"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Krash Course #10: NCTQ's Gradual Unmasking

With the release of the National Education Policy Center's 2011 Bunkum Awards, I feel the need to join in the spirit of NEPC's excellent work to highlight the gradual unmasking of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

Jim Horn warned about NCTQ here (February 2, 2010):
"To demonstrate that enough funding can buy exclusive rights to publish propaganda as research in the mainstream media, see this teacher bashing piece below from the AP, which treats NCTQ as a legitimate research organization, rather than as an advocacy group in support of charter schools and the corporate attack on the teacher preparation, teacher quality, and state teacher credentialing systems [emphasis added]."
Recently, I characterized NCTQ's assault on teachers and teacher education as a central player in the bully politics of education reform. Since then, the evidence is gathering, exposing NCTQ as partisan politics masked as scholarly evaluations of teacher education.

NCTQ's first report has already been thoroughly dismissed in a review from NEPC: "Benner’s critique finds fault at every level of the NCTQ evaluation, including development and interpretation of the standards of evaluation, sampling techniques, methodology, data analysis, and findings."

As well, Diane Ravitch, who sat at the table in the beginning of NCTQ, has confirmed NCTQ's bully politics:
"Since then, many institutions announced that they would not collaborate. Some felt that they had already been evaluated by other accrediting institutions like NCATE or TEAC; others objected to NCTQ’s methodology. As the debate rated, NCTQ told the dissenters that they would be rated whether they agreed or not, and if they didn’t cooperate, they would get a zero. The latest information that I have seen is that the ratings will appear this fall."
And Ravitch has exposed the partisan and ideological roots of NCTQ's masked agenda:
"NCTQ was created by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000. I was on the board of TBF at the time. Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. We thought they were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics. In 1997, we had commissioned a Public Agenda study called 'Different Drummers'; this study chided professors of education because they didn’t care much about discipline and safety and were more concerned with how children learn rather than what they learned. TBF established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated [emphasis added] ed schools."
Building on Ravitch's challenges to NCTQ's credibility, Anthony Cody has compared NCTQ to "[t]he 'Payola' scandal occurred in the 1950s when it was discovered that many of the DJs were routinely making decisions about what to play not based on the quality of the music, but on bribes they were receiving from record companies." Cody then offers an alternative to NCTQ's dishonest claim to be addressing teacher certification:
"Our schools of education ought to be in a position to think clearly and freely about the challenges our schools face. They are certainly not perfect, but their ability to take an independent stance on education policies and practices is crucial for us to avoid a complete groupthink. But this sort of ideological unanimity in support of 'obsession over data' is what our education 'reformers' apparently want, and the foundations driving the corporate reform agenda will do what it takes to get it."
But the most pointed challenge to NCTQ may be from Jack Hassard:
"The researchers of the NTCQ study are stuck in a 19th-century model of teaching, and simply want to hold accountable teacher education institutions to the principles and practices that teacher education rocketed through years ago. 
"But at the same time, the NTCQ study cleverly uses percentages and numbers in such a way to convince some that teacher education programs are inadequate, and need to be regulated in ways that satisfy their interests. If you look at their sources of funding, and the names of individuals who sit on their boards, you will see the conservative agenda in action in this organization. 
"My advice is to call them to task on this study. Tell them that their study in no way sheds any light on how assessment is taught in teacher education programs. The only light that is shed is on their own deficiencies as a research organization."
NCTQ offers no credible agenda or scholarship worthy of reforming teacher education. But this ideological think tank is a disturbing example of all that is wrong with the current education reform movement that has allowed people without experience or expertise as educators to perpetuate an education reform agenda through the weight of money, political influence, and media compliance.

While I agree with Anthony Cody that much in teacher education needs to be reformed, nothing coming from NCTQ or the myriad self-proclaimed reformers or the U.S. Department of Education or The Gates Foundation or U.S. News & World Report offers anything of value in that pursuit.


  1. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2010/02/exclusive-nctq-bullsh-from-associated.html

  2. The problem isn't with the ed schools, and let's not play into the lies perpetrated by the right that ed schools are junk. If you REALLY want to reform education, take a close look at the patchwork of licensure laws that don't allow teachers to move across state lines (unless they have that awful national board certification--which can be easily gamed, by the way) without costing a great deal of financial hardship and time for teachers. Oregon is one of the worst states for this; you have to have three years of teaching experience in a single subject area to waive their idiotic tests which are designed for people who are still in college. Because of these ridiculous state laws, there have been huge gluts of teachers in some states and shortages in others. Nowadays, all of the country has a glut of teachers, but the licensure laws are truly onerous. If you are fully credentialed in one state and are experienced, you should automatically get certified in a new state without taking ridiculous tests.

  3. I agree that the report on Assessment from NCTQ is very disturbing. What I found most disturbing is near the beginning of the paper, where teachers are quoted saying things like, "I would argue that in order to improve student achievement, teachers need time to actually instruct children. Instead, too much time has been spent this last quarter on … assessing students." And, "Lost in all of this insanity of being driven by the data is the teacher’s cry in the wilderness: Where is the responsibility for the student to learn?"

    After quoting these teachers, instead of responding intelligently to the teachers' "negative sentiments" about the "ubiquity of 'data-crunching'", the report says only, "School district personnel do report that these attitudes can shift with evidence of the positive impact on student learning of data driven instruction."

    Please read those quotes. You can find them, in context, on page 10 of the study: http://www.nctq.org/p/publications/docs/assessment_report.pdf

    I can't describe the effect of reading these paragraphs in the study. It is as if these people truly believe they know what's best for us teachers, and they are supremely confident that they will force us to do their bidding against our will. I did not realize that the enemies of public education are now going about their business with so little cover of "reason" or "reality". This is either a sign of the beginning of the end of education deform, or a sign that everything is about to get much, much worse.