The University of Wyoming’s undergraduate elementary education program has work to do to meet standards for effective teacher training. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality—a think tank that pushes for tougher evaluations of classroom teachers.
The report includes a ranking of U.S. teaching colleges, and found that the vast majority of programs failed to prepare teachers for the classroom.
UW was the only Wyoming program assessed by the NCTQ. While UW scored within the top half of the 1,600 elementary and secondary programs assessed in the national sample, it was not identified as a “high quality” program.
NCTQ President Kate Walsh says it’s disappointing that the group could not identify an exemplary program in Wyoming, but that the state is far from unique.
“Unfortunately, there are 17 states that do not have a program that we thought was of high quality,” Walsh said. “That’s what we call top-ranked. There’s about 106 programs that we called out. Most of them are secondary. There are fewer elementary programs—only 26 that we think are developing the comprehensive training that all teachers need.”
The report found that the University failed to give future teachers the tools needed for teaching early reading or instructing English language learners. It also found that UW’s student teaching program lacked proper feedback and coordination with student-teacher supervisors. The University scored well in terms of how selective it is in admitting students into its education program and also in how well-prepared its aspiring teachers were to present elementary mathematics.
Dr. Leslie Rush, Associate Dean for undergraduate programs at UW’s School of Education said her response to NCTQ’s findings is mixed.
“I think they pointed out some things we need to do better,” said Rush. “One of the things I’m looking to do in the future is to add an ESL course, to help teachers know how to teach students who are English learners. That’s something I’ve felt strongly about for a long time that they pointed out that I agree with.”
Rush took issue with some of the other findings, including those concerning a lack of feedback in student teaching at UW.
“I’m not sure where they got some of their information from,” said Rush. “We actually have quite a bit of feedback that we provide students on classroom management. It’s a very important part of student teaching. It’s possible that they just didn’t have the correct assessment documents to look at.”
Rush said she was surprised to see UW show up in the rankings at all, because she’d sent a letter to NCTQ in November saying the school was declining to participate in the evaluation.
“That was based on some methodology that they’ve used in the past,” said Rush. “They certainly never contacted me to get any information about our programs, so that gives a big question mark in my mind to some of the things they dinged us on.”
Rush said UW is continually working to improve its process for training educators.
This is the second annual report from the NCTQ, and Amy Walsh hopes it will shift the national conversation about teacher quality, which she says has been too narrowly focused on what happens to teachers after they’re hired.
The NCTQ supported the plaintiffs in the recent Vergara case in California, in which a judge— siding with the plaintiffs— struck down certain state statutes providing job protections to teachers. But Walsh says schools can’t simply fire their way out of a teacher quality problem.
“Some of the issues that they were struggling with in that case were very much a product of not having given enough attention and focus to the quality of folks that go into the profession and the training they get before they go into the classroom,” Walsh said.
This post has been updated to include a response from UW's Leslie Rush.