Illinois Normal Schools: Many Problems

The Illinois schools of education are not so great. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the National Council on Teacher Quality. According to an article by Bonnie Miller Rubin and Tara Malone in the Chicago Tribune:

[The study] examined 111 undergraduate and graduate programs in 53 education schools across the state and found many — including Illinois State University and Northern Illinois University, the state’s two largest producers of teachers — to be inadequate, particularly in math and reading instruction.

The report called out programs for a lack of consistency (aspiring elementary teachers must take anywhere from 27 to 60-plus credit hours depending on where they enroll), unfocused coursework (“too many of the assignments were frivolous or utterly irrelevant”), too little direction in pairing a student teacher with an effective mentor (“a make-or-break decision”) and weak admission standards for the profession.

Officials from teachers colleges were understandably unhappy with these findings. Many said that the study wasn’t very good. “They… said evaluators only measured the caliber of the applicants and the courses they were required to take rather than measuring how well they taught once they entered the classroom.”

While that’s certainly an important thing to address, it’s hardly much of a justification for the quality of existing programs. Certainly the low quality of the courses doesn’t indicate good things about the ultimate effectiveness of Illinois teachers.

Deborah Curtis, dean of the college of education at to ISU, was very angry about the study’s findings: “This is an incompetent study performed by an organization ill-prepared to conduct meaningful research.” Whoa.

NCTQ gave ISU’s elementary education program an F and its high school education program a D+.

This is probably more or less true of teachers colleges in the 49 other states. As Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last year, most education schools are “mediocre” and serve as “cash cows” for other academic programs.

Read the report here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer