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K-State Today

June 24, 2013

From Dean Debbie Mercer: Response to National Council for Teacher Quality report

Submitted by Debbie Mercer

The College of Education believes in rigorous and honest reviews of our work as we routinely submit materials to accrediting bodies and professional organizations. This feedback is critically important as we evaluate our programming and actively seek ways to continually improve.

The Association of Teacher Educators, or ATE, selected the Kansas State University College of Education’s elementary education program as a 2010 National Distinguished Program. Out of the thousands of teacher education programs across the country — and of the 23 teacher training programs in Kansas — we were voted one of the very best.

This month, the National Council for Teacher Quality, or NCTQ, report was released detailing its rating of teacher preparation programs across the country. The council is an advocacy group for education reform that rates states as well as teacher preparation programs and Kansas is consistently rated a D. This year was no exception.

No Kansas institution received a three- or four-star overall rating. Our K-State College of Education elementary program — the same program that three short years ago was nationally celebrated — received one-and-a-half stars, and our secondary program received two stars.

How is this possible?

Some background information may be helpful. Many people don't realize that Kansas is one of the most difficult states in the nation to earn a teaching license. K-State's teacher education program is thorough, academically challenging and requires undergraduate students to spend a clinical semester in a school teaching before taking the state's rigorous licensure exam.

I am very familiar with these processes, as I have dedicated my career to teaching, which started as a kindergarten teacher in the small rural community of Hope, Kan. Today, I write to you as dean of the state's largest teacher training program.

As there is a good chance you will hear something about the NCTQ report, I wanted to share several facts that should provide some much needed sunshine.

First, most researchers would agree that the methods used to collect data were fundamentally flawed. In addition, we were cited for items that are clearly incorrect, including not requiring a performance assessment of our students in classrooms. In fact, K-State has a very strong student teaching portfolio requirement that requires students engage in action research by analyzing their classrooms, conducting pretests, teaching a unit, conducting a post-test, and finally reflecting on teaching and learning that occurred as a result. It is a fact that the State of Kansas has long required a performance assessment meeting these criteria prior to recommendation for licensure.

These are simply a few examples of the troubling issues concerning the NCTQ report. The important fact here is we are willing — always have been and always will be — to participate in legitimate research efforts designed to improve the field of teacher preparation.

Finally, I am most proud of the work we do in the College of Education and the type of candidates we prepare. Our mission is to prepare knowledgeable, ethical and caring decision makers that positively impact students in classrooms across our state, country and throughout the world. Our school partners support this work by helping us fulfill our mission, and then they hire our graduates. This alone is a great testament to the value of our program.