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Review criticizes teacher-education programs

A new review on teacher education calls many Charlotte-area programs “mediocre,” but local colleges and universities warn people to be wary of the review.

The National Council on Teacher Quality last week released a teacher preparation review, the first of its kind, rating teacher education programs across the country. Schools were rated on a four-star scale.

Several schools, such as the elementary education program at Catawba College in Salisbury, received zero stars and a consumer warning from NCTQ.

The review has faced criticism from colleges and universities.

Concerns with curriculum

Katie Moyer, associate director of teacher preparation studies for NCTQ, said early elementary reading is an area of particular concern in teacher preparation programs.

She said only 29 percent of schools across the country are requiring teachers to take courses that adequately cover five different scientifically proven reading areas. These strategies are phonics, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, fluency and comprehension.

Winthrop University in Rock Hill and Appalachian State University in Boone received ratings of one star and zero stars in early reading, respectively. Neither school received any stars in preparing teachers to work with struggling readers.

UNC Charlotte is one of the few schools that received four stars in early reading for both its undergraduate and graduate-level elementary education programs.

Many schools in North Carolina, the report said, are not adequately preparing students to teach high school content. Moyer said that the programs are not requiring enough courses that cover all of the different subject areas.

She said this might be because the state only requires teachers to pass content area tests for professional teaching licenses. Teachers getting an initial license do not have to pass any content-based tests.

Moyer also said many teacher education programs are too easy to get into. Queens University of Charlotte only partially meets the NCTQ standards for selection criteria, because the school does not bar admissions to students with grade-point averages below 3.0.

Only one entire program in North Carolina, a graduate program in secondary education at UNC Chapel Hill, made the review’s “honor roll” of programs that receive three or more stars.

Criticism from the schools

Officials from many of the colleges and universities say that NCTQ did not visit the schools or conduct interviews and based the review on course syllabi.

But Moyer said the NCTQ is confident that even without visiting the schools, the data it has gives it an adequate picture of teacher education programs.

Mary Lynne Calhoun, dean of UNC Charlotte’s School of Education, said the NCTQ should have asked questions such as: Are our graduates well prepared? Are they persistent in their work? Are they getting hired?

NCTQ did not give UNC Charlotte any stars in high school content for either of its undergraduate or graduate schools, but Calhoun said the council failed to pick up on the fact that UNC Charlotte requires that all students studying secondary education have a major in the subject area that they plan to teach.

James Stringfield, dean of Catawba’s school of education, also said in an email that NCTQ did not accurately report the data given.

“The report indicated there is no coverage in science for the Common Core for elementary teachers, when our students are required to take 7 hours of content in science in addition to an elementary science methods class,” Stringfield wrote.

Winthrop plans to file an objection with NCTQ. Judy Longshaw, a spokeswoman for Winthrop, said in an email that the school’s low ratings in reading are not accurate.

“The course description even specifically references ‘struggling readers,’ so faculty find these ratings misleading,” Longshaw said.

Haggerty: 704-358-6180
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