graduates because they think they’re high quality, are students learning with our graduates in the classroom?’” Sato said. “We want a more complex view around the quality of the teacher’s preparation.”
WGU’s Teachers College also plans to seek CAEP certification and has its first visit scheduled for 2018, said Phil Schmidt, dean of WGU’s Teachers College. In the meantime, WGU tracks its graduates nationally through employer satisfaction surveys. In Utah, WGU is keeping tabs on its graduates as they advance from a basic to a more advanced teaching license. And Schmidt told me there’s the potential of obtaining academic performance data for the pupils of WGU teachers in Tennessee.
NCTQ argues that lax state regulations are a big part of the problem (in 2011 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it “laughable” that since 1999 over half of the states hadn’t rated even one of their teacher prep program’s as inferior). The new rankings make a special point of praising states–including Tennessee and Louisiana—where NCTQ says stricter guidelines are making a difference in the quality of teacher education. The Obama administration has also put a spotlight on teacher prep, calling for a $185-million plan to push states to improve teacher training overall, provide incentives to shut down the weakest programs, and raise the bar for state licensing exams.