Everyone Gets an F

Teachers give grades. Teachers colleges, however, don’t think it’s appropriate to be graded. They’re right, they shouldn’t be, but only because a rating system can’t ever indicate that the schools are doing a good job.

According to an article by Trip Gabriel in the New York Times, America’s education schools are actively resisting the efforts of U.S. News to grade teachers colleges on their effectiveness. As Gabriel writes:

Now U.S. News & World Report is planning to give A through F grades to more than 1,000 teachers’ colleges, and many of the schools are unhappy, marching to the principal’s office to complain the system is unfair.

Numerous education school deans have protested that the ratings program’s methodology is flawed since the program was announced last month. In a letter last week, officials from 35 leading education colleges and graduate schools — including Columbia, Harvard, Michigan State and Vanderbilt — denounced an “implied coercion” if they do not cooperate with the ratings.

U.S. News intends to rate education schools on a variety of factors, including the selectivity of the admissions process, how many classes teachers have to take in certain academic subjects, and whether or not teachers receive instruction in “specific techniques for managing the classroom.”

U.S. News originally informed teachers colleges that if they didn’t supply their data and the magazine’s rating group, the National Council on Teacher Quality, couldn’t find the information using public records laws, the schools would get an F.

Brian Kelly, the editor of U.S. News, indicated that the reluctance of the colleges to submit information indicated that they were resisting important evaluation and criticism. As Kelly said, it was,

An industry that doesn’t want to be examined. These teacher-education programs are hugely important and not very well scrutinized. This is coming at a time when you have this tremendous national push for improvements in teacher quality: Who’s teaching the teachers?

Teachers colleges, however, said that the magazine was collecting irrelevant information. According to the article:

“We have serious skepticism that their methodology will produce enough evidence to support the inferences they will make,” said [American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education President Sharon] Robinson, who has advised her 800 member schools that the U.S. News project is “not worthy of your involvement.”

Both Kelly and Robinson are right. Their points are irrelevant, however. The primary function of teachers colleges is to prepare people to be effective classroom instructors.

In fact, however, no teachers college is any good at this. No research has demonstrated that any teacher-training program can improve student achievement.

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