Virginia teacher preparation programs get a C-minus from advocacy group

The National Council On Teacher Quality released a first-of-its-kind national review of teacher preparation programs Tuesday. The report includes an evaluation of all or part of the teacher preparation programs at 29 Virginia universities.

It gives the state an overall rating of C-minus.

Pressure is mounting to improve the caliber of the teaching workforce through better training. Advocates say teacher preparation programs need to be more selective and should offer more rigorous, standardized training.

Programs in the United States vary widely in content and quality, unlike in some high performing countries, such as Singapore and South Korea. The report gave the majority of programs in the United States a mediocre rating.

Some educators say the review is incomplete and only evaluates programs from a distance, without visiting classes or talking to graduates.

Virginia’s Board of Education is scheduled to review its regulations governing teacher preparation programs soon, said Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education. He said this report “will factor into that review process.”

“There needs to be alignment between teacher preparation programs and the actual expectations of public schools in the Commonwealth,” he said. “That alignment will certainly be a goal.”

The programs with the highest ratings in Virginia were at Longwood University, Radford University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. They earned three out of four stars. Nationwide, the advocacy group only rated 4 percent of elementary programs and 14 percent of the secondary programs at that level.

Here are some other highlights from the review of Virginia’s teacher preparation programs:

*9 percent of elementary and secondary programs in Virginia limit admissions to the top half of the college-going population, compared to 28 percent nationwide.

*31 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Virginia are preparing teacher candidates in effective, scientifically based reading instruction, about the same as the national average.

*18 percent of evaluated elementary programs in Virginia provide strong preparation to teach elementary mathematics, about the same rate as nationwide.

*81 percent fail to offer a high quality student teaching experience, in which candidates are assigned to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback. 71 percent of programs across the country failed this standard.

*25 percent of the evaluated Virginia elementary and secondary programs earn a perfect four stars for providing feedback to teacher candidates on classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior, compared to 23 percent of evaluated programs nationwide.

*57 percent of Virginia’s elementary programs earn three or four stars for providing teacher candidates adequate content preparation, compared to just 11 percent of elementary programs nationwide.

At the high school level, 67 percent of Virginia secondary programs earned four stars for content preparation, compared to 35 percent nationwide.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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